Virginia has many world-class community colleges, junior colleges, and universities. Because of the number of students, teachers, and staff on campus, accidents are inevitable. Every on-campus accident presents a unique set of challenges. Your right to pursue compensation for yourself or a loved one after a college campus accident will depend on many factors, including where and how the injury happened.
Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis, LLP has extensive experience handling college campus accident claims. These cases require creativity to identify all possible legal theories for holding someone responsible for an on-campus injury. Contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options for pursuing a compensation claim.
Types of College Campus Accidents
Virginia has 59 public colleges and universities and 71 private higher education institutions. These schools range in enrollment from a few hundred to nearly 100,000 students. Whenever you put that many people together, accidents happen.
Some accidents common on college campuses include:
Traffic and Transportation Accidents
Students often use alternate transportation, such as walking, biking, or riding the bus. When you mix auto traffic with pedestrians, bicyclists, and mass transit, it sets the stage for potential accidents.
Sexual Assaults and Domestic Violence
Sadly, college-age women are three times more likely to get sexually assaulted than women in general. Overall, 13% of all college students, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, get sexually assaulted.
Domestic violence, including violence between roommates, spouses, and people in dating relationships, also affects college students. This violence can happen on campus, in campus housing, and at college events.
Sports and Recreation Injuries
Most colleges provide sports and recreation opportunities for students, faculty, and staff members, as well as their families. Some facilities where on-campus accidents can happen include:
- Sports fields
- Recreation centers
- Swimming pools
- Student activity centers
- Bicycle trails
- Hiking paths
Accidents can also happen through programs operated by colleges at off-campus facilities. For example, students could get injured while participating in kayaking classes on a local river or lake.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Colleges have numerous buildings and parking lots. When these premises have hazardous conditions, students can get injured. Some conditions that cause injuries may include:
- Poor lighting
- Slippery surfaces
- Objects on floors
- Broken pavement
- Unmarked steps
- Raised thresholds
- Broken stairs and handrails
Slips and trips are not the only potential causes of accidents. Falling objects, aging buildings, electrical hazards, and fire hazards can injure or even kill students, faculty, or staff members.
Accidents can happen during classroom instruction. Laboratory and shop accidents can cause burns, electrocution, or other injuries. When students travel for study abroad programs, they can suffer injuries while traveling or living in another country.
Assaults, hazing, and bullying can happen on campus. They can also happen off campus at college-sanctioned events.
Liability for College Campus Accidents in Virginia
Liability for college campus accidents can rest on a few theories, including:
Negligence happens when someone fails to exercise reasonable care and as a result, causes an injury.
You can pursue a claim for negligence by private universities and colleges. For example, if a private university fails to provide adequate security patrolling its parking lots despite a series of muggings, it might have acted negligently.
Negligence claims against public colleges require additional work. Generally speaking, government actors, including state colleges and universities, have sovereign immunity from negligence claims.
But Virginia gives several options for overcoming sovereign immunity, including the following:
- Schools have liability for intentional acts and gross negligence
- Colleges bear liability for negligence in performing non-governmental functions
- A negligence claim can be filed when you get injured by a college employee acting outside the scope of their employment
A college campus accident attorney may find a creative way to frame the accident to overcome sovereign immunity.
If sovereign immunity does not apply, you can pursue a claim for negligence in:
- Providing security
- Supervising students
- Maintaining safe premises
- Responding to emergencies
- Supervising or training school employees
When you prove negligence, you can recover compensation for economic and non-economic losses resulting from your injuries.
Both private and public colleges bear liability for intentional acts committed by someone if they knew or should have known about the acts and failed to stop them.
For example, if a school gets several complaints about a faculty member assaulting students, the school must take action or bear liability for injuries resulting from the assault.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a College Campus Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one suffered an injury in a college campus accident, you should consider contacting a personal injury attorney quickly.
Public universities fall under the Virginia Tort Claims Act. Under the act, you need to provide notice to the Commonwealth within one year of an accident to seek compensation for your injuries.
To discuss your injuries from college campus accidents and the compensation you can seek for them, contact Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis for a free consultation.