Slip and Falls at School: Who Is Responsible?

School hallway with rows of lockersFor generations, schools were looked upon as safe spaces. In fact, schools operate under the aegis of in loco parentis, which means that schools are as responsible for the safety of children as parents are.

Sadly, we all know that schools are less safe than they once seemed to be. Shootings, bullying, and more make headlines around the country and the world.

Slip and Falls In and Around Schools Can Be Dangerous

Slipping and falling accidents can make students unsafe as well. In fact, of the roughly 14 million children injured in accidents each year, approximately 25% happen in or around schools. About 20,000 children 14 years old or younger are taken to emergency rooms each year for traumatic brain injury (TBI) sustained on a playground, for example. Eighty percent of playground injuries are caused by falls, according to the National Safety Council.

Children can slip and fall for a number of reasons in and around schools. Perhaps tree roots or a stump remain on the playground. Perhaps a spilled lunch remained on the cafeteria floor. Stairwells and banisters may have been improperly maintained.

Determining Responsibility

Who is responsible if your child slips and falls while at school or on school grounds? Ascertaining responsibility can be complex.

First, in any accident, a party who was responsible for causing the accident can be liable if the court finds them to be negligent. A finding of negligence has several different constituent elements. First, the party has to be responsible for making an area safe. They should have a duty of care to the people who will use the space.

Second, they need to have known, or a reasonable person should have known, that an area was not safe. Third, they need to have had a reasonable time to remedy the unsafe condition. This means, for example, that if a lunch is spilled in a cafeteria, the school’s maintenance staff needs to know about it or should have reasonably known about it, and needs to have had sufficient time to clean it up.

Fourth, responsible parties can be found negligent if the first, second, and third conditions were met, but they did not make the area safe.

That said, responsible parties in school slip and fall accidents can be multiple, and ascertaining the degree of responsibility can be complex here as well. It could be improper performance by the school staff. It could be school administrators, who failed to properly train or supervise the staff. It could be lack of proper maintenance or installation by contractors who the school hired. All these parties and more can bear some degree of responsibility for a slip and fall accident.

If You Need a Slip and Fall Lawyer in New York or New Jersey

The NY & NJ slip and fall attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman are experienced in premises liability cases in New York and New Jersey. We have been handling slip and fall cases since 1975, and are committed to obtaining fair and just compensation for our clients.

For a complimentary case review, call us today toll free.

Additional Resources:

  1. National Safety Council. Landing Lightly: Playgrounds Don’t Have to Hurt. https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/safety-topics/child-safety/playgrounds.
  2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Safe Youth, Safe Schools. https://www.cdc.gov/features/safeschools/index.html.