To file a lawsuit against a school district in Colorado, an injured person must follow the Colorado procedures for filing against a teacher or school district.
Filing a lawsuit against a school district is not always easy. These institutions enjoy certain immunities from lawsuits, but depending on the facts of the individual case:
- a lawsuit can be filed
- to seek financial compensation
- for damages or injuries.
Common Reasons to Sue
Some common reasons that parents and students sue school districts include but are not limited to:
- sexual harassment;
- excessive punishments;
- teacher misconduct;
- negligence; and
- physical or emotional harm.
Below, our Colorado personal injury attorneys address frequently asked questions about school district cases in personal injury lawsuits and the injuries you may have suffered.
- 1. What injuries can I sue a school district or teacher for in Colorado?
- 1.1 Can I sue for bullying my child suffered?
- 1.2 Can I sue due to excessive punishments from teachers and staff?
- 1.3 Can I sue for discrimination against my child?
- 1.4 Can I sue for sexual harassment or misconduct by a teacher or staff?
- 2. What is negligence in this type of lawsuit?
- 3. When can I file a lawsuit against a school district in Colorado?
- 4. How do I file my lawsuit against a Colorado school district?
- 4.1 What information does the notice of claim need to contain?
- 4.2 What happens after I submit my claim?
- 5. What kinds of damages can I win in a personal injury lawsuit?
Colorado teachers and school districts are not immune to all types of lawsuits.
Certain types of injuries and conduct can lead to a personal injury lawsuit where an injured person can obtain money damages as compensation for the harm he or she suffered.
Bullying is a serious problem throughout the United States. According to The National Center for Education Statistics:
- 66.8% of children said they were bullied at least once in the school year; and
- 33.6% of bullying occurred in the classroom.1
A teacher's or administration's failure to properly prepare for this and to prevent injury and emotional harm that can result from bullying may be compensable in a trial if:
- the district failed to adequately protect students against bullying;
- personnel saw the bullying and failed to act to prevent or stop it; or
- the bullying occurred as the result of a coach's, teacher's, or other employee's comments or actions.
Bullying can be extremely serious, leading to major injury, suicide, or homicide.
Excessive punishment from district staff for alleged misbehavior can lead to liability on the part of the school district.
Of course, discipline is an important part of raising and educating students, but when it goes too far, injury can result. Excessive punishment can be compensated through the filing of a personal injury lawsuit.
By law, Colorado school districts may not discriminate against students on the basis of:
- sexual orientation;
- national origin; or
Schools are required to help protect students from discrimination and to enact policies and procedures for its prevention.
When a child has been sexually harassed or was the victim of sexual misconduct, the damages can be severe and life-long. Administrators and staff have the responsibility to protect students from sexual misconduct and failure to do so can lead to a lawsuit for money damages against the school district.
Depending on the situation, the district could also be liable for:
- negligent hiring;
- negligent supervision; or
- negligent retention.
Many injuries suffered by students are the result of teacher or administrator negligence. To prove a case for negligence, a person who is injured (the plaintiff) must prove:
- that the person being sued (the defendant) owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
- that the defendant breached that duty of care;
- that the defendant's breach was the cause of the injury; and
- that the plaintiff sustained monetary damages from his or her injuries.3
If the plaintiff can show that the defendant was negligent in causing the injuries, the defendant will be responsible for the plaintiff's damages.
While the examples of negligence that can occur are numerous, some of the most common include:
- failure to prepare food in a safe and sanitary manner (food poisoning);
- failure to maintain buses or other transportation;
- failure to provide necessary medication;
- inadequate emergency planning (fire plans, tornado plans, etc.);
- failure to repair unsafe structures, playground equipment, or grounds;
- lack of supervision during recess, lunch, detention, or extracurricular activities; and
- sports injuries at school.
These are just a few examples of the ways negligence can play a part in a student's injuries. Any harm that occurs in an educational setting may be appropriate for a personal injury lawsuit.
Colorado schools enjoy certain immunities from lawsuits, and there are specific ways in which to file a complaint against them. Failure to follow the rules can result in dismissal of the case.
Sovereign immunity means that:
- certain public or governmental entities
- are immune from lawsuits
- caused by them or their employees
- in a tort action.4
School districts enjoy sovereign immunity, but there are specific exceptions that can lead to a successful filing of a personal injury lawsuit.
A private school does not get to claim sovereign immunity from personal injury lawsuits. The process for suing a private institution is completely different than a public institution.
However, certain private schools that receive public funding may be given immunity. A skilled Colorado attorney can determine whether a private institution is granted immunity and file the right type of case to deal with the issue.
Before filing a lawsuit against a school district, the injured parent or student must file a claim against it.
A "claim" must be presented within 180 days of the injury or after the date of the discovery of the injury to the governmental entity in charge of Colorado schools.5
If a person fails to file this notice within that time period, the lawsuit is forever barred in Colorado courts.
The notice of claim is required to contain the following under Colorado law:
- The name and address of the claimant and the name and address of his attorney, if any;
- A concise statement of the factual basis of the claim, including the date, time, place, and circumstances of the act, omission, or event complained of;
- The name and address of any public employee involved, if known;
- A concise statement of the nature and the extent of the injury claimed to have been suffered;
- A statement of the amount of monetary damages that is being requested.6
Failure to include all of this information may lead to the dismissal of the lawsuit and the loss of potential damages the injured victim may otherwise have successfully won.
After a person submits his or her claim, a lawsuit may not be filed until:
- the person receives notices that the school district denied the claim; or
- until after 90 days have passed following the filing of the notice of claim with no action taken by the school district; or
- whichever occurs first.
If the injured person's claim is rejected\ or the school district fails to respond, the victim can move forward with a personal injury lawsuit.
An injured person could recover both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include:
These damages are more easily identifiable through documentary evidence and usually have a defined value.
Non-economic damages are those which are not typical "out-of-pocket" expenses. These losses are more subjective and include:
- pain and suffering;
- emotional distress;
- emotional distress;
- loss of enjoyment of life; and
- loss of consortium.
Call us for help...
For questions about lawsuits against teachers or school districts in Colorado or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado personal injury attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us.
We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.
- Campus Safety. Bullying Statistics Every K-12 Teacher, Parent and Student Should Know.
- CRS 24-34-402. Discriminatory or unfair employment practices.
- Lopez v. Trujillo, 399 P.3d 750 (Ct. App. Div. 1 2016). (To prove a prima facie negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove: (1) the defendant owed a legal duty of care; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) the plaintiff was injured; and (4) the defendant's breach caused that injury. citing Vigil v. Franklin, 103 P.3d 322, 325 (Colo.2004). Of these elements, duty is the threshold element.)
- CRS 24-10-106. Immunity and partial waiver; 26-FEB COLAW 77, Interpreting the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act, Anne Whalen Gill.
- CRS 24-10-109. Notice required--contents--to whom given--limitations.
- CRS 24-10-109(2).