Is There a Link Between School Shootings and Personal Injury Law?
I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.
Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.
Today’s question comes from yours truly. Yes, it is a question I have asked myself, and the question is: Is There a Link Between School Shootings and Personal Injury Law?
The answer is YES in part. Maybe in large part.
What makes schools soft targets for evil and demented people who go there to instigate their planned harm? Well, one reason is limited security coupled with potential victims who are unable to protect themselves.
But … why is security so limited? Could the answer actually lie in the way the tort system has developed in this country? A strong case could be made that it does.
Schools are agencies of the government, and the government in most states largely makes itself immune from liability, or at the very least severely limits damages recoverable when lawsuits are brought against governments for security failures.
The government does not have to pay the millions of dollars that would be owed by a private company with provable knowledge of major security risks, say to a concert venue or ballpark.
Consequently, there is little real pressure on governmental actors to make the necessary security decisions that could easily make schools safer places.
Incidentally, there is also little financial downside for officials who ignore signs that a potential murderer is mentally unbalanced, or if the official decides to not take seriously warnings of instability reported by others.
Instead, there is a financial penalty if an official is over-aggressive and wrongfully detains someone, yet again damages are limited in most jurisdictions.
But if you are an official who is found to have made an error in asking for a judicial psych evaluation on someone, there is a price.
While if you don’t act to stop a potentially dangerous person, there is no price. No financial price that is.
So, if an official is weighing the odds of adverse job repercussions, the odds always say (from a lawsuit danger perspective): ignore the warning signs.
Let me repeat that. There is very little legal jeopardy for schools administrators if they decide to look the other way and let violent actors get more and more violent, WHEREAS there is potentially great legal jeopardy to be faced by administrators if they take action to clamp down on violent actors when the initial signs of violence are recognizable.
So, we see time and time again where governmental agencies, drop the ball on security, because there are few employment or financial repercussions for dropping the ball.
Maybe it’s a failure to inspect a scaffolding for code violations at a state fair, like happened in Indiana a few years ago.
Or a failure to require proper reconstruction of flood levies mistakenly torn down, like happened in a case we litigated dozens of years ago.
Governmental financial accountability, or lack thereof, leads to poor decisions by government officials.
It is just human nature for an official to worry about his or her job more than public safety.
So, when you hear politicians run to a microphone and talk about making laws that deal with whatever instrument bad people might want to use to create mayhem, whether it be IEDs, cars mowing down pedestrians, or firearms, is it all just talk?
Is it all to give the impression of solving a problem without really solving it?
To really stop school shootings, a careful systematic assessment needs to be done to make sure all decision points for governmental officials charged with making security decisions make the interests of the children paramount.
Maybe that means having off duty police officers at every school. Maybe it means something different.
But, things can and should be done to make children safe.
We just have to have the collective will to recognize the problem, and then to fix the problem.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.