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Suing a Georgia School for Wrongful Death

Parents send their children to school with the expectation that their kids are safe. Sadly, many children end up badly hurt at school, and some injuries turn out to be fatal. Whether a child dies in a playground accident or during a sporting event, parents want answers. And they need an experienced law firm to represent them because the school will quickly shut down all lines of communication.

Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys has experience suing Atlanta-area schools when their negligent behavior ends up fatally harming a child. If you call, an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer can review your case and help you identify whether a legal claim makes sense. Most public schools and universities have powerful legal protection and immunity from lawsuits, but it is sometimes possible to sue.

Heat Stroke Leads to Athlete’s Death

Imani Bell was a 16-year-old who loved basketball. During her first training practice at an elite academy, she collapsed after running the stairs in 90-degree heat. Unfortunately, the school did not have the necessary equipment that could mitigate the effects of heat, like ice towels or spray bottles, and they did not follow common-sense safety regulations to keep their teenage athletes safe.

We represented Imani’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the school. This case is a good example of how young people can suffer fatal injuries when adults refuse to use necessary care to look out for their safety.

Imani is not alone. Other athletes have suffered heat-related deaths in high school or college. For example, Jordan McNair died when he suffered heat stroke during football practice at the University of Maryland. Another 15-year-old football player in Los Angeles died in a similar accident. Their families sought compensation for wrongful death from the schools responsible.

This negligence is unforgivable. The only way to seek justice is to meet with an experienced wrongful death attorney to go over the known facts.

Other Potentially Fatal Accidents

Training in dangerous heat is only one risk that endangers young people. Other potential accidents include:

  • Premises defects—students can slip and fall when the property is in disrepair and suffer fatal head injuries. Other accidents include electrocution or falling ceiling tiles.
  • Defective products—electronic devices could explode or electrocute your child because of a defect in their design or manufacture.
  • Negligent security—a student could be killed in a violent attack at a school that lacks sufficient security during the day or during extracurricular activities.
  • Toxic exposure—some schools have hazardous materials which can lead to fatal illnesses.
  • Bus accidents—a school bus could get into a crash, and a student could be killed. A rider might also suffer a fatal accident when getting on or off the bus, especially where the driver is paying insufficient attention.
  • Failure to supervise—tragically, some children cause another child’s death, either intentionally or negligently. A school can be liable for failing to supervise their students properly.

If your child is injured, you should please call our law firm.

Why Suing a Public School is a Legal Challenge

A Georgia statute, section 36-1-4, actually says that you cannot sue a county unless a statute authorizes the lawsuit. That means your options for suing for a child’s death can be quite limited.

There are exceptions for certain types of accidents, like a school bus accident. O.C.G.A. § 20-2-1090 requires that school districts buy insurance policies to cover the students that they transport. Consequently, you can typically sue up to the policy limit held by the school district if your child is killed in a bus collision that is the fault of the driver or school. That provides a measure of accountability.

With other accidents, you might be able to sue the adult responsible for the death. This is possible when an adult intentionally kills your child or if they failed to follow a rule which led to death.

This is a complicated area of law. It would be ideal if Georgia followed other states and let parents sue school districts whenever the district has been negligent. But that’s not the current state of Georgia law.

Suing a Private School

It’s much easier to sue a private school for your child’s death. In many ways, private schools are no different than other businesses. That means they owe your child a duty of care, which can include the duty to keep the premises safe, provide adequate security, and prevent bullying or violent attacks. A school that fails to fulfill this duty is open to a lawsuit, including a wrongful death claim.

With private schools, some issues arise over any waiver that you signed as a parent or guardian. You might have signed the waiver before enrolling your child in school or before they participated in extracurricular activities. With this waiver, you essentially agree not to sue the school for negligence.

Are these waivers enforceable? In many cases, they are. But we need to read the waiver first. We also need to know more about the accident that injured your child. A waiver will probably not protect a school that was grossly negligent and contributed to your child’s death.

Important Deadlines

Public schools are protected in another way: you get a very short amount of time to file a legal claim. Please don’t delay contacting our law firm. If you go past the deadline, then a judge will probably kick your case out of court, and you lose the ability to sue. This is just one of the many ways that Georgia makes it harder to sue a public entity like a school.

Helpfully, the deadline for suing a private school is longer, usually two years. Still, it’s best not to delay reaching out to an attorney to at least discuss your legal options.

Schedule a Meeting with Our Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer

No child should die at school. Unfortunately, many schools are careless or have dangerous premises that can compromise safety. To talk about your child’s death, call our law firm today at (404) 529-3476. We provide a sympathetic ear and will use our experience to determine whether you can bring a wrongful death claim.

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