Car accidents of all sorts are incredibly scary, both in theory and in reality. But an accident that involves a school bus is a different situation altogether. An accident that involves children — especially your children — is a whole new level of scary.
Many families and children rely on buses to get to and from school safely. For so many Americans, watching a child board the school bus is a normal part of the morning routine. But the unfortunate reality is that, just like all other modes of transportation, school buses can be dangerous. In fact, the NHTSA reports that from 2007 to 2016, there were 1,147 fatal crashes that were classified as school-transportation related.
This, of course, does not even include the accidents that don’t include fatalities, but still cause a great deal of damage. Just this past March, Mississippi saw a school bus accident in which the bus drove into the highway median and became stuck, causing injuries to three people on board.
So what do you do if your family has experienced a school bus accident? What are your options? The most important thing to know is that you are not alone, and you don’t have to go through this by yourself. We here at Giddens Law Firm are experts in handling auto accidents, and our school bus accident lawyers are ready and waiting to fight for you.
These kinds of cases can be overwhelming and complex, particularly if your child has been hurt; allow us to do the heavy lifting so that your family can focus on recovery. You deserve justice and compensation, and we can help you get there. Don’t wait any longer: call us today for your free initial consultation.
What Causes a School Bus Accident?
No one wants to imagine that when you put your child on the school bus in the morning, you could be sending them anywhere but safely to school. But unfortunately, school bus accidents do happen. As with all motor vehicle accidents, these kinds of collisions can be caused by any number of factors, and sometimes multiple factors coincide to cause a collision. Some of the most common causes of school bus accidents include:
- Distracted driving. The NHTSA defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving.” Driving a bus full of rambunctious children could certainly divert the driver’s attention from the road, and this and other distractions are sadly a common cause of accidents.
- Driver fatigue. Bus drivers are often poorly paid, which can result in them taking other jobs just to make ends meet. But unfortunately, an overworked bus driver runs the risk of being fatigued at the wheel, and driver drowsiness automatically increases the risk of an accident occurring.
- Hazardous weather conditions. Poor weather conditions always make driving more dangerous, particularly if the vehicle in question is something as large as a school bus. In 2018, two people lost their lives and 40 were injured when a large bus (a tour bus, in this case) overturned on an icy road in Mississippi. While school bus drivers are trained specifically to handle poor weather conditions, sometimes it’s not enough to avoid an accident.
- Blind spots. By virtue of their size, school buses have larger blind spots than the average vehicle. While drivers are trained to adjust their mirrors properly and to move within the seat to eliminate blind spots as much as possible, if careful attention is not paid, an accident can occur.
- And more. Additional causes include mechanical failure, school district negligence, other drivers, and more.
Who is At Fault in a School Bus Accident?
School bus accidents are complicated by the fact that a great number of parties may be found liable and responsible.The parties that may be at fault in a school bus accident include:
- The bus driver. Of course, in some cases, the accident is the bus driver’s fault. All drivers have a duty to drive safely and responsibly, and to avoid any action that may put themselves or others in harm’s way. If the driver breached this duty in any way — by texting while driving, driving recklessly, driving under the influence, or any number of other possibilities — they may be at fault for the accident.
- The school district. Sometimes, the school district can be at fault for an accident. This may be the case if the district directed the buses to continue running in hazardous weather conditions, which then caused an accident. The district could also share some responsibility if it becomes clear they lacked due diligence when hiring their bus drivers.
- The bus manufacturer. If the accident occurred due to a mechanical failure with the vehicle itself, the manufacturer could be at fault. This could include things like failure of the steering system or brake failure.
- The school bus company. School buses often come from a private company that the school contracts. The bus company is responsible for keeping their vehicles in good condition and safely operational; if they failed to do so and this played a role in the accident, they may be at fault.
It’s also possible for multiple of these parties to share fault; for instance, if there is a mechanical failure of the vehicle, but the bus driver is unable to react quickly because they are distracted, both the driver and the bus manufacturer could potentially be found at fault for the accident. Your attorney will review your case in great detail to ensure all liable parties are held responsible.
What Are My Legal Options After a School Bus Accident?
One of the first questions to consider after a school bus accident is: Who owns the bus? A government entity, or a private company? The answer to this will change the rest of your course. If the bus company is privately owned, you may generally proceed as you would with any personal injury suit. In a case where the driver is at fault, you could file a personal injury suit against the driver and their employer on your child’s behalf, seeking damages for all of the ways the accident harmed you and your child.
This is a different story, however, if the bus is owned by a government entity, as most public school buses are. If the bus is government-owned, that most likely makes the driver a government employee, and government employees are protected by something called “sovereign immunity”. This concept essentially means that no individual can sue the government, or any of its subsidiaries, without the government’s consent.
It’s therefore possible for the government to refuse your personal injury suit, though when children are injured, the government often allows cases to proceed. This is one of the reasons why it’s crucial to have a lawyer on board as soon as possible after your accident. In the case that the government does not consent to being sued for damages, you’ll want an experienced attorney on your side fighting to make things right.
What Role Does Insurance Play in a Bus Accident?
Again, the role that insurance plays in the aftermath of the bus accident depends on who is responsible, and whether they are a private individual or a government entity.
If the bus is owned by the school district, the school district will most likely have an insurance policy that covers things like bus accidents. This insurance policy can, in theory, be used to cover your child’s damages resulting from the accident.
However, an insurance company’s goal is generally to pay out as little as possible, and these kinds of cases are no exception. Having an experience school bus accident lawyer on your side ensures you’re not pressured into accepting minimal coverage.
If the school bus is privately owned, that company will most likely have an insurance policy that can help provide coverage. Mississippi is a “fault based” state when it comes to insurance, which essentially means that the at fault party’s insurance coverage pays out to the injured party. Some other states use a “no fault” policy, in which every driver’s insurance covers their own damages; in states like this, determining fault can be somewhat less important, as your insurance coverage comes from your own policy regardless of who caused the accident.
What Can I Expect in Damages?
Again, the answer to what you can expect in damages depends greatly on the details of your case, and specifically whether the bus that experienced the accident is publicly or privately owned. If it is publicly owned, there is a cap on how much an individual can receive.
This is laid out in the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, which states that the liability of the state or any of its employees is limited to a maximum of $500,000. If the bus is privately owned, there is no specific cap to the damages you may receive.
In either case, the damages you received are based on the financial burden the accident placed on you. Some of the areas factored in and included when calculating damages are:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Lowered earning capacity or altered earning potential
- Ongoing rehabilitation costs
- The cost of pain and suffering
- Changes to the victim’s quality of life
Do I Need a School Bus Accident Lawyer?
School bus accidents are inherently complicated. There are so many parties who may potentially be at fault, from the driver to the school bus manufacturer to the school district, that it takes an experienced school bus accident lawyer to ensure liability is determined correctly.
Particularly in the case that the at-fault party is a government entity (ie if the school is public and the buses are therefore owned by the school district), you’ll want someone on your side who knows the ins and outs of bus accident cases.
Going up against the government in any capacity can be overwhelming; they, of course, have a great deal of resources at their disposal, and have more experience than any individual in navigating these kinds of cases. With an attorney fighting for you, you have a far better chance of receiving both the justice and the compensation you deserve.
In the case of a school bus accident, the person impacted is most likely a minor. Having to see your child or the child of a loved one suffer in the wake of an accident can be hugely devastating. The emotions of dealing with something so traumatic can also cloud your better judgment, and it can be extremely useful to have an outside party involved whose singular goal is to secure you justice and the financial compensation you and your family deserve.
This allows you to focus on your child’s recovery and helping them get back to the things they love. Let us handle to legal side so that you can prioritize caring for your child. Contact Giddens Law Firm today for a free initial consultation. We are ready and waiting to fight for you.
Why Giddens Law Firm?
Giddens Law Firm is one of the premier personal injury firms in the state of Mississippi. Led by John D. Giddens, an exceptional attorney with decades of experience, Giddens Law Firm prioritizes a balance of speed and thoroughness; we approach each case with an ideology of diligence and attention to detail, ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks as we fight to protect your interests.
Our reviews and credentials speak for themselves, and we have helped countless victims achieve the justice and compensation they are owed.
Every case we take on receives a thorough investigation and a tireless work ethic. What’s more, when you work with us, you don’t need to worry about racking up legal fees you can’t afford. We always discuss fees up front, so there are no mystery costs.
Your consultation is always free, and we do not get paid unless you win. And our track record speaks for itself; visit our client victories page to see just how many substantial settlements we have secured for our clients.
We believe all victims deserve justice. Don’t hesitate to reach out for a free initial consultation with our school bus accident lawyer to discuss your case.