Educational negligence claims

26th April 2018

Three elements

To establish a case of educational negligence, the claimant must be able to prove three conditions.

The first of these is that the person who is being accused of the negligence (for example, a teacher or headmaster) is responsible for providing the child with care and has a duty towards the child’s education.

Secondly, it must then be proved that the person accused has breached this duty and not provided the level of education that they could have reasonably been expected to provide.

Finally, it must then be established that as a result of this failure on the part of the accused, the child has suffered a recognisable loss.

Caselaw

In July 2000 the House of Lords passed a judgment in the case of Phelps v Hillingdon London Borough Council, which allowed more people to bring forward claims for compensation resulting from educational negligence.

This judgment states that compensation may be sought from a Local Authority (LA) for negligence, if that authority can be shown to have failed in its Common Law Duty of Care to carry out its duties properly.

Decisions made by the LA that are based on policy are also unlikely to be able to bring a claim, but claims that show a negligent action not to be a direct effect of policy can potentially be pursued.

The school or LA can be held accountable for the actions of a negligent staff member only if it can be shown that that staff member was not acting in accordance with practices that are accepted by reputable professional bodies.

There are strict time limits to claims being brought.

There are however strict time limits to claims being brought. A young person must take no longer than three years to file a claim after their eighteenth birthday has passed. A claim can be made after this time period only if the claimant receives significant information, such as a diagnosis of dyslexia,  after the three years has passed subject again to specific time limits.

For a case like this it is important that the claimant has kept a large number of educational and school records. Claims can be brought forward while the child is still attending school, but it is hard to show evidence of any long term damage caused by negligence until after the educational period has been completed.

Settlements

Because negligence claims are lodged by a process of litigation in a court, the importance of strong evidence on the part of the claimant is very important. It should also be noted that successful claims can be rare and generally expensive and out of court settlements are viewed as being the quickest and easiest route to success.

Successful claims can be rare, and out of court settlements are viewed as being the quickest and easiest route to justice.

If you believe that you may have been subjected to negligence whilst in education we would strongly suggest that you take legal advice at the earliest opportunity to ensure that any potential claims do not fall outside the periods of limitation.

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