If you are the parent of a child who has an accident at school, or if you have suffered an injury while on school premises, you may be eligible to make a claim for compensation.
All schools have a duty of care to ensure that their pupils are safe and that all parents and visitors to the site are protected from any risks to their health or wellbeing. Should the school fail in this duty of care and you suffer an injury or loss, it is important to initiate your claim as soon as possible to maximise the strength of your case and secure the compensation you deserve.
An experienced injury lawyer would be happy to assist you in evaluating your potential accident claim during a free consultation. To find out more information about school accidents and the process of making a personal injury claim, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back.
What type of school accidents can I claim for?
School accident claims can be made following a wide variety of incidents that result in an illness, injury or loss for your child or family. The key point to remember is that the school must have been at fault for the accident. Some of the most common reasons for people to request the help of a solicitor in relation to school accident cases include:
- A slip, trip or fall on school grounds
- Playground accidents such as falling from climbing frames
- School bus accidents
- Injuries caused through children being asked to lift or carry heavy equipment
- Injuries caused by the use of faulty or dangerous equipment
- Sports or P.E related accidents
- Illnesses caused by poorly prepared school food.
- Asbestos related claims, whereby children have been exposed to asbestos in old buildings.
School accident claims are not limited to school children. Anybody who suffers an injury while on school premises due to negligence may be eligible to make a claim. It may be possible to make a claim for injuries caused through attacks and violence between children, though these claims may fall into different areas of law. So a solicitor would need to assess your case before determining the best course of action.
What should I do if my child has an accident at school?
If you or child has an accident at school or a nursery accident, it is important to report the incident to a member of staff as soon as possible. The accident should be recorded as per school policy and this will form the basis of evidence for your claim. It can also be helpful to collect any relevant evidence, such as contact details of witnesses, photographic evidence and reports from the school.
To be eligible to make a claim, your child will need to have suffered an injury as a result of the incident. It will therefore be necessary for you to seek medical attention following the accident. This medical evidence can then be used by your solicitor to help build a successful claim for personal injury against the school at fault.
If your claim relates to defective or poorly managed school equipment or buildings, it is a good idea for you to take photographic evidence of the offending items if possible. If appropriate, use a ruler to highlight issues such as raised flooring or ill-fitted wall hangings, as this can also help to prove the liability of the school for breaching their duty of care.
Should you aim to claim back the costs of medical treatment and prescriptions related to the injuries suffered from the school accident, it is important to remember to keep receipts and invoices as they will be necessary in order to be reimbursed.
Who is responsible for child safety at school?
Under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002, all nurseries, early years, primary and secondary education schools have a duty of care towards children.
While your child is at school or on a school trip, it is the school’s responsibility to protect their health and safety. Every school should have a health and safety policy detailing what it is responsible for and what it should do to keep your child free from accidents at school.
In terms of supervision, schools have the following responsibilities:
- Schools have a general duty of supervision towards children;
- This duty extends throughout the school hours and, for a reasonable period, before and after school, when children are still on the premises;
- How much supervision is needed depends on the age of the children and the activities they are engaged in;
- The school staff can only be expected to exercise reasonable skill and care, as they cannot oversee everything and everyone at the same time.
To determine if a child’s injury at school was due to negligence, you must consider whether:
- The school had an overall plan of supervision and protection for children
- The supervising staff used reasonable care to ensure the child was safe
- The event that led to the child’s injury was foreseeable
In terms of premises safety, schools must follow the standard duties dictated by the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 and the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 to prevent a school injury claim. They must provide safe and well-designed facilities and conduct regular risk assessments, inspections and maintenance activities.
While the school is primarily responsible for your child’s safety, others may also be liable if your child gets injured at school, such as:
- The parents of another child who bullied or assaulted your child
- An adult abuser, such as a teacher or coach
- A product manufacturer, if your child suffered an injury at school due to defective machinery or sports equipment
- The driver of a school bus
- Contractors hired by the school for maintenance or other services
Every school must have public liability insurance in place to cover school accident claims. You do not have to worry that the school funds will be depleted if you win compensation for your child, as the insurance will cover the claim.
What are the most common causes of accidents at school?
School staff and teachers have a duty to take all reasonable measures to protect children from accidents that could lead to severe injuries or death. When schools breach this duty, a wide variety of incidents can occur.
The most common causes of accidents that might lead to a school injury claim include:
Slips, trips and falls
Slips, trips and falls are some of the most common accidents in schools and could be due to wet or slippery floors, paving defects, trailing cables and other obstacles left in walkways. A slip or trip can cause minor to more severe injuries such as broken bones, back injuries and traumatic brain injuries.
Schools must take appropriate measures to prevent child injuries. While a cone or wet floor sign is sufficient to warn adults of a hazard, these may not be sufficient to keep young children away. If your child suffered an injury at school due to a slip or trip hazard, you could potentially make a school injury claim.
Accidents in playgrounds are among the most common causes of injuries children suffer at school. Of course, the vast majority of these are what you could call genuine accidents, where nobody was particularly at fault. Such as children bumping into each other while running around or being hit by a stray football.
Unless the playground was not adequately supervised when the accident occurred, the school would most likely have a valid defence to any subsequent claim.
However, some playground accidents could and should be avoided by taking the necessary steps to safeguard children from reasonably foreseeable injury. This could include playground equipment that is not suitable for the age of children using it, equipment that has not been adequately maintained or equipment that does not have the necessary safety measures in place, such as safety matting to protect against falls.
Sports and physical education
Some sports carry an inherent risk of injury, and you may not be able to make a school accident claim if your child voluntarily engaged in an activity such as football. However, the school should take proper precautions to ensure that equipment is not defective, that the playing grounds are safe and free from hazards, and that children are supervised during sporting activities.
School bus accidents
School buses must maintain high safety standards to ensure that children are safe during the ride to and from school.
Negligent or poorly trained bus drivers, poor bus maintenance and road defects can cause serious accidents. Because most school buses are not equipped with seatbelts or airbags, the consequences can be devastating.
Although school bus injuries do not usually occur on school premises, they are still the school’s responsibility if the bus driver is at fault, and they may entitle you to make a school accident claim on behalf of your child.
If another driver or road user was at fault for an accident involving a school bus, a road accident claim could be made against that person instead.
Bullying and assaults
Unfortunately, bullying and fighting are common in schools and may result in severe injuries. Schools cannot be held entirely liable for every conflict that occurs on the premises. However, they could be found negligent if they failed to provide adequate supervision at the time of the incident.
Verbal and emotional abuse can also result in long-term emotional and psychological damage. Whether the bully was another child or one of the school staff, you might be entitled to make a school injury claim.
The school cafeteria must prepare and store food appropriately, or children may become ill. The symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting and diarrhoea, fever, nausea and abdominal cramps. In severe cases, it may require hospitalisation and lead to long-term health complications and emotional trauma. The school is also responsible if an outside vendor has provided tainted food that made your child sick.
Accidents outside of school
Throughout the school year, there are often likely to be situations where your child will be away from the school premises during school time. This could be a supervised visit to a local park, educational facility or swimming pool. Accidents could also happen while away on a school trip to another part of the country, or even abroad.
During these periods, the school continues to have a duty of care to protect the children under their control and keep them safe from foreseeable injury. Therefore, if your child is injured outside of school while under their supervision, it may still be possible to make a personal injury claim against the school responsible.
How much compensation can you claim for an injury at school?
If your child had an accident at school due to negligence, you might be able to make a school injury claim. Aside from physical pain and suffering, a traumatic accident can also cause long-lasting psychological trauma and emotional distress both to children and their families.
In every child injury claim, you are entitled to claim compensation for the following:
Special damages awarded for the financial losses and expenses you incurred due to the accident, such as:
- Medication and private medical treatments
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Counselling and psychological support
- Lost wages, if you took time off work to care for your child
- Travel expenses to and from medical appointments
- Mobility aids and other medical equipment
- Home tutors if your child was unable to return to school
- Household modifications to help your child live more independently
General damages, awarded for the physical and psychological effects of the accident, including:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma and psychological scarring
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of social interactions
- Scarring and disability
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Impaired development
- Inability to pursue a hobby
The compensation for special damages is awarded by adding up all your losses and expenses. The award for general damages is calculated by referring to the guidelines published by the Judicial College, which is part of the Ministry of Justice. According to their recommendations, you could get:
- £14,340 – £22,200 for a leg injury causing permanent damage
- £9,000 – £130,000 for epilepsy caused by a traumatic accident
- £1,760 – £3,150 for a mild and temporary eye injury
- £43,500 – £52,500 for loss of sight in one eye
- £26,010 – £38,850 for a severe facial injury causing scarring, disfigurement and chronic tooth pain
- £1,760 – £3,150 for loss or damage to the child’s front teeth
- £5,630 – £16,380 for a simple arm fracture with no long-term complications
- £76,700 – £104,350 for an arm injury leading to permanent mobility issues
- £1,900 – £11,000 for a minor brain injury with recovery within a few weeks
- £245,000 – £350,000 for severe brain damage leading to permanent disability
Every school injury claim is unique, and it is hard to say precisely how much compensation you could receive. Before starting negotiations with the other side, your solicitor will consider all the impacts your child’s accident at school had on them and your family to calculate a fair settlement.
When will my child receive compensation for an accident at school?
In a successful personal injury claim where the victim is an adult, you usually receive the compensation award within one to four weeks after the case concludes, and you can immediately access the funds.
If you claim for a child injury at school, you must go through an Infant Approval Hearing in court before the compensation can be paid out. The judge will evaluate all the available evidence and decide whether or not the proposed settlement is a fair one. This is done as a safeguarding measure for the child.
They will consider the extent of the child’s injuries, how these affected their life, and the cost of further medical treatment and ongoing care. In the case of severe injuries where the victim has been left disabled or with learning difficulties, the compensation award could be significant.
The law requires the court to keep the compensation until your child turns 18. The money will be held in a court bank account and released to the child on their 18th birthday, including any interest accrued. In the meantime, you can apply to the court for early release of some of the compensation if you need to cover care or education costs.
Your solicitor can also help you set up a personal injury trust for your child. This will ensure that the compensation for a school accident claim will not affect other state benefits your child might be entitled to receive once they turn 18.
Personal injury trusts for children must include at least one professional trustee, and you can appoint yourself as the other trustee. No money can be used from the trust unless all trustees agree to it. This ensures the child is financially protected in the future, especially if they are left with a disability.
What is the time limit for making a school injury claim?
Generally, you must make a personal injury claim within three years after an accident or becoming aware of an injury. But when the victim is a child, the three-year time limit is suspended until their 18th birthday.
Since children do not possess the mental capacity to take legal action, they need a litigation friend to make a school injury claim on their behalf. If nobody claims for compensation before the victim turns 18, they have another three years to make a claim themselves.
As a litigation friend, you can claim compensation for your child at any time before they turn 18, regardless of when their accident took place. Nevertheless, you should not delay contacting a personal injury solicitor, as it often gets more difficult to track witnesses and gather evidence as time passes.
If you have been the victim of historical abuse at school, you can potentially claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). The time limit to make a CICA claim is two years after turning 18 or after reporting the incident to the police.
In the devastating event that your child suffered a fatal injury due to the school’s negligence, you could make a claim within three years after the date of death or from the date of knowledge revealed by a post-mortem.
Can school accident claims be made on a no win no fee basis?
If you feel you may have a valid school accident claim, you should contact a no win no fee solicitor as soon as possible. They will ask you a few questions about your child’s accident and injuries to determine whether you are eligible for compensation.
If they agree to work on your case, your solicitor will offer you a no win no fee agreement (also called a conditional fee agreement). This means you do not have to pay them any upfront fees, and you can take legal action regardless of your financial situation.
Your solicitor will take care of collecting evidence, speaking to witnesses and preparing all the legal documents so you can focus on your child’s recovery. They will also contact the other side and try to negotiate the best settlement for your child’s accident at school.
The best part of the conditional fee agreement is that you do not have to pay your solicitor a single penny if your claim is unsuccessful. If they win compensation, a success fee will be deducted from your award to compensate for the risk they took by offering you a no win no fee service.
The success fee cannot exceed 25% of your compensation for general damages and past financial losses. This will be thoroughly discussed and agreed upon from the beginning, so there will be no hidden charges or surprise fees.
By making a no win no fee claim, you do not have to worry about paying any legal expenses either. If your case is successful, the defendant will cover all the costs incurred during claiming, such as court fees, medical reports and expert witness fees.
If you lose, you are financially protected by the After the Event (ATE) insurance policy included in your no win no fee agreement. The ATE policy will cover all the legal costs and disbursements incurred by you and the defendant, including their solicitor fees and the cost of the policy itself. You only pay for the ATE premium if you win your school injury claim.
No win no fee is the preferred choice for funding a personal injury claim because it allows you to take legal action without investing any money or taking any financial risks.
To find out if you can make a no win no fee school injury claim, call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser. Alternatively, you can start your claim online by entering your details into our online claim form.