Can a School Be Held Responsible for a Child’s Injury?


A Georgia high school football player died after sustaining a severe brain injury during a game. Dylan Thomas, a student at Pike County High School, was taken from the game in critical condition. He underwent surgery at the hospital to help alleviate the swelling in his brain. Our hearts go out to his family and loved ones.

Student-Athletes and Concussions

Concussions are one of the most common sports injuries among student-athletes. In recent years, more and more policies have been put into place for guidelines regarding return to play and concussion management. In 2013, Georgia was the 44th state that implemented laws requiring schools to have a policy in place on how to respond to head injuries during sports and other activities.

The law, titled The Return to Play Act of 2013, says that all private and public schools are required to adopt and implement policies for return to play and concussion management. The idea is that schools are in the perfect position to prevent students from returning to play after suffering a concussion. The law requires all elementary, middle, and high schools to implement the following:

  • Provide a written warning to students, coaches, and parents to educate and inform them of the risk of concussions to students who participate in athletics before the start of pre-season practices and each athletic season.
  • The coach must complete a concussion recognition class annually and be certified in recognizing student-athlete concussions. 
  • Coaches and school officials must abide by the return to play policy if an injury is suspected.

What If My Student-Athlete Was Injured and the School Failed to Follow Policy?

Many people wonder if their child is injured and officials at the school fail to follow their policy, can the school be held accountable? The answer isn’t easy. Laws in Georgia don’t treat all students the same. If your child attends public school and was injured, they have fewer rights than a student who is injured while attending a private school.

The State of Georgia says that you can’t sue governmental employees such as teachers, school administrators, and coaches unless the governmental entity that they are employed by has waived their right to sovereign immunity. Very few governmental entities are willing to waive such protection.

Exceptions to the Rule

Luckily, there are a few exceptions to the rule. One exception is when a public officer negligently performed a ministerial duty. A ministerial duty is a duty that is definite, simple, and absolute that requires the simple execution of a specific duty. You cannot, however, sue if the negligence was done while performing a discretionary duty. A discretionary duty is a duty that calls for the use of personal judgment and deliberation.

According to Georgia’s Return to Play Act, the duties created under it are considered ministerial, which means you can sue for damages. However, many Georgia courts have interpreted these cases differently claiming they are discretionary and therefore, not allow a lawsuit.

Contact a Child Personal Injury Attorney Today

Because the law is complex when it comes to student-athletes and injuries, it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side. The attorneys at Council & Associates, LLC have years of experience handling personal injury claims regarding children and their rights. They can review your case and determine the best course of action. Contact them today to schedule a consultation.

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