School accident compensation claims
The following article takes you through what you need to know about making a school accident compensation claim.
During the past five years, compensation payments totalling £3.3 million have been made to the parents of children injured in schools across Greater London, Birmingham and Greater Manchester.
Teachers and support staff may make a work accident claim for injuries sustained during their employment. Parents and visitors who sustain illness or injury on school grounds may also be able to claim.
The most common types of school accidents include:
- slips, trips and falls within the school premises
- accidents involving play equipment
- injuries caused by dangerous school buildings, playgrounds and walkways
- injuries caused by unsafe school equipment such as desks and chairs
- school sporting accidents
- food poisoning caused by food prepared and served on the school premises.
The amount of compensation the claimant will receive depends on the extent of their injuries and the impact these injuries have had on a claimant's life, rather than the cause of the injury.
However, for the purposes of making a personal injury claim, the cause of the injury does matter. It must be shown that the accident caused the claimant's injuries, and that the accident itself was caused by another party's act or negligence.
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Accidents may also occur while the student is away from the school premises on a school trip. Depending on the circumstances of an accident that occurs on a school trip, the school may be liable.
For example, a child may be injured while on a school nature walk. In this situation the school has a duty to supervise the children and keep them safe from reasonably foreseeable injury. If the school fails in their duty, it may be possible to make a claim.
Teachers may also claim for injuries sustained while on a school trip, depending on the circumstances of their injury.
Accidents involving pedestrians outside the school gates are not uncommon. Data from a leading road insurance compensation indicates that 11- and 12-year-olds are particularly at risk of being injured in a road accident on the school journey.
Drivers are expected to be on alert when driving close to a school. Signage is frequently used to indicate that schoolchildren are likely to be crossing the road.
Even where witness statements or CCTV footage suggests that a child has not looked before stepping off the kerb, a compensation claim may still be possible. The claim could succeed on the basis that responsibility for the accident is shared by both the child and the driver.
If a parent, visitor or teacher was injured in the last three years as a result of a school accident that was not their fault, he or she may be eligible to claim compensation.
Where the school accident involves a minor child, the child's parent, guardian or relative may bring a claim on the child's behalf. This person, known by the Courts as a 'litigation friend,' will be responsible for taking decisions in respect of the claim.
Claims are brought against the operator of the school, nursery school or college. In the case of state schools, the defendant usually will be the local authority.
Where the accident involves a member of staff, the claim will be made against the employer. The school will have taken out insurance to cover the cost of compensation in the event of an accident. Read more about claiming compensation following an accident at work.
Children are expected to be naturally inquisitive and less aware of hazards that an adult would recognise. The law requires schools to therefore take extra precautions to supervise children and keep them safe, above the standard expected of a company employing adults. The younger the child, the more safety precautions should be taken.
The Courts do not expect schools to protect a child from every accident. Schools are, however, expected to take reasonable steps to prevent those accidents that can be reasonably foreseen. To win a claim, the claimant's solicitor will need to establish that the school failed to use reasonable care to make sure the child was not injured, and that the child was injured as a result.
Each case will turn on its facts. For example, a child may fall from a climbing frame in the playground and break their arm.
The school may argue that the frame has passed all required safety checks and that no amount of supervision would have prevented the fall. The Courts are likely to accept this argument.
If, however, the climbing frame was too high for the age of the children using it, or if the school failed to install bark or safety matting to cushion the fall, then the school may be judged to have not taken the proper precautions to prevent the accident.
A claim is likely to succeed if the school has breached specific guidelines laid down by the Government and education authorities regarding school health and safety.
Awards for general damages are established by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards. Compensation reflects the nature and seriousness of the injury and are set out in the form of upper and lower figures for each type of injury.
The Judicial College recommendations are not legally binding. However, the Courts invariably will refer to them when calculating compensation for personal injury, as will most solicitors and insurance companies.
Compensation may also be claimed for special damages. This can include any expenses arising from the accident such as medical expenses and travel to and from the hospital for treatment.
Most claimants are relieved to hear that the majority of school accident claims are settled out of Court. To protect the child, any out-of-Court settlement agreed on behalf of a minor child will need to be approved by the Court in an informal hearing.
Claims can be brought on behalf of a child at any time up to their 18th birthday. An injured child has another three years, until the date of their 21st birthday, to begin their own claim if they choose.
Witnesses memories fade over time and other evidence may be lost. Claimants are therefore advised to start their claim as early as possible as this gives the solicitor a greater chance of making a successful claim.
A no win no fee agreement (more correctly referred to as a Conditional Fee Agreement or CFA) is put in place between the claimant and a PI solicitor.
A CFA is the conditions under which the solicitor is instructed by their client.
The contract sets out what the lawyers will do and how they is paid if your claim is successful.
If you instruct Quittance Personal Injury for your school accident claim there are absolutely no extra fees , nothing to pay up-front and the complete peace of mind that you will never be out of pocket.
Meet the QLS team
The national panel of Quittance solicitors handle all types of personal injury claims, from relatively minor claims to life-changing injury. Our solicitors are chosen on the basis of their professionalism and their track record in winning claims.
About the author
Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.
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