Can a School District Be Sued for Injuries to Students?

A school district may be legally responsible for your child's injuries, but you can't usually file a lawsuit right off the bat.

Updated by , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

As any parent will tell you, injuries to children are often unavoidable, but when a child is hurt at school, or while under school supervision, can a school district employee (or the district itself) be held liable? In this article, we'll cover:

  • who might be liable when a child suffers an injury while at school
  • why filing an injury claim against a public school district can be tricky, and
  • "notice of claim" requirements, which usually must be complied with before you can seek injury compensation from a school district.

Who is Legally Responsible If My Child is Injured At School?

If your child is injured while at school or while participating in a school activity, determining who might be responsible for that injury is often difficult. Even if the school or a school employee didn't directly cause your child's injury, the school district might still be legally responsible. (Get the basics on proving fault in personal injury cases.)

For example, perhaps another student threw a rock at your child on the playground. Your first inclination might be to assume that the other student, and not the school district, is legally responsible for your child's injury. But:

  • What if the grounds weren't properly inspected or cleared of potentially dangerous objects?
  • What if the offending student had a propensity for aggressive behavior toward other students, and the school district employee failed to properly supervise the student?

Similarly, perhaps your child was injured in a school bus accident caused by the driver of another car. Even though you might bring a claim against the other driver for causing the traffic accident, the school district might share some level of legal responsibility for your child's injuries.

Can Parents Be Liable When Their Child Causes an Injury?

It depends very much on the particular circumstances of the injury, and the details of the law in the state. But parents might find themselves on the legal hook for the actions (whether negligent or intentional) of their kids in certain instances. Learn more about parental responsibility laws.

Making an Injury Claim Against a School District

If you believe a public school district might be liable for your child's injury, it's important to understand that any claim you make will probably need to follow special procedural rules. You can't just go right to court and file a personal injury lawsuit.

Do School Districts Have "Sovereign Immunity" From Injury Liability?

School districts, like the federal government and all branches and agencies at the state, county, and municipal level of government, are entities known as "political subdivisions." In all states, political subdivisions enjoy what is called "sovereign immunity."

Generally speaking, this means that in most situations the government entity and its employees are immune from lawsuits, except under specific circumstances.

The good news is that all states have conditionally waived this immunity and will allow claims for compensation when the negligence of the school district and/or one of its employees causes or contributes to a student's injury.

The (potentially) bad news is that there are often very specific procedures you are required to follow before you can file the lawsuit in court. Failing to follow these procedures can result in an immediate dismissal of any lawsuit you try to file later on.

The "Notice of Claim" as a Prerequisite to Filing an Injury Lawsuit

The laws governing lawsuits against school districts vary from state to state. But typically, before a personal injury lawsuit can be filed in court against a school district, a "Notice of Claim" or similar document must be filed with the district or appropriate state agency.

The notice of claim usually must be in writing and must:

  • describe the nature of the incident (including the wrongful action/inaction on the part of the district and/or one of its employees)
  • detail the injuries to the student, and
  • include a demand for compensation (in a certain dollar amount).

While the time limits for getting the notice of claim filed are different in each state, you usually have a lot less time to file the notice than you would have to file a normal lawsuit. In many states, you have only 60 to 90 days after the injury to get the notice of claim filed.

Once the claim is filed, you typically must wait to file a lawsuit in court until either (1) the school district has denied the claim, or (2) a certain amount of time has passed without any action by the school district (typically three to six months).

If the claim is not filed in time, most states prohibit you from later filing any type of lawsuit in court against the school district.

Learn more about suing the government for negligence.

State-Specific Examples of the "Notice of Claim" Process

In California, you must give written notice of your claim to the school district within six months of the date of student's injury. The district will then accept or reject the claim. If the claim is rejected, you can file a lawsuit in the state's civil courts. Get more details on injury claims against these California school districts:

In Florida, you must put the school district or other state agency involved in the claim (and the state's Department of Financial Services) on notice, in writing, within three years of the underlying incident. No lawsuit can be filed against the district until 180 days have passed after the notice is provided (unless the claim is denied within those 180 days).

In New York, if you want to hold the public school district liable for a student's injury, you must file a Notice of Claim within 90 days of the underlying incident. Once 30 days have passed, and the claim is denied or no action is taken, you can file a lawsuit against the school district in the New York Supreme Court. Get more details on Filing a Notice of Claim against the government in New York (

Getting Help With an At-School Injury Claim

If you're considering taking legal action after your child was injured at school, it's crucial to understand your state's requirements for filing a claim, including where, how, and when you need to get the process started.

If you feel confident conducting the necessary research, drafting the "notice of claim," and following other procedural rules, it might make sense to handle your injury claim on your own. But especially since your right to injury compensation from a public school district often hinges on your ability to understand and comply with strict filing rules and deadlines, putting your injury claim in the hands of an experienced legal professional might make the most sense.

A personal injury lawyer will have the expertise to navigate your state's rules when it comes to injury claims against a school district, and will have the experience to put your best case together to ensure a fair result. Learn when you might need a personal injury lawyer and how to find the right injury attorney for you and your case. You can use the tools on this page to connect with an injury lawyer in your area.

Make the Most of Your Claim
Get the compensation you deserve.
We've helped 285 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you