Oregon Public School Liability for Student Injuries

Parents and guardians should be able to expect that school employees will be able to keep their kids safe each day. Schools should be environments for learning, not areas where a child has to worry about whether or not they are safe. However, what happens if a child is injured while attending public school? Can the school or its employees be held liable for the child’s injuries?

Proving liability for a public school child injury case in Oregon can be complicated. However, it can be done, and public schools have a duty to ensure the safety of the students under their care.

Public schools have different liability rules

Public schools in Oregon operate as government entities. This is important when it comes to liability for injuries that happen on public school property. There is something called sovereign immunity which can be used to prevent lawsuits against the government, even when they have acted negligently. Most government bodies in Oregon enjoy some form of immunity from lawsuits. This makes it much more complicated to hold public schools liable for injuries that happen to children on their property.

However, under the Oregon Tort Claims Act, codified at Oregon Revised Statutes Section 30.260 through 30.300, there is a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, making some claims allowed against the government. There are various requirements that a claimant must satisfy in order to proceed against the government in personal injury cases, including strict time limits and notification requirements.

Negligence is an important factor

Schools and school districts will not be liable for most injuries that happen on public school grounds. However, the waiver of sovereign immunity generally applies when the negligence of the school district and/or one of its employees causes or contributes to a person’s injury.

There are various ways in which negligence can happen on public school property and thereby open up the ability to file a lawsuit. This can include:

  • Premises negligence. Schools have a duty to ensure that their property is safe. Maintenance staff should regularly inspect and maintain school grounds to minimize risks of injury to students and other visitors.
  • Negligent supervision. Administrators, teachers, and other school staff must provide proper supervision over children. If they fail to do so and a child is injured, they could be held liable.
  • School violence. Schools are required to implement appropriate security measures in order to prevent acts of violence. Failing to properly secure the premises could result in the school district being held liable in the event an injury occurs. Any acts of violence committed by school staff could lead to the school district being held liable for injuries.

Do sports injuries count?

Sports injuries are the most common injuries that occur within the realm of a public school. The general nature of most school sports means that there will likely be injuries. Concussions are some of the most common injuries that occur in school sports. In most cases, parents are required to sign waivers of liability before their child is allowed to play sports for a school. This essentially takes school off the hook for any injuries that occur while the child is playing or practicing. However, a school could be held liable for injuries if they fail to provide the proper equipment for the sport, fail to properly maintain equipment, or if unsafe hazards are present in the playing area.