Watching your child suffer with school bullies is hard. You feel helpless to control the situation, and your heart sinks every morning you send them away. Every school day is a battle for them. At some point, you want to take action. If your child is being bullied at school, is there anything you can do? In certain situations, the answer is yes. It may be possible to file a premises liability lawsuit when your child is bullied at school.
Premises liability refers to an injury that takes place on someone else’s property. When we imagine someone receiving compensation in a slip and fall accident, it is the result of a premises liability case. However, slipping and falling is only one of several ways that a person can file a lawsuit for premises liability.
Business owners have a high degree of responsibility to their customers. If you are hurt on business grounds, you can sue the owners or management. Private property owners have less liability in caring for their visitors, but they can still be sued if someone is injured by gross negligence.
Children are among the most vulnerable citizens in society. When you send a child away to school, you are not just sending them to learn. You also have a reasonable expectation for their physical and mental wellbeing. If your child is under constant threat of harassment, it is the school’s responsibility to take action. When a school fails to control bullying problems, your only recourse may be a premises liability lawsuit.
In most situations, bullying issues are handled by the school. Even when the bullying takes place outside of school time, such as in cyberbullying, schools often deal with the problem. Public schools are government entities, and handling these problems helps keep the matter away from law enforcement. They normally punish bullying through their regular disciplinary measures. They can use detentions, suspensions, demerits, expulsions, etc. to penalize school bullies.
If your child is being bullied, do not immediately attempt a lawsuit. Give the school time to alleviate the problem. Work with them, and stay in regular contact with teachers and administration. Schools also have non-punitive measures, such as mediation, that can help control bullying. When these measures fail to solve the problem, then it may be necessary to take the matter to a higher power.
First, the bullying must be related to the school. It must take place on school grounds. This can include a bus or a school-sponsored event. In the case of cyberbullying, it must take place between members of the same school.
Discrimination is fertile grounds for a bullying lawsuit. There are many federal laws that protect certain classes of people. This includes people who belong to a certain race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It also includes people with disabilities. If your child is bullied for any of these reasons, it is clear grounds to file a lawsuit.
In civil courts, there are also “common law” grounds for a lawsuit. This essentially means that someone can use court precedent to file suit. Common law grounds are helpful when your child does not belong to a protected class. Children can find any excuse to bully one another, and discrimination takes many forms. If your child simply does not fit in and is bullied, common law grounds could apply.
Examples of common law grounds include:
If your child has suffered physical harm, there is strong evidence for a premises liability claim. You can use medical diagnoses and bills as evidence, and you can seek damages for those injuries.
Mental harm is more difficult to prove, but you can still use it as grounds for a lawsuit. To prove mental harm, you will need strong documentation. For example, you may need written testimony from the child’s mental health professional. They could even be called in as a witness. A sharp decline in the child’s grades could also be used as evidence of their mental anguish.
It is possible to bring a lawsuit against the school itself. More often, however, it makes more legal sense to sue a school district. The district’s job is to oversee the schools, making sure they are functioning properly. Problems come from the top down. When a school is mismanaged, it is the fault of that school’s administration, but ultimately, it is the district’s fault for allowing a school to lose control.
As mentioned earlier in this post, public schools are government entities. One of the challenges in suing a government entity is “sovereign immunity.” Put simply, sovereign immunity protects individual government employees from a lawsuit. We often see this in action when someone sues the police. People who want to sue a particular officer must often sue the department instead. This is another reason you may need to sue the school district rather than an individual school or teacher.
Sovereign immunity also creates a problem of short deadlines and special requirements. In most personal injury cases, you have years to file a lawsuit. Against a government entity, the statute of limitations could be as short as three months.
When a school is ineffective in protecting your child from bullies, contact a lawyer. It may not be necessary to take the matter to court, but a lawyer can communicate with the school to help make that determination. In some cases, just knowing that you have sought representation may be enough to motivate a school to try harder to correct the issue. If they still cannot fix the problem, a lawyer skilled who can navigate sovereign immunity may be able to take the matter to court.
If your child is being bullied, feel free to contact us today. We want to help. For a free consultation, call (850) 764-0383 or contact us online.