Illinois School & Daycare Injuries
School and daycare professionals are entrusted with the safety and well-being of the children in their care. All teachers and administrators are expected to live up to the trust placed in them, and the facilities themselves are expected to be safe and appropriate. But when there is an accident at a school or daycare facility, there is a different standard of responsibility, depending on whether your child is at a public or private school.
Accidents can happen anywhere including the playground, gymnasium, or in a classroom. There is little significance to the location within the school or daycare. The distinction lies in whether the injury happened in a public school district as opposed to a privately-owned facility. Illinois law provides a level of protection, or immunity, to the public school districts, from some types of lawsuits. Private schools, though they serve the same function of caring for and educating our children, do not receive the same level of protection from being sued in the event of an accident.
Private Schools or Daycare Facilities
If your child was injured in a private school or daycare, then you would only have to prove simple negligence on the part of the school or staff in order to potentially win a case for damages for the injuries. The standard of negligence means that the school owed a duty to your child and they did not live up to that duty, and as a result, your child was injured.
Generally, when your child is at school or in daycare, the duty to protect them exists. To show that the duty was not lived up to, or breached, you would show that the teacher or school's conduct was not reasonable under the circumstances. Did the teacher fail to act in a situation that a teacher should be expected to act to protect a child? Was the risk or danger that hurt your child something that the school reasonably should have noticed and corrected?
If the breach of the duty to your child caused his or her injuries, then you may have a successful case for damages against the teachers and/or school for what happened there.
Public Schools or Daycare Facilities
In a public school district or publicly-run daycare program, though, they are immune from lawsuits for simple negligence. In order to hold them legally responsible in Illinois, you have to show that what they did or failed to do that caused the injury was “willful and wanton” behavior. This means that their actions were done either intentionally to cause harm, or basically without any regard for the child's safety.
The public school districts are not legally held responsible for accidents that happen merely because they did not live up to the duty that is owed to care for your child. The “will and wanton” standard requires a much higher level of blameworthiness than simple negligence that applies to private schools.
Some ways that the public school's behavior can be held responsible for your child's injuries include:
- knowing that there is a dangerous situation, and not acting to prevent the danger;
- getting rid of a safety measure that was already in place; and
- intentional conduct that causes harm to a child.
Frequently these scenarios come up where the school district has seen other similar accidents and yet did not do anything to fix the situation. For example, a piece of playground equipment could be defective and children have gone to the nurse with injuries from being cut on something, yet no steps were taken to correct it. Or a teacher has failed to properly supervise a classroom, and issues have come up in the past showing the situation to be a safety concern, but no action was taken to prevent a problem and injury from happening.
A fall on the playground of a public school may be no less serious an injury than a fall on a playground of a private facility. But how a lawsuit for the injuries is pursued in each setting, has significant differences.
We realize that this can be confusing. Every case is different and you shouldn't decide that you don't have a case without talking to an experienced Illinois personal injury law firm first. If you would like a no cost/no commitment consultation about a possible claim, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time.