Child pushed off of playground equipment and school does nothing?

by Mandy
(Oak Harbor, WA)

My daughter was playing on her school's playground last week. She was being chased by two classmates and ran up a piece of playground equipment. The boys climbed up after her and pushed her off. She fell flat on her face and didn't have time to brace herself before hitting the ground.

She bit through her lip and pushed her teeth back. We went to the ER for x-rays and stitches and to the dentist. She had to have her teeth fused together and may eventually lose them if they die.

The principal seems to think that kids will be kids and that they were just playing a game. She hasn't talked to the boys' parents and has stated that the playground attendants had their back to my daughter and no one saw her fall. This seems like negligence to me.

I've tried contacting a few lawyers, but they just don't seem interested because it's not a huge amount of money. I've spoken to the principal, the superintendant, and the teachers, but I'm at a dead end. I don't want this shoved under the rug, so other kids could get hurt. I feel this is a bit of a bullying issue and negligence.

Should I file a police report to get someone's attention? Maybe continue to try to find a lawyer? What about pursuing the school's insurance policy to pay for her dental bills? I'm lost! Thank you for any direction you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Child pushed off of playground equipment and school does nothing?":

Mandy (Oak Harbor, WA):

There are two issues to consider before filing a personal injury claim against the school...

If your child was injured while attending a public school you may be barred from filing suit against the school. Government agencies, including school districts have what is referred to as "Sovereign Immunity." This means the government agency, in your case, the school district, is immune from lawsuits.

There are exceptions. In some cases of obvious negligence, a school district may waive its immunity and accept responsibility for the student's injuries. When this occurs a school may agree to pay some, or all of the child's medical bills and related expenses.

The next issue in your daughter's case is the lack of negligence. From the facts you present, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of negligence. While the boys' actions seemed overly aggressive, the action occurred relatively spontaneously.

In the alternative, if the school was not public, but rather, private, there is no immunity. As a result, the school may be sued. However, once again, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of negligence.

Schools have a legal duty to do everything reasonably possible to protect their students from undue harm or injury. When a school fails to take all reasonable action to protect its students, and as a result a student is injured, the school may have breached its legal duty of care. That breach is referred to as negligence.

When the negligence is the direct and proximate cause of a student's injuries, the school may be liable for the student's damages. Damages can include the child's medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, a parent's lost wages (if the parent had to take off time to care for the child), and an amount for the child's pain and suffering.

Speak with the school district. If necessary, go over the head of the principal and speak with someone in an administrative capacity in the school district. See if the school will agree to help with some or all of the medical bills and related expenses. If not, there is little more you can do.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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