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Are Educators Liable For Student Injury?

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Harvey L. Walner & Associates, Ltd.

April 20, 2016


Older woman talking to a child on the playground

Teachers are responsible for children’s education. But are they legally liable when a child is injured at school on their watch? Well, it depends on where and how the injury occurred, the teacher’s actions or inaction, and the evidence as a whole.

To show that negligence occurred, you have to prove four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. In order to prove that the teacher was negligent, all four elements of negligence must be shown. Failure to prove even one element is fatal to a personal injury lawsuit.

Four Elements of Negligence


A duty of care was owed to the plaintiff by the defendant. As members of society, we all owe each other a duty of care when acting in ways that may endanger another, such as driving. As such, in the school context where teachers are tasked with training students, it is difficult to argue that a teacher does not owe pupils a duty of care.


The defendant breached the duty of care owed to the plaintiff by doing or not doing something that a reasonably prudent person would have done in the or similar circumstances. If a reasonably prudent teacher would take certain measures to avoid child injury and the educator-defendant in a tort case failed to as much, the breach element is proven.


The defendant caused the injury directly or indirectly. A teacher may be the cause of a child’s injury because of something the educator actually did, or through a failure to protect that a reasonably prudent person would have undertaken. But note-not everything that happens at school is in the hands of teachers and the school administrators. If a child is injured at school due to lightning striking twice in the jungle gym, the educator cannot be considered the direct or proximate cause of the act of nature. However, if a child is injured by another child, a teacher’s actions or inactions may be considered the proximate, or indirect, cause of injury.


The plaintiff must experience an actual compensable injury that can be remedied with damages. If there is no compensable harm to child-no medical expenses, say-there may be no negligence claim. Injury alone is not enough for a case.

If the teacher is proven negligent- it usually is just the beginning. Schools and districts may also be held responsible and whether or not you can target them will depend on whether the school is public or private.

At the end of the day, however, personal injury suits are complicated. It is important to speak to an experienced lawyer who can offer you sound advice. Contact Harvey L. Walner & Associates today.

About Harvey L. Walner & Associates

Our attorneys have over 75 years of combined legal experience in personal injury specializations, including personal injury accidents, worker’s compensation, medical malpractice, and wrongful death cases. If you or a loved one should have the misfortune of being in a personal injury accident, and you need a personal injury lawyer, the experienced attorneys at Harvey L. Walner & Associates, Ltd. are here for you. Call us today for a free consultation.

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