No parent should have to deal with the pain of losing their child. When the child's school is responsible for a fatal accident, it makes the loss all the more painful. You trust a school to keep your child safe from harm, and when the unthinkable happens, you have a right to seek justice and relief for your loss. If your child was killed in an accident on school property or in a school-related context, you might consider holding the school legally responsible.
Although nothing can make up for your loss, filing a wrongful death accident lawsuit can help you recover some compensation and fight for justice.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for an On-Campus Accident
If a student dies on a school campus or at a school-related event as a result of negligence by the school, the parents may be able to sue the school for wrongful death. This type of lawsuit is usually filed against individuals who are believed to have caused the death of someone else as a result of negligence or actions they took. Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed against institutions, too, including K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.
For a wrongful student death claim to be valid, there usually must be four elements:
- The death was caused by the defendant's conduct (the school is the defendant in this case).
- The defendant was negligent.
- The student who died has a surviving applicable family member.
- There have been monetary damages as a result of the student's death.
These criteria may vary from state to state, so it's crucial that you have an attorney well-versed in nationwide education issues and litigation against schools to assist you with your claim. They can advise you on the best option for your situation based on your state's specific laws.
When Should You File a Lawsuit Against a School?
Schools have a responsibility to keep students entrusted to their care safe. As a parent, you expect your children to return to you at the end of the day in the same condition as when you dropped them off. When the school neglects its responsibility, and an accident occurs, leading to your child's death, you may have the right to seek justice and receive compensation.
At colleges and universities, some examples of death arising from accidents include:
- A car crash occurs on campus that results in a student's death.
- A bus carrying students for a university-sponsored event crashes and results in one or more students' deaths.
- A fire starts in a campus building, and the university's fire safety measures fail, leading to one or more students' deaths.
- A student-athlete is fatally injured while participating in a school-sponsored sporting event.
- A student dies as a result of fraternity hazing because the institution failed to adequately deter hazing practices.
At K-12 schools, some bases for a wrongful death lawsuit might be:
- A school bus crashes and results in fatalities.
- A child drowns in a pool during a school-sponsored activity because no lifeguards are present.
- A student is fatally injured on a playground because the playground equipment was not safe or the child wasn't properly supervised.
- A student crossing a busy road or intersection during a school-sponsored activity is struck and killed by a passing vehicle.
The above accident examples are only a few situations that might occur at school, which could be the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit. If you have lost your child and believe their school played a part in their accidental death, you should contact an education attorney for advice.
Filing a Lawsuit Is Your Last Resort
Suing a school shouldn't be your first action. You have other options before it comes to a lawsuit. A competent wrongful death lawyer can advise you on how to take these steps and which options are most appropriate for your situation. Demonstrating that you've sought other avenues for relief before pursuing litigation is also showing good faith on your part.
The options you have before you sue a school include:
- Consulting with a lawyer. Before taking any action, find an attorney well-versed in education and student issues who can offer advice. This lawyer should have a good understanding of how school administrations work and how schools handle legal matters such as lawsuits. They can also let you know upfront if you have enough evidence to base your case on.
- Submit a grievance. Most K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, have a formal grievance procedure. It allows anyone to submit a complaint concerning a school-related matter and requires the school to conduct an inquiry. Before you file a lawsuit, you can go through your school's formal complaint procedure and see if the school is willing to resolve the matter before you take legal action.
- Appeal a formal grievance decision. After you've gone through the formal complaint process and you still don't have the resolution you're looking for, you can submit an appeal. Most grievance processes allow them. An appeal will require another school official or board to review your complaint and the information you submitted. Once they've reviewed it, they can overturn, amend, or uphold the original decision.
Preparing Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A lawsuit is a complex matter that can take a long time to resolve, especially when one of the parties is an educational institution. Before you bring legal action against a school, you need to prepare thoroughly. The two most important things to do are gather as much evidence as possible and choose a specialized education attorney.
- Gather as Much Evidence as Possible Hold on to every document, correspondence, record, receipt, or photograph you think might have to do with the circumstances of your child's death. Even if you aren't sure that you'll need a piece of evidence, keep it anyway. In a wrongful death accident case, evidence could be permission forms you signed for your child to participate in a school-sponsored activity, any photos or videos from the scene of the accident, emails or letters the school sent to you, recorded phone calls the school had with you, and many other things. When you have documents or pieces of evidence, make copies. Keep a paper copy and digital copy of everything, so you're sure you have all the information at hand when you need it.
- Choose an Education Attorney If you want to sue a school and have a chance of a successful lawsuit, you will need the help of an attorney that understands education issues. Find someone with experience litigating against schools or defending students from school administrative actions. An attorney with this specific knowledge will be ideal because they can anticipate how the school will respond to your lawsuit and help you prepare accordingly.
Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of students and their families across the country with matters regarding educational institutions. He has the experience necessary to help you recover some relief from your loss.
How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for an On-Campus Accident
To file a wrongful death lawsuit for your child's fatal school accident, you'll need to follow the process set out in the state where you're filing. It changes slightly state by state, but in general, you can expect the following steps.
- Identify a Knowledgeable Education Attorney. Trying to handle this situation on your own may only lead to further heartbreak for you