Five days a week, parents entrust the safety and welfare of their children to Connecticut Public Schools. Regrettably, injuries can take place anywhere and at any time and schools are no exception. Understanding what to do following a school-related injury and what you should anticipate is important.
Most importantly, ensure your child gets all relevant medical care and treatments. Healing from whatever injury they have experienced should be the top priority of any parent or legal guardian. It is essential for your child to make a quick recovery so they are able to go back to school, continue their studies, and participate in extracurricular activities either in or outside of school.
Also, it is imperative that you document your child’s injury. Make certain the relevant accident report has been filed with the school and any necessary regulatory agencies. Collect all associated bills, medical records, and insurance statements. Be sure to hang on to a copy of any incident reports you are given, but politely decline to sign any school document besides the one confirming the receipt of your incident report.
Jot down statements you have heard regarding the incident and put together a list of witnesses. Take pictures or video of any insufficient safety measures or defective equipment. Speak with an attorney who knows the laws concerning injuries that take place on school property.
Trying to file a claim against public school employees or an entire school district is an extremely difficult undertaking and claims are held to a different standard as we see in the case of Haynes v. Middletown.
Haynes v. Middletown
In Haynes v. Middletown, the Connecticut Court of Appeals ruled against a former student who had been wounded eight years prior in the school’s locker room. The plaintiff suffered a laceration on his arm after another student pushed him into a locker with an exposed jagged and rusty edge. The notable point of order, in this case, is that the law and the court’s ruling are counterintuitive. The ruling stipulated that the school was not liable due to the fact the defective locker had been that way for most of the academic year.
What Was Different
Typically, in a case involving premises liability, the longer inadequate safety measures or faulty equipment have been around, the more the owner of the property is considered to have had ample time to be made aware of the situation and address it. When attempting to prosecute a public school, however, it is necessary to remember that because the state government decides the laws and when all is said and done, it is accountable to the entire citizenry, not simply the victim. Therefore the government is not always held constitutionally liable in the same manner a private citizen might be.
How Liability Was Judged
If an employee of the school’s only job duty is to accomplish particular tasks in a particular way, then responsibility could be assigned to them for negligent performance of official duties. If, however, somebody has to make a choice using their personal judgment regarding what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, then they are usually exempt from a lawsuit for using their judgment. They will be politically answerable to the general public for making poor decisions, but they will not be held legally liable.
Identifiable Person and Imminent Harm
Of course, there was an irregularity which was the crux of the Haynes case. In this case, the what, who, when, where and how of repairing the damaged locker required decision making. In other words, a discretionary duty. The state government is not exempt from claims when the elements of an identifiable person (in this case, students) and imminent harm (in this case, the broken locker) have been satisfied.
As remarked by the courts, “To prevail on that exception, the plaintiffs had to prove imminent harm, an identifiable victim, and a public official to whom it was apparent that his or her conduct is likely to subject the victim to that harm.” The rule of imminent harm is designed to expect a government employee to act immediately when they are aware somebody is about to be injured. The Haynes case failed on the “imminent harm” rule.
The Ruling Explained
The jagged, rusty piece of metal had been exposed for several months. The school enacted a decision, either deliberately or by overlooking it, to not have it repaired immediately. Whether this was because of budgetary constraints, or accessibility of workmen, or a school-related need to ensure the locker room was always open to students, or any other reason, the harm was simply not imminent.
Seeking legal counsel from an experienced attorney is crucial. The right attorney will be able to help you devise a plan regarding the best way to move forward with any legal claims that are able to be made, including a decision of who, besides a school employee, could be liable.
If you have been injured due to another person’s carelessness, negligence, or maliciousness, you need to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as you can. Here at Moynahan Law Firm, our attorneys are prepared to respond aggressively to your claim and to see to it that you get the full amount that you deserve for your damages.
If you would like to discuss your personal injury case with one of our experienced attorneys, then please reach out to us at (203) 597-6364 today.