Who Is Liable for Personal Injury Accidents on School Property?

Parents send their children off to school each morning in the hopes that they will learn and socialize in a safe environment. Unfortunately, accidents and injuries can happen on school property just like any other location. For instance, a child can be injured while playing on the playground during recess or by slipping on a wet surface in the hallway. Children who complete in school-sponsored sports can also become injured while at practice or in competition.

Under the legal theory of premises liability, individuals who are injured on someone else’s property may be able to pursue legal action against the property owner or manager if he or she was negligent in maintaining the property. In the case of school injuries, however, liability becomes a little more complex.

First, the Illinois Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act limits the circumstances under which schools can be held liable for accidents and injuries. For instance, under Section 3-106 of the Tort Immunity Act, a school district cannot be found liable for student’s injuries if the injuries were caused by a condition of any public property intended or permitted to be used for recreational purposes, unless the school district proximately caused the student’s injuries by willful and wanton conduct.

Furthermore, the Tort Immunity Act provides a strict statute of limitations on when a legal claim can be brought against a school district for injury-inducing accidents. In most cases, the statute of limitations is one year if the defendant is a school or other public entity, whereas the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits filed against a private entity is typically two years from the date of the accident.

Although assessing liability against a school district for accidents and injuries can be more difficult, it is not impossible. For instance, in Abrams v. Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, an Illinois Appellate Court recently held that the school district was liable for injuries sustained after a student fell in the school’s “Cafetorium,” a combined cafeteria and auditorium, since it was not “public property intended to be used for recreational purposes” under the Tort Immunity Act; rather, the premises were used entirely for “educational or incidental to educational uses,” such as school lunches, student assemblies, and ceremonies for school groups.

In the event of catastrophic injuries, schools are required to carry substantial insurance coverage to compensate injured schoolchildren. In fact, a new Illinois law enacted last year now requires schools to carry at least $3 million insurance coverage or five years of coverage (whichever comes first) for injuries resulting in total medical expenses in excess of $50,000. Known as “Rocky’s Law,”” the bill was named for former Eisenhower High School football player Rasul “Rocky” Clark, who was injured in a football game in 2000.

personal injury lawyer who understands Illinois tort laws can be instrumental in helping the families of injured schoolchildren obtain full and fair compensation after an injury on school property. At Cogan & Power, P.C., our Chicago personal injury lawyers are committed to promoting safety and protecting the rights of accident and injury victims, including children and their families.

If your child was injured on school property, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to receive a free case consultation with one of our Chicago personal injury lawyers.