One of the worst phone calls you can receive as a parent is a call from your child’s school notifying you that your little one or teenager has been injured in some sort of accident.
Parents face these sorts of incidents every day all throughout the state of Texas. But did you know it is nearly impossible for parents to hold public schools liable if their child is injured during the school day?
It’s no secret that when you want to seek out compensation to help pay for the mounting debt stemming from your child’s injuries, you should hire an experienced personal injury attorney like those at J. Gonzalez Injury Attorneys. We have devoted ourselves to perfecting our skills and using all our legal experience to help secure full compensation for the damages you or your loved one have suffered.
Today we are analyzing why it can be a challenge to sue a Texas public school for your child’s injury – and it has a lot to do with sovereign immunity.
What is Sovereign Immunity?
According to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), sovereign immunity is a judicial doctrine that protects the state from being sued in state or federal court without its consent.
In essence, it derives from an ancient English principle that states, “A king can do no wrong.” In the U.S., we do not have a king, so the “king” in this statement refers to the government.
In the state of Texas, our courts have adopted this doctrine for two purposes:
- It allows the state to do its duty effectively, including the issuance of important administrative actions.
- It protects the state’s treasury.
To briefly illustrate the first purpose, if the Texas government approved a provision that someone took fault with, sovereign immunity prohibits that person from suing the government in retaliation. The reasoning behind this is that any potential lawsuit that could change a law, would affect millions of other people.
But that doesn’t automatically mean that the Texas government is infallible. This is an entity that can make mistakes and should, therefore, be held liable, especially if your child is hurt while attending a public school.
The Importance of the Texas Tort Claims Act in Holding Schools Liable
The Texas Tort Claims Act of 1969 provided a source of hope in the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code, specifically Sec. 101.021.
The updated language states that a governmental unit can be held liable if an employee acted negligently within the scope of their responsibilities, causing property damage, personal injury, or the wrongful death of your child by operating a motor-driven vehicle or motor-powered equipment. In essence, if the operator of the school vehicle or equipment were liable according to Texas law as a private person, the school may be liable for the harm done to your child.
The law continues stating that the governmental unit, in this case, a school, could also be found liable only if a personal injury or wrongful death was caused by a certain condition or “tangible personal or real property,” much like how Texas law would find a private person liable if injury happened due to their property.
Despite these guidelines, sovereign immunity still makes it extremely challenging to sue a school in an effort to seek damages for your child’s injury.
What Your Options Are as a Parent
In order to qualify for a suit in the first place, your child had to have been injured in a manner that involves a motor-driven vehicle or motor-driven equipment, and the operator has to be at fault.
Even though sovereign immunity makes it difficult, the experienced and dedicated team of J. Gonzalez Injury Attorneys have the legal know-how to ensure you are able to secure the compensation your child needs to begin healing.
Another scenario where it may be acceptable to file a lawsuit against a public school is if your child has a certain condition — like a mental or physical disability — and was harmed while attending school. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects children with disabilities, and if the school failed to protect them, they may be held liable.
How to File a Suit Against a Public School
As with any form of personal injury, receiving medical attention immediately is always the first step to take. Not only do your child’s wounds and injuries need to be treated, but this also helps to document what injury your child received because of their school’s negligence.
After they receive a clean bill of health, contact our McAllen, Brownsville, or Rio Grande City office as soon as possible.
At J. Gonzalez Injury Attorneys, we take pride in making the impossible possible for our clients. Hiring the top legal leader in the RGV early can really help you secure all crucial pieces of evidence.
With a plethora of legal resources at hand, plenty of professional relationships with medical staff and accident reconstruction specialists, and our decade-plus of legal experience, our personal injury lawyers can help you rest easy knowing that your claim is in capable hands while you tend to your child.
Do be sure, however, to file a Notice of Claim to the school within 30 to 60 days after the injury was sustained. This notice is a document that contains the:
- Date the injury occurred
- Method of how the injury occurred
- Nature of the claim
- Other facts that support the legal action against the school
Waiting too long to file this document may disqualify you from being able to seek compensation from the public school. Finally, once the document has been submitted, you must wait three to six months for a response from the school.
After you’ve received your response, then it is time to file the lawsuit in court.
Has your child fallen victim to negligence while attending public school? The J. Gonzalez Injury Attorneys are here to right their wrongs.
As parents ourselves, we know how precious children are. It is only natural that we want to protect them from anything and everything that can harm them.
Contact us at any of our McAllen, Brownsville, or Rio Grande City locations to set up your free legal consultation with one of South Texas’ best personal injury attorneys today.