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Are Public Colleges Liable for Serious Injuries?

By Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie on July 7, 2020

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College is often cited as being some of the best four years of a young person’s life. Orange County is home to several outstanding public institutions, from UC Irvine to Santa Ana College, that train the brightest minds in the country. However, one accident can change what is supposed to be an educational and fun experience into a nightmare. Following an accident that was the fault of your university, you may be wondering just how you can hold your school accountable. Afterall, they are supposed to keep you safe and healthy, and they failed that responsibility. Unfortunately, when it comes to public colleges in California, filing a personal injury claim isn’t that easy.

Sovereign Immunity

The term sovereign immunity refers to the immunity that a governing body has against lawsuits and claims. It greatly limits the circumstances in which a person can file a claim. Because public universities are funded by the government, that means they fall within sovereign immunity. This includes community colleges, like Orange Coast College, and 4-year universities under the California State University and University of California banner, such as CalState Fullerton, CalState Long Beach, and UC Irvine. This makes a personal injury claim much more difficult to file, let alone win. Thankfully, there are some scenarios in which a public college can be claimed against.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim

To file a personal injury claim against a public college, certain criteria must be met. First and foremost, there must be clear negligence on the part of the school. This means that the school must have acted in such a way that shows a conscious and deliberate failure in the safety and care for the students.

In order to prove that the school was acting deliberately negligent, then there are a few core elements that must be proven. Those are:

Duty of care: You must be able to show that your college had a legal duty of care to you. That means you were a student at the time of your injury, and the injury in question was caused by the school in some way.

Failure of care: The legal duty of care must have been broken. The school must have failed in its duty to you through clear actions, or because they failed to act in a way that could have prevented the injury.

Evident causation: After showing that the school had a duty to you and that it failed that duty, you must then present evidence that that failure of care directly resulted in your accident and injuries. As in, had the school acted appropriately, you would have not been injured and the accident could have avoided altogether.

Clear harm: Once you have presented your evidence of causation, you must also be able to show that the accident in question caused your injury, property damage, loss of wages or some other kind of damages. You can prove this with medical bills or pay stubs indicating you are not making as much as you did before the accident.

After negligence, the second thing you need to keep in mind when filing a personal injury claim against your school is that there is a deadline to when you can submit your claim. In California, you only have 6 months after the date of your injury to file your personal injury claim against a public entity. After that, you have run out of time and are no longer allowed to seek damages from the school.

Damages You Can Receive

If you do get your personal injury claim submitted on time, then you must then specify what damages you hope to claim. Typically, in personal injury cases, you can file for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to any sort of financial loss you suffered. Non-economic covers everything else, such as emotional trauma and pain and suffering. In personal injury cases against a public university, the same is true. If you win your case against your university, you can expect to be awarded damages for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Loss of future wages
  • Psychological trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lowered quality of life

Personal injury cases against California public universities are difficult. It can be hard to even know if you have a case. Thankfully, the Orange County premises liability attorneys at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie know the ropes. If you were injured at school, and you believe that it may be a case of negligence on the part of your college, reach out to us at (949) 752-7474. We would love to answer your questions and figure out your options.

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Posted in: Premises Liability

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