School Safety 101: Who is Liable for Accidents at School?


There are many factors to consider when you trust someone else to take care of your child.

Here’s an overview of the common types of accidents that could happen to your child while they’re at school and what you can do about it.

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Accidents at School: Who is Responsible?

Schools are meant to keep children safe while they get their education. As soon as your child enters through the doors, they are under the institution’s protection and care.

So what happens when the school system fails you?

When your child has an accident at school, it’s important to know who is held liable and how you can get the retribution your family deserves.

Blue eyed child - What happens when your child is injured at school.

School Liability

It can be tricky to figure out who’s liable if your child is injured on school grounds.

Under Occupier’s Liability in Ontario, school boards and principals are held responsible for the safety of students in their institution. Since these parties are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the location, they control the quality of the premises.

This means that it’s the principal and staff’s responsibility to make sure there are no dangers posed to your child.

While your child is at school, the school board is automatically responsible for taking on the standard of care in the place of a parent. This is called the “Reasonably Prudent Parent Doctrine.”

For a school, whether your child’s injury was caused by the activity they were doing or the condition of the environment, the principal or school board is still liable.

Playground Slips and Falls

It’s inevitable that children are going to fall off of playground equipment. In fact, 70 percent of playground injuries are caused by falls.

Sometimes, these injuries are minor scrapes and cuts. But sometimes they can be serious and someone’s negligence could be at fault.

Schools have a responsibility to provide adequate landing areas for children when they do fall. This refers to the material that the ground is made of underneath the play equipment.

If children hit hard ground, they are more likely to be seriously injured than if they hit something soft. Most playgrounds use materials like rubber mulch to soften the impact.

When necessary precautions aren’t taken, schools are liable. Learn more about injuries on a Playground.

Playground on foggy day - Beyond playground what to do if your child is injured.

Improper Maintenance of School Property

Under premises liability, your child’s teachers and principals are expected to maintain the property for the safety of all of the students.

This includes making sure that there are no hazards around, like protruding nails or broken safety caps. Shoveling snow and maintaining salt and sand procedures are also part of their responsibility.

If your child slips on ice and sustains a serious injury, the school is negligent for not salting or sanding that ice.

It’s the same situation with any hazards that are left in harm’s way that a student might hurt themselves on. For example, if something is being repaired and tools are left unattended, this is considered improper maintenance of property.

School Bus Accidents

School buses also pose a risk for children, whether they are transporting them to and from school or on a field trip. The duty of care of the school board covers the children until the minute they arrive at home.

Bus companies are usually contracted by school boards to provide transportation for students. However, the school board is still responsible for the children while they are on the bus because they take authority over the bus company.

While school bus collisions are rare, they can happen. If this does happen, the driver can be held responsible depending on what caused the accident.

In June 2016, a school bus carrying high school students crashed into a tree and burst into flames. None of the students were seriously injured, but the bus driver was charged for careless driving.

School bus - School liability in Canada.

Field Trip Responsibility

When you let your child go on a field trip, you often have to sign a consent form allowing your child to attend. This lets you know that they are going to be leaving the premises and what activities they are going to be doing.

However, this consent form won’t be strong enough to use against you in court. They aren’t legally binding, which means they serve more as a warning than as an actual consent to waive any negligent act.

The school is still responsible for the care of all students for the entire duration of a field trip. This goes for any incidents during transportation and at the location.

Taking Risks in Gym Class

Gym class is a risk for student injury, but liability in this situation is a little more complicated.

Teachers need to be aware of the risks for doing certain activities, and be conscious of the age of their students. Certain age levels are not prepared for certain sports or exercises, and this must be considered for lesson planning.

If the teacher decides to teach the children an activity that stretches beyond their skill level, they could be liable for serious injuries.

The gym teacher is responsible for teaching the students how to do an activity before they start doing it. But if the teacher has given enough information about the sport, and a child still gets an injury, the teacher is not negligent.

School Gym - School liability in child injury.

Can You Sue a School for Injury?

You can make a claim against the school under certain circumstances, such as the seriousness of the injury and the degree of negligence involved.

Claims have been made against Ontario school boards in the past. These include claims for poor condition of the grounds, lack of maintenance, and negligence. Slip and fall injuries make up the majority of claims that are brought against school boards, and they are largely caused by snow and ice maintenance.

When you file a claim against a school, the administrators are going to have to provide a solid defence. They’ll have to prove they did everything they could to prevent your child’s injury.

If the injury is serious enough, this defence will be tricky and you’ll likely have a good shot at compensation.

Accidents at School - Steps to take when dealing with a child injury at school. Can you sue a school for injury

If Your Child Has a School Injury, Get the Best Personal Injury Lawyer

Conte & Associates are experienced personal injury lawyers in the Whitby and Oshawa region. Servicing the GTA, we have a proven track record of getting our clients the settlement they deserve.

We understand the struggle you’re going through and we fight to get you what you deserve. Don’t let your child suffer because of someone else’s negligence.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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