Are Schools Liable for Injuries on Field Trips?
Now that the schools are open and the school year has commenced, kids will be going on field trips. Inevitably, for every school field trip, there will be a waiver for you to sign, designed to protect the school from liability. Signed waiver notwithstanding, in the event of a serious accident or injury, the school district or another party may still be liable.
What Are the Limits of Liability Waivers for Field Trips?
If your child is going on a field trip, you will probably be asked to sign one of two common types of waivers:
- General consent waiver: This is a blanket type of waiver in which you waive your right to take legal action against a party in case of harm to yourself or, in this case, your child. In signing the form, you acknowledge the risks involved in the activity and swear that you are participating voluntarily, and all risks have been made clear to you. Courts in many states frown upon this type of liability waiver, as they believe schools are asking parents and their children to forfeit important rights, while the schools avoid liability for preventable accidents and injuries.
- Informed consent waiver: This type of liability waiver attempts to limit the school’s liability by informing children and their parents of the risks and responsibilities they assume when participating in a particular activity. However, informed consent waivers cannot shield the school from liability for injuries to children that occur because of negligence of the staff.
It is important to know that liability waivers will only go so far in protecting school districts. If you can prove that a school employee, supervisor, bus driver, etc. caused or contributed to your child’s injuries on a field trip, you may have grounds for a claim. When a potential defendant is a government agency such as a public school, you have a limited time in which to file a notice of your claim with the appropriate department.
When Is School District Negligence a Factor in Field Trip Injuries?
School districts have a duty to their students, and that includes a duty to warn and inform. The school may have been negligent if it failed to provide a safe facility, proper safety equipment, proper instructions and supervision, or proper medical care after an accident occurred. The school has a duty to notify parents or guardians if a child is injured on a field trip or in school. When failure to notify the parents results in furtherance of the injuries, the school district can be held liable.
To establish that the school district was negligent, you must show that:
- The school district owed a duty of care to the injured student.
- The school breached that duty of care.
- The breach of duty caused the student’s accident.
- The accident resulted in harm.
Can a Third Party Be Liable for Field Trip Injuries?
Not all field trip injuries result from negligence on the part of the school or its staff. In some cases, third parties are liable, for example, for unsafe conditions on the premises where an event took place. If a third party was negligent and that negligence caused your child’s injuries, you may have a claim for compensation against the third party.
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