When School Shootings Occur, We Can Fight for Those Injured and the Families of Those Who Have Lost a Loved One
School Shooting Statistics in the United States
Violence at high school sand colleges has become an all-too common reality for students. CNN reported that over the 18 month period, beginning with the Sandy Hook School shootings, there were 74 school shootings. CNN determined that 15 of these 74 shootings were similar to the Newtown and Oregon shootings, which works out to a violent school shooting every five weeks.
As parents, when we drop off our children at school in the morning, we expect them to be in good hands. The last thing we expect is that they will become the victims of a school shooting.
Sadly, according to the CDC’s School Associated Violent Death Study, between 1% and 2% of all homicides among school age children happen on school grounds or on the way to and from school or during a school-sponsored event.
Who Can Be Held Liable for School Shootings?
In any personal injury or wrongful death, one of the first tasks for our firm is to learn about the complete facts and circumstances of the injury or death so that we can determine all those who we believe bear legal liability. When these facts are known, we can then initiate a lawsuit against those who we believe are liable in our efforts to obtain full compensation for our clients who have been injured or damaged.
The following are parties that may bear legal liability in a school shooting:
Clearly the shooter will be the most responsible for the shootings and killings that occur. Most school shootings, however, are committed by students against other students and teachers, and often the shooter takes his own life (or is killed by police). Because of the young age of these shooters, they typically have little or no assets; thus even if a lawsuit is successful, in many instances it would amount to more of a token victory rather than a victory involving adequate compensation.
School Districts, Colleges, and Universities
School districts, colleges, and universities have a duty to ensure that students are safe on campus. If they knew (or should have known) that a student was making threats of violence and did not take appropriate action, they may be liable for the deaths and injuries that resulted.
In the case of a school shooting, school districts, colleges and universities may be liable under a theory of negligence based upon the theory of negligence in that schools have a duty to protect students from danger such as acts of lethal violence occurring while students are attending school. Although this duty may not be absolute, schools are at a minimum expected to provide necessary supervision, warn students and faculty of potential threats, and to adhere to policies and safety practices designed to reduce the risk of lethal violence occurring on school grounds.
Parents of Shooters
Parents of shooters also can be held liable in some school shootings, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case. Liability in these cases may be predicated on some act that the parents took (like buying a gun for their son when they knew their son had been making threats towards others, or failing to take action – such as informing the police – when they knew that their son was intent on harming others).
Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Other Professionals
Professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists have a legal duty to take action when a patient makes a credible threat to harm others. Taking action and making notification to the appropriate people of a threat of harm usually overrides the duties of client confidentiality, as society believes that protecting people from harm is more important.
Holding These or Any Other Parties Accountable
In a school shooting, there is never a clear answer as to who can be held liable beyond the shooter until a proper investigation is undertaken. Therefore, the foregoing is only a list of possible other defendants that may bear liability in some cases; it should not be assumed that these people or entities or any others will bear any legal liability. Once we undertake a full investigation we will be in a position to determine whether we believe that these or any other parties may bear legal liability.
Making Your Case
In a personal injury or wrongful death case, the plaintiff (an injured student or the parents of a deceased student) has the burden of establishing proof of liability (which is often predicated upon the occurrence of negligence). This burden also applies in school shooting cases.
For instance, in a case against a defendant school district, the plaintiff will need show that the school district had a duty to supervise students and provide necessary precautions against violence. The plaintiff will additionally need to show that the district breached this duty is some manner, and that as a result of this breach, students were injured or killed.
The scope of a school’s duty under this type of scenario will depend on the facts of each case and the law’s interpretation of the extent of the reasonable measures a school must take to protect students from criminal violence perpetrated by students and non-students. The range of legal remedies available to victims and their families can involve damages for the cost of medical care, pain and suffering, and in cases of lethal violence, compensatory damages for loss of life.
We Offer a Free, No-Obligation Consultation to Those Who Have Been the Victims of School Shootings
Please call our office to schedule a consultation with us at a time that is convenient with your schedule. When we learn about the facts and circumstances of your case, we can then advise you as to how we may be able to help, and your right to seek compensation from those responsible.
We typically accept personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that there is no fee to us unless and until we are successful in recovering compensation for you.