How to Proceed When your Child is Involved in a School Bus Accident

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA says that a school bus is the safest mode of transportation for school-going children. School buses are designed to be safer than other passenger vehicles and are heavily regulated by local and federal authorities to maintain safe transit. However, school bus accidents can still happen and can seriously injure the bus riders. In fact, reports from the NHTSA say that around 4 to 6 children sustain long-term injuries in school bus accidents every year, some of which can even be fatal. That is why it is very important that you know how to proceed when your child is injured in a school bus accident.

Taking Legal Action in Case of a School Bus Accident

Many different parties can be responsible for a school bus accident, which is why filing a lawsuit in such an unfortunate event is so complex. Therefore, you should first hire a reliable personal injury lawyer to understand your legal options and find the liable party to file a lawsuit. Most of the school bus accidents in California are reported to be caused due to the negligence of the bus driver. So the bus driver would be liable for compensating for the damages. In some cases, the employer of the school bus driver can also be held accountable for the accident when the negligence of the driver directly led to the disaster.

As most of the school buses are owned and operated by the school district, the school district could also be held liable for the bus driver’s negligence. However, as the school district is a government entity, recovering compensation for the damages would be a bit more complicated here. Note that government bodies are entitled to sovereign immunity that protects them from civil liability in most circumstances. Yet again, they can be held liable when an employee is directly responsible for the accident.

Filing a lawsuit against a government body is much different from how it works in standard cases. You would need to adhere to a lot of rules and regulations for filing the lawsuit, such as notifying the entity about the lawsuit, serving a notice of intent to the attorney general, and keeping up with the deadline to file the lawsuit. The attorney general would review the notice and determine if the sovereign immunity should be waived. You cannot proceed with the lawsuit if the attorney general finds that the school district cannot be held liable for the accident.

Generally, you would have a deadline of 2 years to file a lawsuit for the accident against the school district. Besides, if your child has suffered serious injuries that account for more than $1,000 in damages, you would be required to notify the school district about the accident within 3 days. However, you are not required to serve the notice of intent in such cases. If the court finds the school district guilty, they could be ordered to compensate for both economic damages, such as medical expenses, and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, to the victims. Yet again, the school district would be exempt from compensating any punitive damages.

When Someone Else is Responsible for the School Bus Accident 

Sometimes, a school bus accident can happen because of a defective part, such as worn-out tires or faulty brakes. If so, the bus manufacturer would be legally responsible for the school bus accident. You would be required to file a product liability lawsuit against the school bus manufacturer in such cases. Your personal injury lawyer would need to provide evidence that the bus part was defective, and that it directly led to the accident. If the court finds the bus manufacturer guilty, they would be ordered to compensate for all the economic and non-economic damages of the victims.

On the other hand, if the bus accident happened due to the negligence of another vehicle’s driver, the guilty party would be liable to compensate for the victims’ injuries and other damages. It is comparatively much easier to take legal action in such cases. The guilty driver or his/her insurance provider would be held liable to pay for the economic and non-economic damages of the victims. Yet again, your lawyer would have to provide evidence that the negligence of the defendant caused the accident and that it did not happen due to any other reason(s). You can work with your lawyer to document the details of the accident, and prove the fault of the other party using police reports and witness testimonies.

Your lawyer can also negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company in order to settle the case outside the courtroom and to reach a fair settlement. However, if they refuse to pay a reasonable amount, you can proceed with the lawsuit and take them to court to get the compensation amount you deserve. In any case, when you have a reliable personal injury lawyer on your side, you can leave all the matters in their hands, and focus only on the recovery of your child from the tragic experience.

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