Injured child at a South Carolina school being comforted by a teacher

Originally published September 27, 2021

When an adult is injured because of someone else’s negligence, they can file a personal injury lawsuit to get financial compensation for their injuries, pain, and distress. But the situation becomes more complicated when a minor is involved, and even more so when a minor injures another minor, whether by accident or intentionally.

An adult may be liable for the actions or injuries of a minor who was under their care or supervision; For example, a teacher, playground monitor, or coach might be liable if a student is injured. However, the situation can get more complicated depending on whether the accident happened at a public or a private school.

To determine if you can get compensation after your child is injured by another child at school, and who can be held liable, you should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney. At Joye Law Firm, our case consultations are always free with no obligation to hire.

That said, this blog will go over a few of the main potentially liable parties when dealing with accidents involving children.

The Parents of the Child Who Caused the Injury

Whether or not parents can be held liable for injuries their child causes to another student may depend on whether it was an accident or intentional, such as in the case of bullying.

In the case of “malicious or willful” harm, parents can be held liable for their children’s actions. However, the amount of compensation parents can be forced to pay when their child deliberately causes injury or property damage is limited to just $5,000 under South Carolina law.

Furthermore, parents of children who cause harm can only be forced to pay economic damages, also known as “actual damages.” In this circumstance, a victim’s family could only recover the cost of their child’s medical expenses up to $5,000, and they can’t sue the other child’s parents for added compensation for pain and suffering.

Parents might also be responsible for their child’s actions under common law if they had reason to believe that their child was dangerous to others. For example, if the child had a past history of harming other children, but the parents didn’t take action to curb their child’s harmful activities.

The Child Who Caused the Injury

Children, especially very young children, generally can’t be held liable for injuries or damage they cause through a personal injury lawsuit. This is because, in the eyes of the law, someone must be aware that what they were doing was harmful or negligent to be liable. It’s commonly accepted that children can’t be held to the same standard of understanding that an adult can.

Exceptions can be made for older children, such as high school students, who can be expected to understand that what they were doing would or could cause harm to another student.

Minors can also be held jointly liable in personal injury lawsuits alongside their parents if the minor would have been considered liable if they had been an adult at the time of the incident.

Because minors usually do not have any or much money of their own, it makes more sense to get compensation from another source after an injury. If an injured child’s parents do pursue a claim against a minor, it might be possible for them to get compensation from the minor’s parents’ renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy.

Because these types of claims are complicated and often contentious, it is important to get an experienced personal injury lawyer involved early to help you determine your best path for pursuing compensation.

The School Where the Injury Occurred

Schools have a legal responsibility to provide a safe environment for students. However, in most cases, whether parents of an injured child harmed by another student can pursue compensation from the school or a school worker depends on whether it happened at a public school or a private school.

South Carolina public schools and public school employees are generally protected from liability, even when there was negligence. This is because public schools are considered governmental bodies, and state laws usually protect the government from being sued in most circumstances except for gross negligence when the harm done could easily be foreseen.

That doesn’t mean you can never sue a public school, but it does make it harder. It is important to get an experienced South Carolina personal injury attorney on your side.

However,  private schools can be sued normally like you would a negligent business.

What Makes a School Liable for a Student’s Actions?

Examples of when a school might be held liable for failing to prevent a student from harming another student include:

  • Failing to prevent bullying or assault, but only if they were aware that it was taking place or could have predicted it would happen (for example, a student had made threats against another student before the assault)
  • Providing inadequate supervision to prevent intentional or unintentional injuries (for example, playground monitors failing to stop a child from throwing rocks)
  • Failing to stop sexual harassment when it deprives the victim of equal access to educational activities or programs under Title IX

Each child injury case is unique, and there is no exact checklist that will tell you whether or not your child’s case meets the requirements to be able to successfully hold the school accountable. Speaking to a personal injury lawyer about your claim could help determine your eligibility for compensation.

When Things Get Tough, Call Joye Law Firm

One of the most stressful experiences in life is knowing your child was injured, that it was someone else’s fault, and you don’t know how to or whether you even can hold them accountable.

At Joye Law Firm, we make it our mission to help injury victims and their families get the help they need so they can simply focus on their recovery, while we focus on getting them the compensation and justice they need to put their lives right again.

If your child was injured through the intentional or unintentional actions of another student, call our firm today to discuss your next steps.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

Recent Blog Post
What to do in South Carolina events for the week of April 16-22 for Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Summerville and Upstate.
What to Do in South Carolina: Joye Law Firm Staff Picks 4/16/24-4/22/24

    Spring is in full swing in South Carolina, and with it comes many exciting events and festivals to enjoy. The team at Joye Law Firm has handpicked a selection of activities happening this week that are sure to…

Image of a police car with its sirens and lights on
Can I Sue if I’m Hit by an Ambulance or Police Car?

Auto accidents involving emergency vehicles such as ambulances or police cars can be complex and fraught with legal implications. If you are hit by one of these vehicles, you may wonder about your rights and whether you can pursue legal…

Joye Law Firm Staff Picks: What to do in South Carolina April 9 - 15, 2024 Events for Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Summerville, and Clinton
What to Do in South Carolina: Joye Law Firm Staff Picks 4/9/24-4/15/24

As spring blooms across the Palmetto State, South Carolina is buzzing with a vibrant array of events and festivals. From music and sports celebrations to community fundraisers, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Here’s a glimpse of the upcoming events…

Image of lawyers reviewing paperwork
Can I Get the At-Fault Party to Pay My Attorney Fees?

While you may pay a retainer or hourly fee for legal representation in many civil or criminal cases, personal injury claims often have a different arrangement called a contingency fee agreement. This helps you get legal services upfront without paying…

Awards & Recognition
CBS News