When Can You Sue a College or University for Injuries?

In principle, it is certainly possible to sue a college or university for injuries that occur on campus. Private schools are generally subject to the same rules on liability that anyone else is, with minor deviations. 

You need to be particularly careful, however, when you are dealing with public schools. That’s because they are government entities, and special rules apply to lawsuits against the government.

Premises Liability

The owner of real property (a college campus, for example) bears a legal obligation to ensure that their premises are not unreasonably dangerous to guests. They must repair or warn against any hazards, and they must conduct a reasonable inspection of the property to uncover non-obvious hazards. 

Colleges and universities owe a special, elevated duty of care to their students, although this duty of care is not as high as a primary or secondary school owes to schoolchildren. Although colleges and universities owe a lower duty of care to non-students, they still owe a duty of reasonable care.

The Elements of a Negligence Claim

Below is a list of the facts you have to prove to win a negligence claim:

  • The school owed you a duty of care;
  • The school breached its duty of care;
  • You suffered damages (typically a physical injury);
  • The school’s breach of duty caused your damages; and
  • Your damages were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the school’s breach of duty.

Not all personal injury claims are based on negligence, but most are.

What Kinds of Injuries Can You Sue For?

You can sue a college or university for just about any kind of injury. The most common injuries that generate personal injury lawsuits include injuries arising from:

  • Defective buildings or equipment;
  • Educational activities;
  • Recreational activities;
  • Fraternity or sorority hazing;
  • Negligent hiring or retention of  employees; and
  • Medical treatment or failure to render medical assistance.

Many other circumstances could give rise to a valid personal injury claim as well.

Sovereign Immunity 

Public colleges and universities are subdivisions of the Florida state government. The government enjoys sovereign immunity, which allows it to prevent anyone from suing it. 

Fortunately, the Florida government has partially waived sovereign immunity, allowing people to sue it for most personal injury claims. 

The following caveats apply, however: 

  • Before you file a lawsuit, you must provide a written notice of your claim to the school and to the Florida Department of Financial Services. Typically, you must do so within three years of the accident that produced the injury you are complaining of (two years after the victim’s death for a wrongful death claim). You must wait a reasonable time for a written denial of your claim before you can file a lawsuit. 
  • Florida law limits the compensation you can recover in a lawsuit against a state or local government entity, including public colleges and universities. This limit amounts to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. The legislature periodically adjusts this amount.
  • You cannot seek punitive damages against a government entity.

There are a few types of personal injury claims that are still barred by sovereign immunity. Talk to a lawyer if you have questions about your claim.

Filing a Lawsuit To Gain Leverage in Settlement Negotiations

Even if you plan to resolve your claim at the settlement table instead of in court, it might still benefit you to file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit gets the defendant’s attention, beats the statute of limitations deadline, and gets you access to the pretrial discovery process.

The Odds Are Your Claim Will End at the Settlement Table

Many personal injury claims arise, but few of them end up at trial. If they did, our justice system would become so clogged with cases that it would take decades to hear a claim. 
The odds are you will resolve your claim through private settlement, although you might have to file a lawsuit to, shall we say, “put the defendant in the mood to settle.” Hiring a skilled personal injury lawyer is the best first step toward a generous settlement.

Contact Our Gainesville Premises Liability Law Firm in North Central Florida

If you need legal assistance, contact the Gainesville premises liability lawyers at Allen Law Accident & Injury Lawyers at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We have three convenient locations in North Central Florida:

Allen Law Accident & Injury Lawyers – Gainesville office
2550 SW 76th St #150
Gainesville, FL 32608
(877) 255-3652

Allen Law Accident & Injury Lawyers – Downtown Gainesville
621 W University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
(866) 928-6292

Allen Law Accident & Injury Lawyers – Ocala Office
112 S Pine Ave
Ocala, FL 34471
(352) 351-3258