Can Schools Be Held Liable for Sports Injuries?

September 13, 2021

As a parent, you want your children to be safe while playing sports at school, but you also don’t want them to miss out on the rewards of teamwork and making new friends. Unfortunately, every year, over 3.5 million children are injured in school sports and activities. There are more than 775,000 children who get treated in emergency rooms for sports-related injuries annually in the United States.

Parents need to know where and how to seek compensation for school sports injuries after their children sustain them. However, it can be difficult to understand who is liable for these injuries when dealing with schools and coaches. The child injury attorneys at Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers can help you get through this difficult time by providing helpful information about your rights as a parent under Louisiana law.

Premises Liability in Schools

The duty of a school to prevent dangerous property conditions is called “premises liability.” Schools should frequently evaluate the areas where students are most active because they must ensure their facilities are safe.

A school could potentially be liable for sports injuries that occur on school grounds due to failure to conduct safety checks, such as holes in the football field or unsecured benches and sports equipment during practices.

Sports Injuries in a Public School

As a result of “sovereign immunity,” government entities are protected from certain lawsuits, including personal injury lawsuits. Unfortunately, this is usually the case for public schools. Since Louisiana public schools are considered part of the government, school employees, including teachers and coaches, have immunity within the scope of duties and responsibilities to their students unless they deliberately and willingly harmed students.

You must follow specific procedures to go through the parish school board if your child has been injured on school property. Many school boards require a specific cause of action or a set of facts that establish the basis for filing a lawsuit, such as personal injuries caused by school employees and if a student’s injury could have been prevented.

To file a lawsuit in court against a school district, you must first go through the special legal process. You can first try and settle any disputes by filing a formal administrative complaint with the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) before taking it further.

Upon receiving a complaint, the LDE provides the district with the opportunity to respond or offer a proposal for resolution within 15 days through early resolution or mediation. A full investigation of the complaint usually takes around 60 days to complete. The LDE may also send someone to investigate the school, depending on the nature of the complaint. Further evidence may also be requested throughout the investigation period.

Upon exhaustion of all administrative remedies, and once the plaintiff is allowed to sue, they must inform the LDE in writing of their intended lawsuit. Since school district lawsuits are focused on the causes of action and require lengthy legal procedures, it is difficult to predict what will happen without the legal advice of a sports injury lawyer to help challenge a school district.

Sports Injuries in a Private School

Private schools are not immune to lawsuits. Like public schools, they can be sued for many of the same causes and owe a duty of care to their students if there is any wrongdoing on behalf of staff or teachers. Since private schools are not publicly owned and managed, they are susceptible to legal action without going through the school district and the LDE. The standard steps for filing a lawsuit against these types of institutions apply.

What is a Coach’s Liability for Student Injuries?

Coaches need to take proactive measures to protect their student-athletes and be aware of all possible ways to prevent injuries. Coaches should adhere to reasonable standards of care, such as:

  • Immediately seeking medical attention if a student becomes injured, regardless of the severity of the injury
  • Allowing water breaks during sports practices to prevent dehydration and heat-related illnesses and injuries
  • Supervising students any time they are on school grounds to prevent injuries
  • Ensuring that students can play and practice together in a safe environment while modeling sportsmanship

In cases where coaches violate the standards of care for their injured children, parents may sue them. These instances may include:

  • Pushing a child beyond reasonable limits in a sporting practice or game
  • Encouraging players to use excessive force in a game
  • Assaulting a student intentionally
  • Lack of supervision resulting in a child’s injuries

What Defenses Does the School or Coach Have?

In some cases, a school or coach may have certain defenses against the student and their parents. Apart from sovereign immunity, they could argue that parents have signed off for the assumption of risk. The assumption-of-risk defense is based on the fact that parents often sign waivers allowing children to participate, which means they assume any inherent risks involved in these activities.

If you signed a waiver for your child to play football, the waiver’s sole purpose is to inform parents of the risks involved and provide them with information on playing football. Regardless, the coach can still instruct their athletes to use excessive force against other teams during games without the parents’ knowledge.

Work With a Sports Injury Lawyer if Your Student-Athlete Has Been Injured

Sports injuries can be life-changing, and as a parent, you want to make sure that your child is protected. If they were injured while participating in a school sport, there are many ways to get compensation with the help of an attorney who understands lawsuits in the school system.

Our Baton Rouge personal injury lawyers will work hard to win you fair compensation. Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation today.