Injured on Campus: What Are Your Rights?

January 9, 2019 @ 12:59 pm

personal injury on college campuses

Colleges and universities are busy settings. Students, faculty and visitors trek across campus rain or shine, hot or cold, day and night. Meanwhile, weather, time of day, and traffic can transform the everyday into the dangerous.

Stairs can become slippery, and ramps become dangerous. Meanwhile, both the outdated features of old structures and the new construction to replace them can become safety issues.

Despite it all, however, institutions of higher learning are like any other facility. They have the responsibility of ensuring that everyone who enters their halls or walks their campuses remains safe — all thanks to Louisiana’s premises liability law.

Premises Liability Law on College Campuses

In Louisiana—and in most other states—property owners are responsible for maintaining a safe environment for anyone who legally is on or uses those premises. When they don’t and someone gets hurt on that property, premises liability law can come into play.

For college campuses, premises liability is based on the idea that people should be able to attend campus classes and functions, travel across campus and even live there— all safely day after day. These campuses, however, are typically quite large. Settings range from dormitories, dining halls and classroom buildings to gyms, outdoor stadiums and research facilities. Sidewalks, walkways, bridges and roads are common features providing connectivity and access. Lighting, security features and an assortment of student and faculty services round out the atmosphere, creating a high-maintenance mini-city typically populated by thousands.

Proving a Premises Liability Law College Campus Case

Negligence. The key issue in premises liability cases is negligence—whether the college knew or should have known about the hazard and taken reasonable care to fix, resolve or prevent it. In many premises liability cases, to be able to successfully pursue a case, you must be able to prove three things:

  1. You must be able to show that the university knew or should have known that it had created a hazard either by doing something or neglecting to do something.
  2. You must be able to prove that you suffered an injury.
  3. You must be able to prove that the university’s hazard caused your injury.

Status. The other issue relevant to premises liability is the status of the person injured. The law categorizes people entering a property three ways:

  • As an invitee: Invitees are people who have been invited onto a property for business purposes. Property owners owe invitees the greatest degree of care.
  • As a licensee: Licensees are people who are allowed onto a property for social purposes. The relationship between licensees and property owners is slightly less binding than the relationship between the property owner and invitees.
  • As a trespasser: Trespassers are people who are not authorized to be on or use a property. Exceptions exist, however, for trespassing children, who are protected much like an invitee against features viewed as attractive nuisances.

Students attending a college have a business relationship with the university and are therefore considered invitees who are owed the greatest degree of care.

Student Rights Under Premises Liability Law

As a college student and an invitee protected under premises liability law, you have the right to attend school in a safe environment. You also have the right to sue for damages if you suffer harm while on campus due to your university’s negligence. To be able to prove that the college’s negligence is at fault for your injury, you will need to contact the appropriate authorities and follow up:

  1. Immediately following your injury, file a report with campus police, and get professional medical attention if necessary.
  2. You will also want to contact the college president’s office, file a formal report and— if needed—open an investigation.
  3. In cases of physical violence, robbery or other serious crimes, you will also need to contact your local police department to file a formal report.
  4. Keep documentation for all of your actions, your medical records and any correspondence you receive.

Unfortunately, colleges and universities small or large may be reluctant to deal with premises liability cases. They may seek to avoid publicity by sweeping your claims under the rug, or they may press you to accept a minimal, quiet settlement that may not cover your hospital bills, living expenses, missed classes and wasted tuition.

If your school fails to take responsibility, reach out to the attorneys at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett & Haik. We take on-campus personal injuries seriously, and we want to help. Contact us through our website, or call 1-800-356-6776 to schedule your free consultation. You have the right to a safe environment at college and the right to compensation when your university fails you.