School Bus Accidents: Understanding Who’s Liable and What Happens Next
Riding a yellow bus to school every day seems like a rite of passage for a child growing up in America. They are iconic, appearing in countless movies and in many ways, it’s easy to see what they love about them.
The U.S is a big country. So a child riding with his or her friends and classmates on the long journey to school every day seems like a lot of fun. It is a much better option than traveling in a car. When we consider horrific accidents, it is also clear that buses are much safer than cars.
A bus also saves you the hassle of having to drop off your child every morning.
However, school bus accidents, although rare, can and do happen. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 4-6 children die each year on school transportation.
Here’s what to do if your child or someone you know is involved in an accident.
Who Is At Fault?
The first thing to establish is who caused the accident. This can have a big bearing on whom you decide to sue.
Often it is the driver of the bus who is at fault for school bus incidents. Perhaps he or she crashed the bus because they were not watching the road. If this is the case then you might be able to take legal action both against the driver and the company who hired the driver as well.
Suing a Government-Owned School
Whether you can sue will also depend on the type of school your child attends. If they were injured on a government-owned bus, then proceedings might be complicated by a law which prevents government organizations from being sued in civil cases. This rule – known as sovereign immunity – is usually waived in cases where a bus driver is at fault.
Ultimately, it is the Attorney General’s decision about whether the immunity is waived or not. So filing a proceeding against a bus driver of a government-run school is a more complicated process than suing a private individual or company.
First, you must notify the local government of the accident within 72 hours (3 days) of it happening. Then you must file a notice of intent to the Attorney General in the first instance. Usually, this is just a formality and immunity is waived.
There is a time limit of two years to take legal action from the date of the accident.
Types of Compensation
The type of compensation awarded to victims also differs slightly in cases involving government-owned schools. In a lawsuit against a government organization punitive damages – damages designed to punish the defendant – are not awarded. Only economic and non-economic damages are awarded.
Economic damages cover the victim for any money lost as a result of the accident. This might include things like money for lost wages as a result of the parent having to take time off work to attend to his or her child, medical expenses or any other money that was lost during this time.
One scenario where other compensation might come into play is if the accident took place on the last day of school before the holidays and the parent and the child had a flight booked that evening for a family holiday that was missed due to the accident.
Factors to Consider
It’s best to leave an attorney to help gather the evidence for you and you should certainly talk to one but if you are suing the bus driver for a school bus crash but here are some things to consider about his conduct:
- Did the driver seem tired? Your child or other children might be able to answer this question. For example, if they were able to testify that they saw the driver yawning on several occasions and seemed lax or drowsy when they boarded the bus.
- What was the workload of the driver? If he was working for multiple companies or it appears that the driver was overworked by the school or local government then this can aid your case.
Suing Another Vehicle
Maybe the bus driver drove faultlessly, and he crashed because of another, third-party driver. In this instance, the case is a lot more straight forward.
You can sue the other driver, without having to worry about filing a notice to the Attorney General and their insurance should cover any initial damages.
You must first prove that the driver is at fault by compiling evidence, though that should be no hard task for any good attorney. In most cases, you can settle the lawsuit outside of court with the insurance company.
However, when this isn’t the case your attorney can arrange a lawsuit to get you the best school bus accident compensation.
School Bus Accidents: Getting Justice
To ensure you get the best possible deal and are offered the compensation you or your son or daughter deserves, it is important to get your paperwork in quickly.
This can be tough if the injuries to your child are serious and you want to devote your time to ensure your child makes a full recovery. However, it is important that you file a notice of intention to sue to the attorney general within 72 hours if you are suing the local government-run bus company.
Get as much information as you can involving the crash and then approach an experienced attorney as quickly as possible.