Children’s Accidents

Children, especially young children, suffer a lot of accidents; for instance, every year more than 30,000 children attend hospital for medical treatment after having trapped their fingers in doors and drawers.

It is difficult to strike the right balance in child accident prevention between “wrapping children in cotton wool” and allowing children the opportunity to take personal responsibility for their own safety.

All school and college staff have a legal responsibility to provide a safe environment in which children can learn. The courts in England and Wales appear to have a policy of requiring a high standard of care by education authorities and their schools.

This was seen in a decision of the Supreme Court in relation to a compensation claim on behalf of a 10 year old primary school girl who suffered a tragic accident during a school swimming lesson.

The education authority had a contract with an independent company that specialized in providing swimming lessons for children and it was not actually the school’s teachers who took the swimming lesson when the accident occurred. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court took the view that if the independent company providing the swimming lessons had been negligent then the education authority had also been negligent because the education authority owed the school girl a non-delegable duty of care. The education authority was not able, in principle, to simply pass its legal responsibilities to the independent company and avoid liability for the accident. This meant that both the education authority and the independent company were potentially liable to pay compensation to the school girl for the serious injury suffered in the swimming pool.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Woodland v Essex County Council