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What are New York school districts’ liability for brain injuries?

New York recently enacted the Concussion Management and Awareness Act. This act requires school districts, among other things, to train its employees on concussion injuries and remove students from athletic and other activities where it is believed that they suffered a concussion. Since 1979, however, school districts could be held legally liable for failing take appropriate steps when a student showed the signs of suffering a concussion.

A state Supreme Court panel ruled, in that year, that two school districts could be held responsible for a head injury that a player suffered at a high school football game. The student was a member of one of the defendant school district football teams who was injured at a game played at the other defendant’s school. This other defendant’s physician diagnosed a concussion after examining the player who displayed obvious neurological and vertebra damage. Nonetheless, the player was not hospitalized or treated.

Although he displayed signs of neurological damage, he continued to practice with his football team and played in a game a few days after suffering his injuries. At that game, he was again struck and displayed the same symptoms. He was later hospitalized with several fractured crack vertebra and underwent special fusion surgery.

As this case demonstrates, any school district that improperly treats and diagnosis a student athlete may be held liable for a brain injury even if the student does not attend a school in that district. School districts, for over 35 years, were also held liable for evaluating injuries and allowing the injuries to become worse. The negligence or inaction of an athletic coach, trainer or team physician could expose school districts to a lawsuit.

Victims of brain injuries may have a cause of action against a negligent or reckless party who should have taken reasonable steps to prevent serious injuries. Prompt advise should be sought to assure that liability may be determined, filing deadlines are met and the right to compensation is protected.