When you send your children to school, you expect them to be kept safe and well and properly cared for throughout the school day. Once they cross the threshold, it is the school’s responsibility both to educate and look after your children. So if your child suffers a school injury due to negligence you should be able to make a school injury compensation claim. The same applies if your son or daughter is at a nursery or college.
However, most reasonable people accept that ‘children will be children’ and they tend to be accident prone. They invariably enjoy the usual rough and tumble and lunchtime of playground play and running around in the fresh air. Getting a bump on the head or falling over and getting up with bloodied knees is going to happen at times. Children also get sick: this is part of life.
Not all injuries at school are caused purely by accident. Parents and children can expect that the school’s sports equipment is safe to use, that the corridor floors are kept clear of tripping hazards and school stairs kept in good repair.
Sometimes, injuries are caused because the school has failed in its duty of care towards its pupils. Accidents at schools may happen as a result of defective school grounds or facilities, a lack of adequate and effective supervision or through using broken equipment. The school should have an accident book in which staff are expected to log details of all accidents that occur, with details of the injuries caused and treatment given.
Some children have illnesses, such as diabetes or asthma that require treatment during the school day. If a child has an asthma attack but their inhaler is not kept in its designated place and the child is injured or dies as a result, the school may well be held responsible. In cases such as these, it is only right that the law allows the child’s parents or carer to make an injury claim on the child’s behalf.
If you would like more information on making a school accident claim, you can speak to a trained legal adviser free on 0800 234 6438 or submit your name and number on this page for a callback. All initial calls are free, and there is no obligation to use their services.
Every school has a legal responsibility to manage the risks on their premises, including school playgrounds and fields, fencing and walls and other boundary structures. This means they must take all reasonable steps to ensure children in school are not exposed to an unacceptable risk of harm.
School staff cannot be expected to prevent every possible accident and injury to a child but they must exercise their duty of care to an acceptable standard. This also includes complying with health and safety laws: for example, ensuring food prepared in the school kitchen is properly cooked and allergens clearly marked.
The risks may vary from season to season and schools will be expected to be proactive about managing those risks as they arise. This could mean ensuring Christmas tree light cables do not pose a tripping hazard, placing clear warning signs to exercise caution because of black ice on the playground, and gritting pathways and classroom steps.
If the school has failed to manage these risks in a reasonable way and your child has been injured as a result, you may be able to make a claim.
If you make a school injury claim against the school, the compensation claim will, for all practical purposes, be made against the relevant local authority responsible for the school, or the relevant academy trust under what is known as ‘public liability’ law. Under public liability law, a person can make a compensation claim for injuries resulting from land or property which is open to the public, which includes school premises. Schools are expected to have public liability insurance in place to insure the risk of a public liability claim for personal injury.
This means you do not need to be concerned that school funds will be depleted if you win compensation for your child because the insurance company will cover the claim.
Most school injuries are minor, and the majority of parents are likely to take the view that their child had been clumsy or wasn’t paying attention to instructions. However, if your child has suffered a non-minor injury at school which was due to negligence, and you think the school was to blame, you might be able to make a claim for personal injury compensation on behalf of your child.
To make a successful claim, you will have to show that the accident was caused by the school’s negligence or breach of their duty of care towards your child. This means proving, on the balance of probabilities, they breached their duty and this caused your child’s injuries.
If you plan to sue a school after an injury, it is important that your son or daughter sees a doctor – whether at your GP’s surgery or at the hospital – as soon as possible after the accident. This will ensure there are medical notes available from when the injuries were first treated. You should also check with the school that the accident and injuries have been properly logged in the school accident book, and request a copy of the entry.
If possible, it is a good idea to sit your son or daughter down and have them talk you through the incident, including where it happened and how, and who was there at the time. Make a video or voice recording of this if you can and keep it safe as it may be important when a claim is made.
It is important that you make your school accident claim as soon as possible while events are fresh in people’s minds, particularly for your child. That said, children have until they are 21 years old to make an injury claim, though their parents usually make a claim on their behalf (a child under 18 cannot take legal action on their own). The problem with a delay in making a claim is that any witnesses may not be so easily located with the passage of time (teachers may move on, etc), your child’s memory may fade and any additional expert medical evidence needed to support the claim may not be as helpful as it would be if obtained early.
For these reasons we suggest you take specialist legal advice early on behalf of your child so that you can start the process of making as strong a claim as possible on their behalf.
If your son or daughter has been injured at school, call a trained legal adviser on 0800 234 6438 about pursuing compensation as early as possible. They work with expert solicitors on a no win no fee basis, which means there is little risk financially to starting a claim.
The school’s duty of care towards your child continues while they are on school trips, even if outside of normal school hours, and it still has a legal obligation to minimise the risk of injuries.
If your child has been injured off the school premises but while under the school’s responsibility, for instance, while on a school trip to a country park or at sports tournament, you can still make a school injury claim.
In the devastating event that your child suffered a non-accidental catastrophic injury, such as a brain injury after a heavy fall off gym equipment or, a fatal asthma attack – you can still make a compensation claim against the school.
You should be able to claim for any pain and suffering your son or daughter endured before they died, their funeral expenses and damages for your bereavement. Your solicitor will be able to guide you with compassion through the claims process.
If you are successful you can expect to receive compensation to cover your child’s pain and suffering and ‘loss of amenity’. In the case of serious injuries, the compensation amount could be significant, particularly if they have been left disabled or with learning difficulties, or their academic ability has been curtailed. In some cases, compensation will cover vital costs such as further medical treatment, the costs of making alterations to your home and paying for a bigger vehicle if your child is left with mobility problems.
The law requires that your child’s compensation is placed into a special court bank account and held on trust until they reach 18. In the meantime, if you need access to some of the cash to pay medical or rehabilitation costs, and so forth, a personal injury trust fund can be set up. This must be properly administered by suitable trustees – usually including a parent – who can release money for that purpose. Specialist financial advice should be taken and your solicitor can point you in the right direction.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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