As thousands of children return to school this month, some parents may have a sense of apprehension following the tragic death of 12 year old Jessica Lawson who died while on a school trip to France in the summer.
The Wolfreton School in Hull pupil had joined the school trip to a watersports adventure centre with 23 other students accompanied by three staff from the school and died as a result of a swimming accident when she was trapped under a pontoon which overturned.
All schools have a health and safety duty of care to both employees and students while they are on school premises and while abroad on trips organised by them. The government advises schools that they could be liable under civil law for an incident where an individual under their duty of care is injured or dies as a result of negligence by them or their staff; or the organisation or staff of the place they are staying and activities they are doing while on a school trip.
Jessica Lawson’s untimely death is being investigated to identify if negligence was to blame for her accident. Questions are likely being asked as to why the pontoon overturned and how Jessica got stuck underneath it making it difficult for the lifeguard to save her.
Accidents can happen anywhere of course even when all precautions are followed diligently but where negligence is uncovered, the law provides for the right to compensation for those affected.
In Jessica’s case the company responsible for the site where the accident happened could be liable under the French equivalent of the Occupier’s Liability Act if they are found to have been negligent in not ensuring the safety of the pontoon. However, pursuing a claim in the French courts could be difficult and expensive for someone in the UK.
Alternatively, if the school trip was purchased as part of a package from a supplier or representative based in England and Wales, compensation may be sought in this country under the ‘Package Holiday Package Travel and Package Tours Regulations 1992’.
The regulations impose an obligation on suppliers of package holidays to ensure that every aspect of a package adheres to the local standards of the country where the premises and other elements of the holiday are situated.
Thankfully, accidents that occur on a school trip are few and far between but even one death is one too many.
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