Why parents may need liability insurance to cover their children’s schoolyard fights
A case in Toronto which two young boys are being sued for injuring another student should serve as a reminder that parents need to have liability insurance to protect their families, says a personal injury lawyer.
It might surprise many parents to learn that playground roughhousing can result in lawsuits, but according to Toronto-based personal injury lawyer Ari Singer, “it happens more often than you might think.”
According to a published report, the Toronto case began in March 2015, when a group of 10-year-olds at a Toronto Catholic school began pushing each other and one fell and broke his arm.
The injured child’s mother informed the parents of two of the children involved that her lawyer would be seeking compensation for the medical expenses her child incurred as a result of the injury. The mother also wants compensation for the time she was forced to take time off work and for child care expenses.
When the families didn’t respond, the mother launched a lawsuit against the school, its principal and the Catholic school board.
Earlier this summer, the Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange, which provides insurance coverage for the Catholic school, filed a cross-claim against the two children, arguing it is the children who should be held accountable, not the school, principal and school board.
Their cross-claim argues the students were negligent and did not respect the school’s “hands off” rules.
Singer told CTV’s Your Morning he’s not surprised to see the children being sued, as “injury lawyers are taught you sue everyone and then you sort it out later,” he explained.
What many parents don’t realize, he says, is that while young children can’t be held responsible for criminal offences, they can be held liable in civil matters.
It might seem strange to launch legal action over a schoolyard pushing, “”but you have to look at the poor kid who got hurt,” Singer said.
“He broke his arm and unfortunately, sometimes these injuries don’t heal well, and this person might need physiotherapy for the rest of their lives. These are things we don’t think about because we have public health. But physiotherapy is not always covered,” he said.
The good news is that many parents are protected in such lawsuits if they have homeowners’ insurance -- which all mortgage providers will require they have.
That insurance will typically include liability coverage for the policyholders and their children, and that covers injuries incurred both in the home and out, such as at a hockey rink or a playground.
“What’s great about these liability policies is they cover you anywhere in the world,” Singer said. “So as long as you have the policy and you’re an insured person under the policy, they cover you for your actions.”
Singer noted, though, that policies typically have exclusion clauses that deny coverage for incidents involving criminal acts.
“If you do something criminally, your insurance won’t cover you for that,” Singer said.
It’s also important to ensure your insurance company knows who is living in the home and thus who is covered by the policy. This can be an issue if older children are moving back and forth between residences, for example.
For parents who don’t own homes and who are renting, Singer says it’s very important that they buy tenant insurance, which will also have liability coverage.
“It’s actually very affordable… Basically, for $200-$300 (a year), you can be covered,” he said.