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What It Takes to Succeed in Your School Injury Lawsuit in Illinois

If your child was injured at school because some employee (or employees) didn’t do their jobs properly, you might reasonably desire to sue. It is important to be aware that, in Illinois, suing a school district or school employee for an injury accident isn’t the same as suing for an auto accident injury, or a slip-and-fall/trip-and-fall accident.

That’s because, unlike those latter categories, schools in Illinois cannot be held liable for simple negligence. Does that mean you should just give up on your child’s school injury case? No, it doesn’t. Even without the option of a basic negligence claim, the evidence and the facts of your child’s case very possibly could still be enough to meet the standards that the law has erected, so don’t “throw in the towel.” Contact a knowledgeable Chicago school injury attorney to learn more about the options that may be available to you.

Success in a school injury case requires something more than proof that someone was negligent. Consider the case of S.B., a sixth-grade cheerleader, as an example. She suffered an injury at doing a “lift” maneuver at cheer practice. Her mother sued the school district, alleging that multiple safety failures contributed to her daughter’s injuries, including failure to maintain the safety equipment properly and the use of inadequate “thin gymnastic mats.”

The case went up to the Appellate Court, where the mother lost. There were some specific facts that worked very strongly against this mother and helped to contribute to the case’s lack of success. These included the facts that the mats S.B.’s school used were compliant with standards established by the governing bodies for school cheerleading, that the mats were still under warranty and that the mats had been inspected by the cheer team’s coaches before each practice. S.B.’s school district had a policy demanding the cancellation of cheer practice if a problem with the mats was discovered.

This unique set of facts was particularly problematic for this mother. In Illinois, if your child is injured at school and you seek to recover compensation from the school district for its employee’s misconduct, you have to show the misconduct was “willful and wanton.”

Proof of violation of written school policies or rules is often vitally valuable

Other previous cases, by contrast, show what “willful and wanton” errors, and successful school injury lawsuits, can look like. In 2018, a school district lost its bid to get a lawsuit filed by the family of a student dismissed. That case, like this recent one, involved an injured cheerleader. One of the key differences between that case and S.B.’s case was the evidence about compliance with school policy. In S.B.’s case, the school district had evidence that the coaches followed all of the district’s rules. In the earlier case, the student had proof that the school employees failed to follow the district’s own concussion policies after the student fell and hit her head.

Back in 2016, the Appellate Court upheld a $2.5 million jury verdict against a school. In that case, a student died during English class due to an asthma attack. The family’s evidence in that case showed that the student’s English teacher failed to follow established school policies for medical emergencies, and that failure caused a critical delay in emergency response.

So, as you can see, proof of a violation of school policy can be a major key component in a successful case. However, it is not just about proof of a policy violation. You must also give the court proper arguments that establish that the school’s liability comes from willful and wanton mistakes, and not just someone’s negligent error.

In other words, it takes obtaining the right evidence and then also making the right arguments. For the effective the legal representation needed to accomplish these and other goals, look to the diligent Chicago injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca. Our attorneys have many years successfully helping families harmed by a variety of injury accidents, including school injuries. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.

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