Liability insurance a must for parents following schoolyard injuries

By Staff

Parents should make sure their home insurance is up to date in case playground roughhousing makes their children the target of a lawsuit, says Toronto insurance defence lawyer Heather Vaughan.

In a recent article, the Toronto Star recounts the story of a schoolyard pushing prank involving Grade 5 children that ended with one of them breaking his arm.

Two years after the incident, the school board’s insurer named two students as defendants in a cross-claim, prompting a school trustee to tell the Star that it was “ludicrous to put parents in that type of position. It’s unfair, it’s unconscionable.”

“This stuff can go on and it’s under the radar and nobody knows about it until they’re in it,” he added.

While the situation may shock many parents, Vaughan, a partner with Benson Percival Brown LLP, tells that it’s relatively common for children to be included in lawsuits following injuries at school.

“Parents will often sue schools or daycare over injuries that occurred while children were in their care. It’s not a bad strategy for those institutions to name the children involved if their behaviour was inappropriate or contributed to the damage,” she says.

“Just because children are named doesn’t mean that a court will find them liable,” she adds, noting that the younger a child is, the less likely they will be found negligent.

However, that still leaves parents facing the costs of defending their child in a lawsuit. Vaughan says insurance policies for homeowners and tenants typically include standard liability coverage for the whole family living at an address.

“This is an important reminder to have some sort of insurance where liability is included,” she says. “As long as the claim is framed in negligence, it should be covered.”

She says renters are most likely to fall into coverage gaps since homeowners are typically required to have home insurance as a condition of their mortgage.

According to the Star story, the parents of one of the children named in the school board’s cross-claim does not have liability coverage.

“You might feel as a tenant that your possessions are not valuable enough to protect with insurance, but it’s important to remember that these policies also protect you from liability for all sorts of situations — not just schoolyard incidents involving your children,” Vaughan says.

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