Who Pays After an Injury on a College Campus?

Who pays after an injury on a college campus? That depends largely on the facts of your case. Typically, the at-fault party or their insurance company will pay, although this is not always the case. 

It’s not the case, for example, when the at-fault party is an on-duty employee of a college. Typically, you can sue the college for injuries on the premises and for the wrongful acts of their employees.

Respondeat Superior (Vicarious Liability)

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, you can sue the employer of an employee who negligently injures you in the course of their employment duties. 

For example, you might sue the college if one of their employees caused a car accident that injured you while performing their job duties.

Premises Liability

The owner or operator of a premises (a college campus, for example) can bear liability if a dangerous condition on the premises injures someone. The college must repair or warn people about any dangerous conditions. 

It must also conduct periodic inspections to uncover the presence of dangerous conditions. Failure to do so constitutes negligence, for which you can sue the college.

Suing a Government-Owned College

Do you seek to sue a private college, such as City College, or a public college, such as the University of Florida? Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, a government can limit your right to sue a government entity for personal injury damages. The Florida Tort Claims Act places restrictions on your ability to sue a Florida public college. You can still do it, but special restrictions apply.

For example, you must notify the defendant and allow them to investigate before you file a lawsuit. If you do file a lawsuit, Florida usually limits your claim to $200,000 per claimant and $300,000 per incident. There may be exceptions or higher limits in certain situations. 

These restrictions do not apply to private colleges, only public entities.   

Negligence: What You Have To Prove

Negligence is probably the most common basis for campus-related personal injury claims. Below is a list of the facts you have to prove to win a negligence claim:

  • Duty of care: A college’s “duty of care” might include inspecting the campus for hidden dangers, driving safety (when you sue a college employee), properly supervising students to prevent hazing, or exercising reasonable professional care when treating students for injury or illness. In some cases, you might need an expert witness to formulate the applicable duty of care. 
  • Breach of duty: The at-fault party failed to meet the demands of their duty of care. That could mean doing something wrong, or it could mean failure to do something that they should have done.
  • Damages: You have no claim unless you can prove that the at-fault party caused you harm. Typically, you must prove that you suffered a physical injury.
  • Actual cause: The at-fault party’s breach of duty must have actually caused the harm that you are complaining about.
  • Foreseeability (proximate cause). A hypothetical ‘reasonable person’ must have been able to foresee that the at-fault party’s breach of duty was likely to cause the harm that you suffered. In other words, you cannot win based on a freak accident. 

You must prove each of the foregoing elements on a ‘more likely than not’ (51%) standard.

Recoverable Damages

Depending on the facts, you might qualify for the following types of damages:

You must prove every dime of damages you claim with admissible evidence.

Special Case: Punitive Damages

Even though the purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant, not to compensate you, the money still goes to you. Florida courts do not like to award punitive damages very often. 

Indeed, they frequently refuse to award punitive damages even when the defendant clearly qualifies for economic and non-economic damages. To win a punitive damages claim:

  • You must specifically ask for punitive damages;
  • The at-fault party’s conduct must have involved intentional misconduct or gross negligence; and
  • You must prove your entitlement to punitive damages by ‘clear and convincing evidence,’ which is a difficult standard to meet.

The doctrine of sovereign immunity prevents you from suing a public college for punitive damages.

Settlement vs. Litigation

If you don’t want to go to trial, you can use the threat of a lawsuit as leverage to settle your claim out of court. Most defendants are open-minded about this approach, at least if they are willing to acknowledge any liability.

Your Chances Are Better With a Personal Injury Lawyer in Your Corner

As a general statement, injury victims tend to win more often and win more money when they hire personal injury lawyers to represent them. If your claim is solid, a personal injury lawyer will probably agree to represent you on a contingency fee basis. This means you only pay legal fees if you win compensation.

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) 664-4149

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