September 17, 2018
High school football games have been and continue to be a staple of the teenage social life — kids experience the freedom of summer nights at a sporting event, often without their parents’ supervision. This allows them to express themselves in new ways and find new shenanigans to make the nights memorable.
However, with endless curiosity, little responsibility, and perhaps too much of a penchant for trouble, teenagers are also at high risk for hurting themselves and other people. At high school football games, the school is responsible for keeping people safe, whether students, spectators, or players.
So what happens when school administrators or maintenance staff members breach their duty of care? If the school doesn’t keep its property well-maintained, and you or your child is hurt, can the school be responsible for paying your medical costs?
High School Premises Liability
Whether at after-school sporting events or during the day, schools are primarily responsible for keeping their students safe. Maintenance staff, cleaning crews, and teachers are also responsible for helping protect students, because they are employees of the school.
However, public schools typically enjoy immunity from lawsuits because they are funded by the government. Municipal schools and private schools may carry their own liability insurance, which means you may be able to file a claim against them, but keep in mind suing schools for an accident on their property will likely involve shorter deadlines and tighter restrictions.
Assumption of Risk
When attending sporting events, whether professional or amateur, spectators assume risks associated with sporting events: in baseball games, foul balls can cause injuries to fans; during football games, those on the sidelines run the risk of collision with players who run out of bounds.
Because the risks associated with attending sporting events are so hard to predict, Indiana law doesn’t protect spectators from miscellaneous injuries. Evaluating the large number of sports injury cases on an individual basis is impractical, and requiring sports facilities to install large, obstructive safety equipment would ultimately detract from the fans’ experience.
If you’re injured at a high school football game while in the stands or on the sidelines due to action on the field, you probably won’t be able to file a premises liability or personal injury claim to help with your medical bills.
Student athletes, on the other hand, require protection from their school, whether in college or high school. Players who suffer injuries on the field need to be examined right away, taken out of play, or referred to a specialist.
If the trainer or medical professional in charge of treating the student doesn’t perform up to the high standards of medical care, the athlete may be able to file a claim against their doctor.
Though the school owns the property around the football stadium, they may not be liable for any injuries that occur outside of school hours or to people who are not students. If this seems unfair, consider people who use school grounds on the weekends for unsanctioned activities, such as kids who play on the playground on Saturday morning. If someone falls and hurts themselves, the school can’t be held liable. This protection often extends to any event outside normal school hours, including school-sponsored sporting events and other extra-curriculars.
Before beginning a liability claim against a school, keep in mind the immunity laws protecting them may or may not be validated by a jury in court. This means that it’s possible to achieve a settlement from the school even if they are technically immune from legal action, but only in cases of gross negligence (overt and reckless negligence).
Help Filing Premises Liability Claims from an Indiana Lawyer
Because schools are typically well-protected by both government immunity and their insurance carriers, it will take an attorney with plentiful legal experience to structure and position your case for the best chance at winning a settlement.
Personal injury attorneys at Hensley Legal Group are well acquainted with Indiana laws that govern and protect school districts across the state. They can work closely with you to understand your story and offer you a much less frustrating process for filing a claim than if you tried to go it alone. Give us a call or contact us online today to start a free conversation with us.