Visitor Question

Are parents liable for injury on school playground?

Submitted By: Anonymous (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)

Two 14 year old boys decided to play tag in and around the swing set at our sons’ school. Our son had just gotten off of his swing when the two boys ran past him – one of them threw a swing at the other to keep him away and the swing’s chain hit our son directly in his two front teeth – fracturing both of them and also chipping one.

We’ve asked their parents to pay what our insurance won’t cover. They said they are not responsible because it was an accident. The boys were not following the rules of the playground and were careless.

Can the parents be held liable? We were told our only option is to file a police report and take them to small claims court. I don’t want to put any of them through that if the parents aren’t legally responsible. It just wouldn’t seem fair to be out several hundred dollars when our son was not involved in the rough housing. Thank you!

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Anonymous,

If you are able to show the boy intentionally struck your son with the intent to harm him, his parents may be liable for your son’s injuries and resulting costs. In the State of Pennsylvania parental liability can not exceed $1,000 per injured person, and up to $2,500 for injuries to two or more people. If there was no intent to harm, forcing payment may be difficult.

To read Pennsylvania’s applicable statutes see Title 23 Section 5505

If you decide to pursue the matter you will need to do the following:

First: Speak with the parents and ask them to pay your son’s dental bills and resulting costs. These costs can include his dental bills, your out-of-pocket expenses for medications, costs of travel to and from treatment, your lost wages if you had to take time off from work to care for your son, and an amount for pain and suffering.

Second: If the parents will not agree, file a police report. We assume the police were not dispatched to the school at the time of the assault. If that is the case, the police report will contain only your side of the story. However, it is still important to file the report.

Third: Speak with persons who may have witnessed the assault. Ask them to write down in their own handwriting their memories of the event. Once written, be sure to have the statements signed and dated by the persons. If their statements are more than two pages, have them sign and date each page. It is not necessary for the statements to be notarized.

Fourth: Contact the Lancaster Magisterial (Small Claims Office) and file a Small Claims lawsuit. In Pennsylvania, Magisterial Courts have jurisdiction to hear cases up to $12,000.

For more information on filing a Small Claims lawsuit see Lancaster County Magisterial Courts.

Learn more here: Claims for Accidents at School

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

Best of luck with your claim,

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