Losing a child is without a doubt the hardest thing a parent must ever face. Even harder is when you believe your child's death could have been prevented by those responsible for his or her welfare during school hours. Is it ever possible to sue your child's school for wrongful death? What will you need to show in order for your claim to succeed? Read on to learn more about some situations that could create a viable wrongful death claim, as well as your options if you find yourself dealing with too many unanswered questions following the death of your child.
What are some situations that could potentially give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit?
Each state's wrongful death laws differ somewhat -- some states permit any surviving family members to sue for wrongful death, while others have stricter laws only allowing a lawsuit from a surviving spouse or minor child. However, all states permit a wrongful death lawsuit to be brought by certain surviving family members in situations in which the decedent could have filed a personal injury lawsuit (had he or she survived).
This means that, in order for your lawsuit to succeed, you'll need to establish both that your child's school owed your child a duty of care and protection and that your child's school breached this duty -- leading to your child's death.
Teen and preteen bullying has reached epidemic proportions -- and those who don't yet have the emotional faculties to fight back against bullies could be susceptible to suggestions of suicide. If you and your child repeatedly brought up concerns about bullying to school officials but no action (or insufficient action) was taken against the perpetrators, you may have the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit.
One recent lawsuit filed by the mother of a teen suicide victim alleges that the school took no steps to stop bullies from engaging in systemic physical and verbal harassment -- even refusing to allow the 13-year-old to change schools to get away from her tormentors. While this lawsuit remains pending, it's not the first case of a school system being sued for failing to adequately address bullying that eventually led to a child's suicide.
- Allergic reactions
For children with potentially life-threatening anaphylactic reactions, every meal can be a gamble. More and more schools are going "peanut-free," prohibiting peanuts or food made by peanut-processing factories on school grounds to minimize the odds of a student's allergic reaction. But despite the precautions you may take -- keeping an epinephrine pen close at hand, ensuring your child knows to tell an adult at the first sign of itchiness or trouble breathing, and always packing an allergen-free meal -- your child may inadvertently come into contact with an allergen at school and require medical treatment or even hospitalization. This alone is unlikely to establish liability on the school's part.
However, if a school employee fails to heed a child's complaints about trouble breathing or severe itching, refuses to administer lifesaving medicine, or fails to contact emergency services, he or she could potentially subject the school to liability for the child's wrongful death.
What should you do if you feel your child's school shares blame for your child's death?
Your first step before deciding whether to file a wrongful death lawsuit against your child's school should be to contact an experienced personal injury or wrongful death attorney in your state. Each state sets forth its own statutes of limitations (the amount of time you have to file a claim before it expires), as well as the types of economic damages you'll need to allege. Trying to handle this type of case yourself could lead to a procedural mistake that may prevent you from suing at all. For more information, go to sites of local law firms.