School Bus Injuries and Public School District Liability
When parents watch their children walk onto their school bus in the morning, they never expect to have to visit their children in the hospital later that day. Sadly, this is the reality for 17,000 parents a year nationwide, according to one report.
25% of school bus-related injuries happen when children board or exit their bus, with another 42% happening while that bus is in transit. A smaller percentage are the result of slip and fall accidents, roughhousing, and sudden turns or stops of the vehicle.
Using data from the NHTSA and some recent accident reports, we will attempt to decode school bus injuries and where the liability falls during transportation accidents.
Bus Injuries and Their Root Causes
It would be simple if children could buckle themselves into their seats and avoid school bus injuries altogether, but an unfortunate part of today’s bus transportation system is that it simply has not caught up with the safety regulations required of other motor vehicles.
Bus accidents, much like other vehicular accidents, happen when one negligent party creates circumstances that cause a bus to crash. The “x” factor here is the 4,000 pounds of children being toted to their school, coupled with an additional 6,000 pounds of top-heavy bus weight.
Let us not discount the driver’s responsibility, however. A growing number of school bus drivers are being caught drunk after an accident, or are deemed unskilled or untrained for their positions. Drivers find themselves distracted by noises, fights, and other types of horseplay, too. A good number of accidents are caused by driver error, intoxication, or distraction, although the exact number in Georgia is unknown.
Faulty buses are also known contributors to accidents. This points both to shoddy craftsmanship, and insufficient maintenance on behalf of the school.
Who is Liable for Child Safety on Buses?
The short answer is that several parties could be liable simultaneously for school bus accidents.
Public schools are considered government entities, which means every incident goes through several steps before being addressed. Private schools, such as denominational or those not-for-profit are governed by their boards. Both have strict standards of operation, and both have separate methods of handling torts.
When children are riding buses owned and apportioned by public schools, and those buses wreck, the fault reverts to the school if found to be the at-fault party, the other driver if they were negligent, or both the school and the bus manufacturer if the school system put a unit into circulation with known recalls or issues.
Private schools fall under similar rules, except the red tape is lessened considerably. Even religious schools can be held liable when negligence falls on their drivers, maintenance crew, or the bus maker.
Process for Parents of Injured Children
If a private school is responsible for your child’s injury, a personal injury attorney can handle the legwork, negotiations, and usually settle amicably on your child’s behalf provided enough evidence exists to take that case to trial.
Public school lawsuits, as expected, require extra muscle. Governments have their own method of handling torts which must be followed in order for judges to validate your claim in court. This method entails:
- Filing an “Ante-Litem” claims notice with the school district detailing the incident, the injuries and what compensation demands are being made by aggrieved parent;
- Filing said claim within certain time limits depending on whether it’s a county or city; and
- Waiting for denial, or non-action, before filing a formal suit.
Claims without substantial evidence may be denied after investigation, which affords parents the right to file a lawsuit on behalf of their injured child. If no claim is filed within Georgia’s statute of limitations, parents may be later barred from filing any legal action.
Push for Bus Safety – Bus Accident Attorneys
One cannot prevent or predict accidents brought on by others. It is impossible. However, with enough parents pushing for school bus safety, perhaps public and private entities will have safety belts installed in their buses.
Until then, have an attorney in mind who you would trust to fight for your child’s right to compensation. Further, these types of injuries may entitle the parents to significant compensation.
The experienced bus accident attorneys at Georgia Trial Attorneys know the legalities of bus accidents and are willing to fight to ensure schools are held accountable for any incidents that occur.