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Who Is Liable For School Bus Accidents?

School bus accidents are subject to the same liability determination laws as other accidents, but there are a few specific issues with school bus accidents that make them different when it comes to determining fault and collecting personal injury damages after the fact. This combination of issues means that school bus accidents can be very complicated, and an experienced personal injury lawyer trusts is often needed to settle a case equitably according to existing state and local law.

Government Immunity

Almost all school buses are property of a public school system, which also means they are government property. Rules regarding filing injury claims can be more restrictive when the respondent party is a government agency. In addition, there are several specific traffic laws that apply in bus accidents that may not apply in a typical car accident, which means that automobiles that impact the bus from the rear will more than likely be primarily responsible for their own injuries. The main issue with filing an accident claim against even a local government is that damage recovery can be limited in some respects, and punitive damages are generally not available for injured parties. In addition, bus accidents that occur due to highway conditions or failing traffic signals could also result in the local or state government being liable as well to a certain degree.

Claims Against a Negligent Bus Driver

In some egregious situations bus drivers are found guilty of illegal behavior such as driving under the influence while causing an accident. The driver in these situations can be liable for full damages, including punitive damages, and the school district could be liable indirectly when they had prior knowledge of a bad driving history of the driver. Criminal charges are also commonly applied when this occurs, but accidents occurring under legal conditions usually will be limited to the employing school system.

Claims for Injured Children

This is commonly the most serious issue involved with a school bus accident, especially when accidents happen on the open highway or at a relatively high speed. Children do not have the benefit of air bag protection on a school bus, and being thrown about is common, especially when buses capsize, which is more common than many people realize. The best potential for an accident involving a school bus is probably at slower speeds, while stopping and starting frequently, but injuries such as whiplash or impact with interior components of the bus can still result in serious damage claims against all negligent parties.

Comparative Negligence in School Bus Accidents

Because the vehicle operators are assigned, the liability could rest on all drivers involved in the mishap when children are injured from impacts with the bus. These personal injury cases for the children can be complicated issues because of the multiple claims that are commonly filed at the same time, and it is always a good decision to retain an accident attorney who is experienced in handling these special types of accident cases.

Determining liability will depend on material case facts in school bus accidents when an accident actually goes to court for a fair settlement of all of the injuries. The severity of the accident can range dramatically when multiple passenger vehicles are involved, even when all drivers are operating within the law. It is never advisable to attempt to handle a personal injury claim stemming from a school bus accident because they regularly go to court for some reason. The chance for a limited damage claim value means that your attorney will attempt to craft your case for a maximum settlement amount.