October 12, 2018

Murphy Battista

Children love school field trips. They are a chance to get out of the classroom, explore and educate themselves on the world around them, all while enjoying a day with their friends. Often field trips are outdoors and can involve potentially dangerous activities like kayaking, hiking, or swimming, and unfortunately, accidents can happen.  These activities can lead to injuries, and in some tragic cases, death.

It’s important to remember that claims for compensation involving injuries to children can present a variety of challenges. First, it can be difficult to immediately assess the full impact of the injuries on a child. There are often debates between medical experts on whether an injury had a detrimental impact on the normal development of a child. In other words, how the child would have developed had they not been injured. As a result, it may prove arduous to obtain a reasonably conclusive diagnosis of what caused a development delay, and it can be equally challenging to get a prognosis for the extent of recovery from medical professionals. The situation is further complicated by the fact that many children experience emotional, cognitive, or behavioural repercussions in the aftermath of a traumatic accident, which often can present more serious problems for the child than a physical injury. Finally, in serious injury cases, it’s often difficult to project the impact of an injury on a young person’s future, specifically with regard to their educational and career prospects.

On the most recent episode of The Law Show, Joe Murphy, Q.C. discussed the possibility of injuries on children’s school trips and touched on what a parent can do to help their children avoid injury while participating in these activities. In this episode, Joe mentioned several points parents need to keep in mind when their child has the opportunity to participate in a school field trip. You don’t need to be a “helicopter parent” but thinking carefully about your child’s needs and level of ability and asking the right questions about a field trip can help prevent your child getting needlessly injured.

Educational Benefit v. Possible Injury

One of the first things to consider when your child hands you a permission slip to attend a field trip is: What is the educational benefit? Not all field trips are focused on a specific topic in the curriculum, but as a parent, it’s important to weigh the educational benefits versus the possibility of an injury. For example, a trip to the Museum of Anthropology is a great opportunity for your child to explore First Nation culture and not likely a place where they can hurt themselves or others. However, a ski trip to Whistler, while fun and exciting, may have very little educational value, and the nature of the activity means there is a possibility of injury and possibly very serious injury. You don’t want to deprive your child of learning a new and enjoyable activity, but getting reassurance that your child will be properly fitted with ski equipment, that instruction will be provided for novice skiers, and what arrangements are in place for supervision on the ski hill are all things you might want to consider. We are not suggesting that outdoor activities aren’t valuable for children; they are, but factoring in the educational or social development value of a potentially dangerous school trip can be the deciding factor if your child should attend the trip or not.

Can Your Child Participate?

Understanding your child’s ability to participate in the proposed activity should also be a deciding factor in their attendance on the field trip. For example, if the school field trip is to the beach, your child should know how to swim. Ensuring your child has the necessary skill level to safely participate in the activity is important in ensuring their safety. This is also a good opportunity to talk to your child about field trip safety. Encourage them to stay with the group and close to their chaperones as well as listen to the instructions provided by any activity supervisors.

Are There Enough Adults in Attendance?

Different activities will require different levels of adult supervision. And the supervisors must be qualified and knowledgeable.  If you’re a parent who wouldn’t be comfortable with your child participating in this activity alone, it’s important to have the school confirm what supervision is being provided so you can satisfy yourself that your child will be properly supervised. Entrusting your child’s safety to someone else can be unnerving, and often confirming who and how many adults will be supervising can often put your mind at ease.

Is an Expert Attending?

Joe also discussed a case where a 14-year-old girl who was injured while hiking with her class on a field trip. The teen was following her classmates up a steep incline, and one of the hikers ahead of her dislodged a rock which fell and hit the teen in the head, giving her a significant brain injury. After speaking with several hiking experts, the Murphy Battista lawyer handling the case found that there is a hiking rule about ascents on rocky terrain which is that hikers go up one person at a time, so that if a rock does become dislodged by a hiker, it won’t injure anyone directly below them. Often school trips are supervised by well-meaning teachers, but they may lack the knowledge and training that can prove to be vital in ensuring a child isn’t injured. If your child is participating in a field trip, especially outdoors, don’t hesitate to ask the school if there will be an expert there that will guide the children through the activity.

The personal injury lawyers at Murphy Battista LLP work with parents whose children have suffered serious injuries during accidents on school grounds or during school outings or trips. Our expertise with the proof of complex injury claims together with our thorough understanding of insurance law can help ensure that your child receives the best possible medical treatment and continuing care for the full range of physical, psychological and developmental problems resulting from an accident.

Contact us for a free consultation regarding our experience with the successful resolution of serious accident cases involving children and schools.


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