Who is Liable in a School Bus Accident?

A school bus carrying nine students crashed into a swimming pool near Orlando. The crash occurred as the bus was heading to the school and a Jeep swerved resulting in the crash. The bus traveled through a lawn in the Pine Hills area before crashing into the pool. None of the nine children on the bus nor the driver were injured. Two of the three children who were passengers in the Jeep were transported by family to get medical treatment and the female driver of the Jeep sustained non-life threatening injuries.

School Bus Accidents by the Numbers

School bus accident statistics include crashes that directly or indirectly involve a school bus or non-school bus vehicle that is functioning as a bus by transporting children to or from school or school related activities. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration collected 10 years of data from 2004 to 2013 regarding these types of crashes. During this time period, there were 1,344 fatalities in such crashes. Occupants of the school transportation accounted for 8% of the fatalities. Most of the people, or 71%, who died in the accidents were occupants of other vehicles.

The majority of the crashes that happened involved the front of the bus, followed by the right side. Maneuvers that contributed to the accidents include slowing down or accelerating in traffic, stopping on the street, parking, passing another vehicle, negotiating a curve, or turning.

Fault in Tort Actions

To determine who is at fault, people will typically turn to the insurance adjuster or a police report. While most of the time these reports are correct, that is not always the case. That is why it is important to understand how fault is determined. When an accident occurs that results in bodily injuries, property damage, or emotional distress, it is called a tort. There are two main types of torts – negligence and intentional torts.

Accidents that involve school buses are rarely the result of intentional wrongdoing. Instead, negligence is the most common types of claim that is brought in these accidents. To prove negligence, you must show that an individual had the duty to act in a certain manner and there was a breach of that duty. Drivers are required to act reasonably and follow the rules of the road. School bus drivers have an even bigger duty because they are protecting the children on board. If someone breached their duty, they may be found at fault. However, there are a few additional rules that you should know:

  • Comparative Fault: This is the legal theory that each person is only responsible for the extent of their own negligence. So, if a person is speeding and they hit a school bus, but the school bus had failed to stop at a stop sign, each driver will be assigned a certain percentage of liability.
  • Negligence Per Se: This theory states that if a law is in place that protects a certain class and an individual breaks that law and injuries in the class were the result, then the individual breaking the law is automatically negligent.
  • No-Fault: Florida drivers are required to have insurance that covers the first $10,000 of any injury regardless of who is at fault. After that amount, the injured party may be able to sue the other party if necessary.
  • Vicarious Liability: If an employee is performing the duties of their job for their employer, any negligence they commit can be placed on the employer. In the case of a school bus accident, the school may be held responsible for the acts of the driver.
  • Negligent Hiring: If an employer fails to check the credentials of their employee, they may be held liable for the actions of their employee if they would have been forewarned about the employee through a background check.

Who is Liable?

While the above theories help establish who is at fault for an accident, the lawsuit must be brought against the appropriate individual or entity. When it comes to school bus accidents, if the driver is at fault, a number of parties may be brought into the legal action including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The driver of the bus.
  • The school district that hired the bus driver.
  • A third-party contracting agency that was hired by the school district.
  • Insurance companies.

Because different school districts handle their transportation services differently, it is vital to understand and investigate all possible policies and contracts that are in place so that you can include all responsible parties in a legal claim. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to investigate your accident and determine what parties should be included in your claim.

Negligence and Personal Injuries

After an accident occurs, an investigation will take place. During the investigation there are certain critical steps that must be taken to determine who is negligent and if the standards of care have been met. Was there a mechanical issue with the bus? Did something distract the driver, or did the driver serve to miss something in the road?

All of these questions must be thoroughly answered through a review of local, state, and federal standards that apply to things such as inspection routines, training of the bus driver, and licensing of the bus driver. Analyzing the accident and looking at the reports can help identify what standards might have been breached. If any standards have been breached, the next step is determining whether the breach caused the accident and if it constitutes as negligence.

Call a Florida School Bus Accident Attorney Today

The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi understand that if your child has been injured in a school bus accident, it can be troubling and confusing. Our attorneys will help clear the confusion and help you ensure that your child and family’s rights are protected. We will determine who is liable for your injuries and get you the compensation that you deserve. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.