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Massachusetts Schools Have The Upper Hand in Liability Cases?

It’s no secret that school liability and litigation has increased over the last few years. Bullying, sexual harassment, serious injury and wrongful death all present opportunities for large settlements or jury verdicts. At the same time, the number of negligence cases brought against schools in the U.S. has indicated that the frequency of these kinds of lawsuits has not changed much in the last 20 years. It seems also that the number of cases that were decided in the favor of the schools has taken majority.
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Typically, our government protects schools from most cases of liability, but there are some exceptions that vary from state to state.

Our Boston personal injury attorneys understand that there are close to 55 million children in the U.S. who spend about a fourth of their waking hours on school property or in class. Most of the injuries that occur are in fact accidents, despite the wide range of media coverage which tends to show more of the school violence and other relevant issues. As a matter of fact, children who are in school are about 9 times more likely to be affected by an unintentional injury than to be the victim of an intentional injury while on campus. With that being said, close to 15 million unintentional injuries happen each year to children under the age of 15. Close to a fourth of those happen in and around schools. About 1 out of every 14 of these students will visit the hospital with a disabling injury.

Among elementary students, activities involving sports, whether organized or not, cause a majority of the injuries we see each year.

Courts have acknowledged that schools cannot guarantee the safety of all students. Schools officials and school personnel, however, may have legal liability when a student is injured either by a deliberate action or negligence by a teacher. Usually student injury lawsuits involve tort claims of negligence.

Looking at cases from 1990 to 2005 (212 cases), the district won conclusively in close to 65 percent of cases. In roughly 1 percent, the district won inconclusively. In about 35 percent of cases, the student won. Most of these incidents happened in New York. Louisiana recorded the most cases in which the student plaintiff won conclusively or was otherwise awarded damages, while New York was the only other jurisdiction with more than one decision in the student’s favor.

In the state of Massachusetts, school board members and educators have the opportunity to purchase school board legal liability insurance, also known as educators legal liability insurance. This is a policy designed to protect school administrators, employees and staff members from liability claims that may be made against them.

The extent of claims against schools for negligence has remained fairly constant for most of the past two decades. Overwhelmingly, published decisions in simple negligence cases have favored school district defendants. A large proportion of these decisions have hinged on government and official immunity and on failure of plaintiffs to prove breach of duty.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in the Greater Boston area, contact the personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC for a free consultation. Call 888-367-2900.

More Blog Entries:

Bar Owners Face $6.7 Million Damage Settlement After Injury on Staircase, Boston Personal Injury Attorney Blog, December 31, 2012

Premise Liability Injuries in Boston Worrying Officials during South Boston’s Parade, Boston Personal Injury Attorney Blog, March 19, 2012