Tuesday, December 2, 2014, had been a school day like any other for the young children of East Knoxville, Tennessee’s Sunnyview Primary and Chilhowee Intermediate Schools. The children were being transported home on that rainy afternoon in their respective school buses—one carrying kindergarten through second-grade children from Sunnyview Primary and the other, third- through fifth-grade children from Chilhowee Intermediate—when one of the things parents fear the most occurred. According to authorities, the Chilhowee Intermediate bus made a sharp left-hand turn on the rain-slicked highway on which both buses were traveling, crossed over the concrete median strip, and crashed into the side of the Sunnyview Primary bus, causing it to flip onto its side and slide along the roadway until it came to rest across both west-bound lanes. Two little girls and an adult teachers’ aide lost their lives, and 27 others were injured in the crash. Though the cause of the crash has not yet been determined, the accident is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Tennessee authorities, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol is inspecting the buses involved in the crash.
When an accident like this occurs, parents across the country want to know how it could have happened and why it wasn’t prevented—and they want justice from anyone and everyone responsible for the tragedy. As is the case with any type of car, bus, or other vehicle accident, the fault may lie with more than one party and may even include a defect in one of the buses involved. School-bus accident attorneys are highly skilled at unearthing the multiple causes of vehicle accidents and the identities of all individuals and entities at fault. Child-injury attorney Jeff Killino has extensive experience with child-injury cases, including those arising out of children’s injuries or deaths sustained in school-bus accidents. If your child has been injured or killed in a school-bus or other accident, Jeff Killino and his nationally-recognized team of child-injury and school-bus accident lawyers can help you obtain justice from all those whose actions or inactions contributed to your child’s injury or death.
Who Can Be Held Legally Responsible for Children’s School Bus Accident Injuries and Deaths?
School-bus accidents can be caused by many things, including the negligence of one or more drivers, unsafe road conditions, poorly maintained or defective buses, and poorly trained or incompetent bus drivers. Injuries sustained by children in these accidents may also be caused by inadequate safety protocol and supervision on school buses, lack of seatbelts, or the failure to require children to wear seatbelts when they have been provided.
Accidents or Injuries Caused by Driver Negligence
Many individuals and entities can be held responsible for school-bus accident injuries and deaths determined to have been caused by bus driver negligence. Schools and other entities that fail to take due care to screen prospective bus drivers, fail to properly train hired bus drivers, and/or fail to ensure that drivers are properly and safely performing their jobs may be found directly liable for accident injuries and deaths caused, among other things, by driver negligence, traffic or other rule violations, or use of alcohol or controlled substances while driving. While private schools are generally subject to this liability, some public schools are protected in whole or in part by governmental immunity. In some states in which governmental immunity is granted to public schools, public schools may still be held responsible for accidents caused by the gross (rather than simple) negligence of their drivers.
Drivers themselves may also be held liable for injuries and deaths caused by their negligence if they are not protected from liability as public-school drivers. Because the drivers of private school buses are generally considered common carriers, they are held to a more than ordinary standard of care and may be subject to liability for injuries caused by any deviation from that standard of care.
Accidents or Injuries Caused by Poorly Maintained or Defective School Buses
In some cases, school-bus accidents occur not as a result of driver negligence but as a result of poorly maintained or defective school buses. In these cases, any individual or entity responsible for school-bus maintenance or those involved in the design, production, and distribution of defective school buses may be held liable for children’s resulting injuries and deaths.
Defective School Buses
When a school-bus accident is determined to have been caused by a defect in a school bus, those involved in the bus’s production and distribution may be held strictly liable for children’s resulting injuries and deaths. School-bus design and manufacture is subject to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which govern, among other things, rollover-protection body structure, traffic controls, flashing lights, and stop arms, and joint strength between body panels and supporting structures. The violation of one of these standards may be determined, in a product-liability action, to constitute a design or manufacturing defect causal of an accident and/or a child’s resulting injury or death. School buses can also be found defective, however, even when such regulations have not been violated. In any of these cases, the designer, manufacturer, assembler, supplier, wholesaler, and retailer of the defective bus may be found legally responsible for injuries and deaths caused by the bus’s defect.
Inadequately Maintained School Buses
School buses that are free of defects may, nevertheless, cause accidents when they are inadequately maintained. Maintenance companies hired to inspect, maintain, and repair school buses may be found legally responsible for children’s accident injuries and deaths caused by improper maintenance. These accidents can occur, for example, when maintenance companies fail to inspect brakes, tires, and lights and ensure that they are in proper working order.
Obtain Expert Assistance from Child Injury Attorney Jeff Killino
Child-injury firm attorney Jeff Killino and his team of child-accident and wrongful-death attorneys have gained nationwide respect for their skill and dedication in helping families of children who have been injured by medical malpractice, other negligence, or defective products. If your child has been injured in a school-bus accident or through someone’s negligence or the use of a dangerous toy or other product, attorney Killino can help you obtain the compensation to which you and your family are entitled.