Articles Posted in School Bus Accidents

Picking up the phone to hear that a child has been involved in any kind of accident at school is a parent’s worst nightmare. Teachers and school administrators are charged with keeping students safe and, for the most part, do a pretty good job. However, getting children to and from school is beyond the control of administrators and rests with bus drivers who are often contracted out by the school district.

Liability in School Bus Accidents

Determining liability in a Maryland school bus accident, like any other traffic accident, requires an analysis of all potentially liable parties. Of course, when the accident involves other vehicles, the drivers of those vehicles would be considered, as well as the driver of the bus. However, there are often other third parties that should be considered as defendants.

School bus drivers may be government employees that are hired and trained by the school district. If this is the case, then the local government is responsible for making sure that drivers are qualified before they are hired. Similarly, a driver must also be provided with adequate training and oversight. An accident caused by a negligent bus driver who is employed by the school district could result in the district being held liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Importantly, a school bus accident claim filed against a school district or other government entity must comply with the requirements for complaints filed against a government entity.

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A Maryland school bus accident is one of the biggest fears for parents whose children take the bus to school every day. And given that Maryland school buses are not equipped with seat belts, even accidents on rural and suburban roads can lead to devastating consequences. Of course, when a bus route takes students on the highway, the risk of a serious bus accident increases drastically. As a general matter, school bus drivers owe a duty of care not just to the students on board the bus, but also to other motorists on the road. When a school bus driver’s negligence causes an accident that results in injuries to either the students on the bus or to other motorists, the injured parties may be able to pursue a Maryland personal injury claim against one or more parties.

Depending on the specific circumstances of the accident, it may be appropriate to name one or more of the following parties: the bus driver, the school or school district, the bus manufacturer, as well as any independent contractor that may be involved in the hiring, training, or employment of the bus driver. Determining which parties should be named in a Maryland school bus accident should be left to a Maryland personal injury attorney with experience handling these particular claims.

Dozens Injured, Including Several Students, in Recent Bus Accident

Last week, dozens were injured in a single-vehicle school bus accident that occurred while the students were on their way to Sea World in San Antonio, Texas. According to a local news report, the bus was carrying 24 students – all girls – and several administrators when the driver lost control of the vehicle. Evidently, after the driver lost control of the bus, it flipped over and slid off the highway onto the grassy median along the side of the road.

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While every precaution can be taken to avoid a Maryland school bus accident, some accidents may be unforeseeable. In fact, earlier this year two people were killed and dozens other injured when a school bus attempted to make a legal U-turn across three lanes of traffic. According to a local news report, the bus was traveling in a caravan with two other busses when the drivers missed an exit. Afterwards, all three drivers determined their own route to get to the final destination.

One of the busses attempted to make a U-turn on the highway. However, a dump truck rear-ended the school bus as it tried to cross three lanes of perpendicular traffic to complete its turn. The impact of the collision tore the bus off of its frame.

In the wake of this fatal accident, lawmakers have begun a push to install three-point seatbelts – similar to those found in cars – in all district school busses. Lawmakers believe that by installing seatbelts in school busses, the chance of an accident resulting in serious injury or death will be greatly decreased. Indeed, in the days following this specific accident the National Transportation Safety Board announced its recommendation that all school busses should be equipped with some type of seatbelt for students.

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School bus drivers are entrusted with carrying society’s most precious cargo – its children. Because of this, school bus drivers are held to a high standard. Indeed, whenever a Maryland school bus accident occurs, the driver is usually suspended, and the accident is investigated.

After a Maryland school bus accident, the families of the students involved may be left wondering how the accident occurred and whom they can hold accountable for their child’s injuries. Of course, the obvious answer is the school bus driver or, if the accident was another driver’s fault, the at-fault driver. However, there may be additional parties that can be named in a Maryland school bus accident case, such as the school district and any of the officials responsible for hiring the driver.

Under the doctrine of vicarious liability, employers can be held responsible for the actions of their employees. These include school bus drivers, whose employers are usually the school district for which they drive. In some cases, the school district contracts with an outside company who provides the drivers. In any event, when a school bus driver is acting within the scope of his employment and causes an accident, the driver’s employer – whether public or private – may also be held accountable. Of course, establishing vicarious liability requires that proof be submitted establishing that the driver was properly hired and employed at the time of the accident, as well as the fact that he was acting as an employee at the time of the accident.

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Large trucks have the capacity to cause major damage when they are involved in an accident. These dangers are increased when a truck being driven is on a crowded highway. In general, it is a motorist’s duty to ensure that they are operating their vehicle in a safe manner and in compliance with state and local regulations.

Due to the size and weight of large vehicles, this often means that truck drivers must leave additional room between their rig and other vehicles on the road. Indeed, a large truck traveling at highway speeds can take the length of a football field to come to a complete stop. When a truck driver fails to take the necessary precautions when operating his vehicle, he may be liable for any injuries that result.

Notwithstanding a truck driver’s negligence, sometimes other motorists contribute to truck accidents. This may be a distracted motorist who swerves out of her lane or an aggressive driver who cuts off a truck that ultimately crashes into another vehicle. In these situations, it may be the case that both the truck driver and another party are liable. In such situations, it will be up to a jury to decide which parties are liable and the percentage of fault for each driver.

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Large trucks are made to bring goods across the country, and as a result, they are specifically designed to carry large amounts of cargo on the nation’s highways. However, at the beginning and end of a truck driver’s journey, he or she will at some point have to drive on smaller surface streets.

Driving on small city streets can present difficulties for many truck drivers, whose rigs may be upwards of 70 feet long and may consist of several trailers being towed by a single truck. For example, many city intersections are much smaller than truck drivers are used to navigating, and they may require special maneuvers to safely negotiate them. In addition, the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists presents additional hazards that truck drivers must take precautions to avoid.

Despite the additional difficulties of driving on smaller roads, truck drivers remain responsible for safely operating their vehicles and may be held liable when they cause an accident on city streets. Of course, some accidents may be unavoidable even with the exercise of due caution, and truck drivers are not likely to be responsible for these. However, when a truck driver’s negligence or inexperience results in an accident, the truck driver – and potentially their employer – may be held liable for any injuries that result.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a case brought by a woman injured in a bus accident against the bus line. In the case, Gee v. Greyhound Lines, the court determined that a procedural mistake made by the plaintiff’s attorney was excusable and that the trial judge did not err when he allowed the plaintiff to remedy the mistake and proceed with the lawsuit.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a passenger who was injured on a Greyhound bus after the bus was involved in a crash. According to the court’s opinion, the bus struck two cars and then crashed into a tree. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the bus line, claiming that the bus driver was “driving at an excessive rate of speed” immediately prior to the collision.

Initially, the plaintiff filed the lawsuit in Sacramento County. However, the defendant successfully petitioned the court to transfer the case to Fresno County. As a result of the transfer, the plaintiff’s attorney was responsible to pay an additional filing fee.

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Earlier this month, a tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga, Tennessee claimed the lives of six children and injured many others. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the driver of the bus has been arrested on vehicular homicide charges.

The accident occurred after school on the students’ ride home. Evidently, the bus driver was operating the vehicle at a high rate of speed on a road that was not a part of the driver’s route when he lost control of the bus and struck a tree. The force from the collision was so great that it bent the bus in half upon impact.

The Bus Driver Had a Checkered Driving History

According to the most recent news report covering the accident, the school bus driver had been the subject of several student and parent complaints in the past. In fact, there were reports that the driver had been driving too fast, had become agitated and aggressive with students, and had even intentionally come to a quick stop to make the students fall out of their seats. The driver had also been involved in another school bus accident just two months before.

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Earlier this month, an interestingly nuanced decision was released in the case of Irving v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. In the case, a state supreme court determined that a “school activity bus” transporting students to a sporting event was not to be considered a “school bus” for the purposes of the state’s Tort Claims Act. Thus, a plaintiff who was injured in an accident involving a school activity bus will not be permitted to recover compensation for her injuries, based on the state’s sovereign immunity.

Irving v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education:  The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when her vehicle was struck by a bus carrying students to a football game. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the driver of the bus, who was an employee of the Board of Education. In response to the lawsuit, the Board of Education asked the court to dismiss the case, based on its sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is an old legal doctrine that is still in effect today. Simply said, the doctrine states that governments cannot be held liable for personal injury accidents unless they consent to being named in the lawsuit.

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Earlier this month in Marbury, about 30 miles south of Washington DC, a school bus accident sent several students to the hospital as well as several others. According to a report by Reuters, the accident occurred about a mile away from school, when the school bus rear-ended another vehicle.

After the initial accident, a series of chain-reaction accidents ensued, causing the total number of vehicles involved to increase to five. In all, 16 students were taken to the hospital, and two adult drivers were also taken in with various injuries. The driver of the school bus was one of those taken to the hospital.

Only three of the students reported having any kind of injury, and the rest of the students were taken in merely as a precaution. The exact cause of the accident remains under investigation.
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