Bus AccidentsSchool Bus Crashes: Who is Legally Responsible?

February 21, 20240

School bus crashes, although rare, do unfortunately occur and can result in injuries to students as well as significant property damage. When a school bus accident happens, determining legal responsibility is complex, as there are multiple parties that could potentially be at fault.

School Bus Driver Responsibility

The school bus driver has the most direct legal duty to transport students safely. They must exercise reasonable care when operating the bus, including obeying traffic laws, maintaining control of the vehicle, and ensuring passenger safety. Failure to do so that results in a crash could lead to the driver being legally liable for negligence, especially in cases involving reckless or impaired driving. The school district employing the driver may also share liability.

School District Liability

School districts have a legal obligation to ensure school transportation is safe. This duty includes adequate driver training, enforcement of safety policies, bus maintenance and inspection, and response planning for potential accidents. If a crash occurs due to a district’s negligent activity like insufficient driver oversight, they can be found liable as well. However, districts are generally immune from liability for bus driver negligence through governmental immunity laws.

Other Motorist Responsibility

When another motorist causes a crash with a school bus, that driver is most often primarily liable for damages and injuries. Common causes are distracted, impaired, or reckless driving on the part of the other motorist. Liability is usually determined on a case-by-case basis dependent on factors like adherence to traffic laws and right-of-way conventions. Rarely, there is shared liability if the bus driver also acted negligently.

Manufacturing and Maintenance Defects

In some crashes, a mechanical defect or failure contributes to the accident. Defective equipment could stem from an error in manufacturing or improper maintenance procedures. In these instances, liability can fall on the manufacturer of the defective system or the entity responsible for maintenance like the school district or contracted providers. Plaintiffs would need to show evidence of the defect and link it to the crash’s cause.

Injured Party Responsibility

It is possible though uncommon for liability to fall in part on injured bus passengers in a crash, typically students. Negligence by the injured party must contribute significantly to causing the accident for this liability assignment. Examples include a student recklessly distracting a driver or improperly interfering with equipment like emergency exits. Comparative negligence rules would apply to reduce damages awarded to an injured party based on their assessed percentage of fault.

Insurance Implications

School bus accident liability often interacts with various insurance policies like the driver’s auto liability policy, the district’s commercial policy, or injured passengers’ medical/personal coverage. Determining the at-fault party has implications for whether an insurance provider must pay out a claim.

Lawsuits stemming from serious school bus crashes frequently involve insurance litigation components.

Liability Investigation Complexity

As evident from the discussion so far, determining legal responsibility following school bus crashes involves disentangling a web of potential liability sources. The complexity often requires meticulous crash investigation and reconstruction to gather facts on factors like vehicle systems functionality, road conditions, and driver behavior leading up to the incident. The process underscores the value of crash data recording technology.

Pinpointing liability following school bus accidents is a multifaceted legal matter, but underlying it is the ethical obligation to identify responsible parties, administer justice for those affected, improve school transportation safety, and prevent such tragedies going forward.

Understanding liability issues is also critical for insurance and lawsuit processes. When children are involved, extra sensitivity and discretion are also warranted at all stages—from investigation to liability assignments.

Working with a School Bus Accident Lawyer

A school bus accident is a nightmare for any parent. If your child is injured or even killed in a school bus accident, it is vital that you speak to an experienced bus accident attorney.

Choose a personal injury lawyer from the Binder Law Group. We specialize in cases like yours and have a proven track record of securing favorable settlements and verdicts. Be prepared to give your attorney detailed information about the accident, your injuries, and their impact on your life.

We can realistically assess how strong your case may be. Like most PI attorneys, we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you pay nothing upfront but we receive a percentage of any final compensation amount. While this shifts some financial risk to us, it also means we work hard to get the best payout for your injury claim. Approach the relationship as a partnership – your lawyer needs your full participation to build the strongest argument for obtaining damages that cover your related medical treatment, lost income, pain and suffering resulting from another’s negligence.

Visit our office today at 16633 Ventura Blvd. #602 Encino, CA 91436.

Call now for a free consultation on (818) 659-8588.