Over the last few years, our firm has become increasingly involved in cases involving children hurt at school. This inevitably creates conflicted feelings among the public. On one hand, the potential for civil liability causes school districts and employees to pay closer attention to the physical well being of our children. The safety of the kids, after all, is job one. On the other hand, schools are, for the most part, underfunded. This naturally causes concern for the continuing education of our children.
Thankfully, school districts carry insurance policies to cover these risks. If little Johnny loses a hand in shop class (Heaven forbid), and the injury was due to the negligence of the middle school or its employees, the school is not going to lose its sports program. The claim is simply turned over to the school's insurance company. Unfortunately for the child, however, the insurance company may not be liable for the full extent of the child's damages, due to Oregon's governmental immunity laws.
There is a certain level of uneasiness that is natural when contemplating a claim against a school district. I come from a family of teachers, and certainly understand the conflict. But, as my grandfather used to say, "There's little reason to follow the rules if you can't get into trouble." Thus, it is important to remember that the potential for civil liability helps to protect our children. There is no way to completely prevent injuries at school. The tort system simply minimizes the risks.
- Tim Williams