Factors That Can Help You Decide Whether A Child Injury Is Due To Inadequate Supervision From A Legal Standpoint
If a child is injured while in the care of a teacher, there is a need to determine to what degree, if any, the teacher is at-fault for the harm suffered. Not every situation where a child is injured comprises legal negligence upon the part of the teacher. That is why the courts have developed an understanding of how to evaluate when a teacher failed to exercise responsibility in an injury situation. Below is more information on what is specifically involved in making a determination regarding adequate supervision and its presence or absence:
What is adequate supervision?
The key question in determining if a teacher's actions were negligent is whether or not they exercised adequate supervision. Defined in layperson's terms, adequate supervision is the exercise of proper care to keep a child safe. However, adequate supervision is not always easy to determine and can even vary depending upon the setting and the child. Below are described a few essential guiding factors that can help when evaluating the circumstances surrounding a child injury.
Age and experience
This factor relates to not only the chronological age of the child but also their personal maturity level. It is ordinarily expected that the younger a child is, the more supervision will be required. However, it is critical to remember that each child is different, and some older children may require more care than younger ones. For example, an older child with mental disabilities may not be mature as even younger individuals. For adequate supervision to exist in this scenario, it may require a teacher to exercise a much closer level of watchful care than would be required for peers in the same age group.
Another related factor is experience level; this pertains to the degree of familiarity with which a child may have with a given activity. For some activities, the experience level is consistent with age progression; for example, many children learn to ride a bicycle around the age of five or six, and it can usually be safely assumed that teenagers are more experienced bicyclists than eight-year-olds. However, other activities are independent of age; as an example, some fairly young children are proficient with the use of hot wax in an art class due to exposure and instruction. Conversely, there are teenagers who have no experience with the use of hot wax, and they would require a close level of supervision as they proceed. A teacher has an obligation to know their students' experience levels with whatever activity they are supervising in order to maintain adequate care.
Activity and risk level
A factor that must be weighed when evaluating whether or not adequate supervision is exercised is the nature of the activity itself. This assessment considers the potential for harm that might be suffered. For example, students sitting in a classroom are engaging in a less-risky activity than those on a playground. A teacher may be excused for turning their back for a few moments while students are taking a written examination in their desks; however, the same lapse in attention could prove to be grossly negligent while children are swinging or climbing on playground equipment.
Environment and external influences
Another variable that can help make a determination about the the level of supervision provided is teacher response to the student environment. In general, a teacher or any other individual cannot be held responsible for unforeseeable dangers that might arise. For example, if a teacher is intently watching and supervising their classroom when a roof collapses, then the judgment of most courts would be that the teacher is not responsible for such an unforeseen event. However, if the students are on a field trip to an abandoned structure with signs warning of potential hazards, and a roof subsequently collapses, then the teacher failed to exercise adequate supervision. In that situation, most reasonable observers would hold they should have foreseen the danger.
For more information, talk to a professional personal injury lawyers, such as those at Dunnigan & Messier P.C.