Who is Liable for an Accident in a Pennsylvania Public School?

It is an unfortunate reality of life that accidents can happen anywhere. This can include school grounds as well. There are numerous different ways a child can potentially become injured on school property. In these situations, a student or parents of a minor student can hold a school district liable. However, it is important to know that claims against schools in Pennsylvania can be more complex than a regular personal injury claim. It is because of this that it is important to retain the services of an experienced attorney to assist you.

Types of Accidents

Personal injury accidents can occur in a variety of settings for different reasons. Sometimes, they are purely an accident. Other times, they may be the result of the school failing to reduce the risk of accidents where they can. The most common types of accidents that occur in school districts can include the following:

  • Playground accidents: Each year, emergency rooms in the United States treat more than 200,000 playground-related injuries. Injuries can be something minor such as cuts and bruises. Or they can cause serious harm such as broken bones, brain injuries, amputations, strangulation, and more.
  • Hazardous premises accidents: If unknown dangers or unrepaired hazards exist in schools, it can result in slips, falls, trips, elevator or escalator accidents, parking lot accidents, fires, and more.
  • Sports accidents: Sports and recreational activities can lead to serious musculoskeletal injuries in children. This can include ligament sprains, muscle strains, growth plate injuries, broken bones, spinal cord fractures, concussions, dehydration, repetitive motion injuries, dehydration, and more.
  • School violence: Actions such as pushing, fights, gang violence, and assault within schools can lead to physical and emotional traumas. This can include cuts, bruises, broken bones, gunshot wounds, head trauma, and more.

Is the School District Liable?

Generally, public school districts in the state of Pennsylvania are immune from liability claims. This is stated under the Political Subdivision Torts Claim Act Section 8541 of the Judicial Code. However, it is important to know that there are exceptions to this that may allow an individual to sue a school district if a child suffers an injury under its care. 

There are some circumstances in which a school can be sued. In order to bring a personal injury lawsuit against a public school in Pennsylvania, a child must have been injured due to “acts by a local agency or any of its employees.” In order to establish this, the injured party must show that “damages would be recoverable under common law or a statute creating a cause of action.” Often times, negligence lawsuits are the cause of actions that parents bring against school districts. The most common exceptions from the Torts Claim Act in negligence situations are control of real property and vehicle liability. It is also important to be aware that public schools have a maximum liability for harm that is capped at $500,000.

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Friedman Schuman is an experienced and dedicated legal resource for clients throughout Pennsylvania. We proudly serve clients facing a wide range of legal matters. If you require the services of an effective attorney, please contact Friedman Schuman today to schedule a consultation.