School bus accidents happen much less frequently than other types of accidents, but they still occur. There is an established duty of care from the school system to keep students safe from harm, whether they’re in the classroom or being transported on a bus.
If your child was harmed in a school bus accident, you might wonder who is to blame for the accident: the school system, the driver of the bus, or someone else? A range of factors must be taken into account when determining the liable party, and it’s highly advised that you contact a bus accident lawyer to help you examine the facts from a legal standpoint.
Questions You Will Need to Answer in a School Bus Accident Claim
When looking at who is responsible for a school bus accident, you and your attorney will need to uncover the answers to the following:
When and Where Did the School Bus Accident Happen?
The location and timing of the accident may shed some light on who was responsible and how it happened.
For example, if the bus was on an unfamiliar route, such as driving students on a field trip or to an away sports game, the driver may have made poor decisions or there may have been unexpected road hazards. If the bus was following its regular route dropping off students at school, other factors may have been at play.
Who Else Was Involved in the Accident?
A bus may crash without any other vehicles involved, for example, if it ran off the road and hit an obstacle. This type of accident may indicate the bus driver’s action or bus maintenance is to blame. But if there were other vehicles involved in the accident, those drivers may play a role in the blame.
Were There Issues With the Bus?
If the bus driver reported the bus was acting strangely before the collision or having brake issues, a mechanical problem could be the cause of the accident. In that case, the person responsible for bus maintenance or the manufacturer of its parts could be a liability for accident damages.
Were Bus Safety Protocols Followed?
There are certain safety protocols a bus driver must follow while operating their bus or after an accident occurs. The school itself must also enforce safety rules with students.
Schools must also:
- Have every bus inspected twice a year
- Make sure buses stay in good condition
- Train bus employees to accommodate students with special needs and disabilities
- Make sure drivers check safety equipment and inspect buses before trips
If any of these methods are not followed and student injuries result, the school or the driver could be responsible.
Was the Driver Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol?
Most bus drivers are responsible employees who take their care of students seriously, so this situation is rare. But there have been instances where bus drivers consume alcohol or drugs before getting behind the wheel. Other times, the driver might experience a side effect from a medication that impedes their ability to drive safely.
Either way, being under the influence is very serious and usually, the driver is to blame, so any chance of this should be investigated immediately.
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When Is the School Responsible?
Schools must provide safe transportation and follow all state safety guidelines for students in their care. That includes having buses inspected and making sure they are in good working condition before getting on the road. If these safety measures are not upheld and a bus accident results, the school can be held liable for injuries.
Even if the bus driver engages in harmful behavior, such as reckless or drunk driving, the school system’s insurance company will probably be responsible for damages, even though the driver’s actions caused the accident. That’s because the school’s duty of care includes properly screening, hiring, and training anyone they employ.
When is the Bus Driver Responsible?
As mentioned above, the school system is usually liable if the bus driver’s actions lead to an accident. This is known as vicarious liability. Even though the driver is liable for their negligence, the school system is vicariously liable (and ultimately responsible for damages) because the accident happened during the course of work duties.
However, if the driver was not employed directly with the school and worked for a contracted company, that company would then be responsible. What the bus driver does after the accident can also play a factor in proving negligence and collecting evidence.
Other Parties Who May Be Responsible
Sometimes, a person or party beyond the bus driver or school system is ultimately responsible for the accident. Depending on the situation, liability could fall on any of the following:
- A bus company from which the school system outsources busing services
- Other drivers involved in the bus accident
- Manufacturer of the bus or its parts
- Property owners or municipalities if the accident was caused by road surface conditions
- A drug manufacturer if the driver takes medication and experiences harmful side effects that weren’t disclosed
The liability for a bus accident can easily become complicated. Ultimately, the party responsible for the accident is legally liable for covering all costs of the accident in Georgia. That’s why having a bus accident lawyer can be so beneficial. An attorney trained to handle bus accident cases can look at your specific accident and help determine who is actually responsible.
For a free legal consultation, call 404-400-4000
Georgia Sovereign Immunity Laws for School Bus Accidents
School bus accident cases can be complicated because of Georgia’s immunity laws. Sovereign immunity is a legal principle that says a government entity cannot be sued without its consent. Georgia counties, cities, government agencies, and school districts can only be sued if the government has waived its sovereign immunity.
That doesn’t mean it is impossible to hold a school district responsible for bus accident injuries. For example, school districts can waive their immunity from bus accident lawsuits by purchasing motor vehicle insurance (O.C.G.A. §33-24-51). However, the amount that the injured person may recover in those cases is limited by the school district’s insurance policy.
A school bus attorney can guide you through the extra process requirements for a lawsuit against a government entity and school district.
Damages You Can Collect From a School Bus Accident
Once you and your bus accident lawyer successfully prove the liability of the responsible party, you can expect to be owed compensation for your accident-related damages. In general, the recoverable damages in a school bus accident case may include:
- Past and future medical bills
- Costs of therapy, surgeries, and medications
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
The evidence your lawyer collects of your damages may include bill statements, photos of your injuries, and statements from medical experts on your estimated future costs of care.
Speak to Our Experienced School Bus Accident Lawyers
If you or your child was injured in a school bus accident, John Foy & Associates can help. We have been helping personal injury victims for more than two decades, and we know how to fight for the compensation you deserve. For a FREE consultation with one of our bus accident attorneys, call us at 404-400-4000 or fill out the form on this page to get started today.