Thousands of children are involved in school-bus accidents every year and many suffer serious injuries or even death. Your legal options may depend upon not only the specific circumstances of the accident itself but upon the identity of the owner and driver of the school bus.
Who may be held liable for injuries sustained by your child in a school-bus accident?
• Buses owned by governmental entities
The question of legal liability for injuries sustained in a school-bus accident is a complicated one, as many individual parties and entities may be involved. If the school bus is owned by a public school, the school’s liability for an accident caused by the negligence of its employee, the bus driver, may be limited by governmental immunity.
Many states will allow damages against such defendants only if the driver is found to have been guilty of gross rather than simple negligence. While simple negligence may be established by showing that the driver failed to exercise reasonable care, gross negligence requires a showing that the driver was reckless or willfully disregarded the safety of others.
• Buses owned by private companies
School buses owned and operated by private schools or by private companies (whether hired by private or public schools) are not protected by the governmental immunity described above. The drivers of privately-owned buses may be found liable for injuries caused by the driver’s simple negligence. Moreover, because such drivers are considered “common carriers,” they are held to a higher standard of care than other drivers, making their simple negligence easier to prove.
• Bus manufacturers
The manufacturer of a school bus may be liable for injuries suffered in a school-bus accident if a defect in the school bus is found to have been a cause of the accident. The defect can involve any part of the school bus, such as tires, brakes, fuel systems, or accelerators, and may implicate whatever entity manufactured the defective part.
• Maintenance companies
If the school bus in which your child was injured is maintained by a company other than the owner, the maintenance company may be held liable for your child’s injuries if the company’s negligent maintenance is found to have been a cause of the accident causing those injuries.
What damages can you recover for your child’s injuries?
• Personal-injury actions
School-bus injuries sustained by children are often severe, and include brain and spinal-cord damage, whiplash, fractures, burns, and paralysis. You may be able to recover damages for your child’s pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, physical therapy, and even mental anguish resulting from the emotional stress of the incident.
• Wrongful death
If your child died as a result of injuries sustained in a school-bus accident, you may be able to bring a wrongful death suit to recover damages.
Obtain the Expert Assistance of an Experienced Child-injury Attorney
School-bus lawsuits are complex matters requiring expert assistance. Child-injury lawyer Jeff Killino is experienced in obtaining the best possible compensation for families of children injured or killed in these accidents.