What To Do If My Child Is Injured In A School Bus Accident?
As parents, the last call we want to receive is news of our children being involved in an accident. Although bus accidents are rare, the types of collisions and force involved when buses crash can be catastrophic.
If your child was injured in a bus-related transportation accident, what you do in the moments and days following the crash is important to protect their right to legal compensation. Attorney Brit Mitchell is Bus Accident Lawyer recognized nationwide for her success in complex commercial injury lawsuits involving bus and 18 wheelers and has compiled the information on this page to assist you and your family in 2021.
If you'd like, you can call us and even ask to speak with Brit directly at (866)434-0014, or fill out our contact form and one of our personal injury lawyers will call you now. And remember, there is never a charge for our consultations and there is no obligation to use our services.
What should I do after first learning of the bus accident?
After a school accident, the following steps should be taken to both protect your child and also the claim for compensation on behalf of your child:
Call the police. The school bus driver is required in report the bus-related accident to their transportation dispatch, but this doesn't always trigger local law enforcement and a proper medical emergency response. Dialing 9-1-1 is always necessary as the officers investigation is often crucial to determining liability.
Seek Medical Attention. If you are experiencing any discomfort or new sensations, seek emergency medical care as soon as possible. Certain injuries, such as internal bleeding, bulging disks, damaged organs, or broken bones don't always visible indications, so it is important to have a medical imaging performed as soon as possible.
Obtain the driver's information. If possible, try to take a picture of the bus driver's license and also obtain their employee lumber for later reference.
Photograph the scene. When it can be done safely, photograph the scene before any cars are moved to help show causation. You can also take photos of the license plates and any additional verification information.
Speak with a qualified bus accident attorney. An experienced commercial motor vehicle accident lawyer that has litigated bus accident claims can review the details of the crash and inform your of your rights and recovery options moving forward.
School buses are more regulated than most other vehicles on the roadway. Their design is meant to prevent collisions and injuries. There are also stop-arm laws to prevent illegal passing and it is unlawful for drivers to navigating roads during hazardous weather. For these reasons and more, when a bus driver is legally responsible for the resulting injuries the children involved often receive more money than if he or she were involved in a standard passenger vehicles collision.
Additional Questions Asked By Parents
Should I let the insurance company take my child's statement?
What types of compensation can my child recover in a bus accident claim?
What common injuries do children suffer in these collisions?
Should I let the insurance company conduct a recorded statement?
You should not. After a bus-related accident an insurance adjuster will normally contact the families of each child and state that they need to obtain the child's statement of what occurred in order to "further investigate" the claim. This is simply not true. A recorded statement is not a requirement under State or Federal Law and you should never allow your child to provide a statement without first consulting with an attorney. Our law firm only allow insurance adjusters to take our client's statement in rare situations, but one of our attorney also joins the call and will ask additional questions to help protect our clients claim.
Can the insurance company's first offer be adequate?
No. After a bus transportation accident an insurance company will undoubtedly be contact your family an begin pressuring you into accepting their first offer. Don't do it. An insurance adjuster's first offer is always too low to cover even the basic medical treatment expenses. Even settlements offers that seem adequate or even “too good to be true” are generally much lower than what your child is entitled.
Child-related personal injury claims often settle for higher than those involving adults because children often are slow to voice how their body is feeling. Additionally, other injuries, such as spine-related trauma, have delayed symptoms. But, as the insurance company understands very well, injuries involving children often involved extensive monitoring and treatment processes, which can result in expensive medical bills and related costs.
If your child was involved in an accident that involved a school bus, consult with an experienced personal injury before accepting any settlement offer. An attorney from Sneed|Mitchell LLP can help you calculate minimum settlement figure by combining the medical expenses, lost wages, and estimating future medical costs.
What types of compensation can my child recover?
Several factors are taken into account when determining the amount of compensation a bus accident victim receives. Under the common law a personal injury victim is entitled to be economic and non-economic damages, which are more detailed here:
Economic damages can include the following:
Loss of income
Non-economic damages can include:
Pain and suffering
Loss of consortium
Wrongful death expenses, with funeral and burial costs
In certain bus-transportation accident cases, punitive damages are also available. Punitive damages, also called "exemplary damages", is a sum provided by a jury to punish Defendant's behavior and discourage it from happening again in the future. Punitive damages are not possible in every legal situation, but an experienced bus accident attorney can further explain them.
Is there a max on the damages a child can receive in bus collision cases?
If you suffered injury due to the negligent actions of a bus driver hired directly by a public school district, then the maximum sum any individual can receive is $250,000. In this circumstance, the most that can be paid out if more than one person was hurt is $500,000.00. But, oftentimes bus drivers are hired by companies which then contract out drivers to a school district or individual school. When the bus driver is employed by a private company the amount a person can receive is dependent on the amount of the commercial liability insurance coverage policy. Similarly, if the at-fault driver was driving a passenger car, the potential recovery is limited to the at-faults policy.
Important to note, several other situations create opportunities for additional damages, such as when a maintenance company is found liable for improperly repairing the bus and its the negligent and unsafe actions caused you to suffer harm.
What common injuries do children suffer?
Whether a person in hit by a school bus, or was a passenger aboard, common injuries that occur in school bus related collisions include;
Whiplash - Whiplash occurs when a crash causes the child's neck to make a whipping motion forward and back, hyper-extending the bones in the neck and back. Whiplash can be mild, or cause severe herniated or bulging disks, torn muscles, nerve damage, or chronic pain. Symptoms include headaches, tinnitus, neck pain, and stiffness in the shoulders.
Spinal Cord Injuries - A traumatic impact to the spinal can cause a permanent loss of strength, sensation, or functions below the site of the injury in the form or paralysis. Rehabilitation can include medication, physical therapy, surgical intervention, and or aid devices.
Concussions and Brain Injuries - A concussion, or traumatic brain injury (TBI) following a bus accident can be hard to detect in children, even for doctors. Some signs that a child has experienced a concussion include; headaches, memory issues, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting. Kids can also suffer brain stem injuries which are causes a lack of motor functions.
Broken Bones - The physical trauma in a bus-related collision often causes victims to often suffer broken legs, broken arms, broken hands, and broken ribs. Whether you have a traverse fractures, oblique fractures, or commuted fractures changes the type of medical treatment requires. Sometimes only a cast or stabilization boot is needed, other time external fixation with metal pins, screws or rods might be required.
Shoulder or Rotator Cuff Injuries - Rotator cuff injuries are often severe following serious motor vehicle accidents. When the shoulder joint experienced overbearing force in a bus-related crash it can cause clavicle fractures, shoulder separations, shoulder dislocation, cartilage tears, bursitis, and shoulder joint dislocation.
Crush Injuries - These injuries occur when parts of the body sustains immense force and pressure. Damage related to crush injuries includes; bleeding, internal bruising, fractures, lacerations, nerve injuries, and infection.
Additional injuries children suffer in bus-related transportation accidents includes amputation to digits or limbs, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the emotional trauma experienced in the bus crash, and more.
Children that suffer physical injuries should also have follow-up treatment with the proper medical professional. Sometimes a pedestrian is needed just to ensure a child is fine following minor injuries, other times specialists such as neurologists, neurosurgeons, orthopedics, facial surgeons, or plastic surgeons are required.
Does my child need to visit with their pediatrician?
Yes. Your child should first be examined at a local emergency room (ER) facility to address any possible urgent medical conditions. While at the hospital, X-rays, blood analysis, and CT Scans are often performed and then evaluated by a specialists or on-call surgeon to determined whether any immediate procedures or additional evaluation needed.
But, not all ER's and equally equipped to deal with children and certain injuries have late-appearing symptoms. From catastrophic collisions to fender-benders, a lot of force is involved, which causes the body to generate adrenaline and endorphin which temporarily block pain after the accident. Even through your child says they are fine following the accident, when the chemicals subside 24 to 48 hours later, the pain from the car accident injuries could start to set in.
For these reasons, your child should always be examined by a pedestrian after being involved in a bus-related automobile accident. If your child does not have a pediatric doctor, your attorney can refer you to an orthopedic, neurologist, or whichever kind of physician is related to the symptoms or discomfort your child has described.
What are the Top 6 causes of school bus accidents?
One of the most common causes of school bus crashes is driver distraction.
Driver fatigue. A tired bus driver that causes an auto accident is automatically found negligent. Sleep deprivation has similar affects to alcohol and is now one of leading causes of school bus-related crashes.
Driver error. Drivers must take all necessary safety precautions and also obtain the skills require to properly operate large buses, especially with ongoing distractions aboard.
Weather conditions. Driving a school bus during increment weather conditions can be increasingly difficult, but drivers are also required to stop the vehicle if the conditions are hazardous.
Blind spots. Because of their larger size, bus blind spots are larger than those on cars. An accident can occur if other drivers are not aware of the blind spots.
Turning left. A large bus making a left turn can cross into a lane with oncoming traffic. Other drivers must be vigilant to prevent accidents.
Bus company negligence. Cutting corners in the hiring process can result in inexperienced drivers. Inadequate or improper bus maintenance can cause preventable accidents.
Drivers, share the road with school buses for safety. Slow down for buses and for children at bus stops. Anticipate frequent stops and never pass a bus when it is loading or discharging children. Obey the yellow or red flashing lights and the stop arm and stay alert to unpredictable children.
Who can be held liable for causing these accidents?
If your child suffered an injury while onboard a school bus, you might want to file a claim against the involved school district, bus company, or other responsible parties.
When a bus driver's negligence caused the resulting transportation accident, the driver is legally responsible. The legal doctrine of "Respondeat superior", the injury can also hold a company responsible for a traffic accident caused by their employee's unintentional actions committed within the scope of employment.
The school district or driving company that contracted with the school district can be held directly liable in circumstances where the entity's unsafe or negligent actions contributed in causing the vehicular collision.
A maintenance and repair company can be found liable when a failing to properly inspect and repair an hazardous conditions aboard the bus is a contributing factor to the resulting crash.
No matter who you believe could be a responsible party and possible Defendant in your potential lawsuit, the time limit for filing personal injury claims against state, local and federal governments is much shorter than is for claims against private companies and individuals. Therefore, you should quickly consult with an experienced bus accident lawyer. An attorney who understands the complexities school bus injury cases can file your claim on time and identify all responsible parties in the suit.
Please call our office today at 866-434-0014 for a complimentary consultation. Remember, we won’t charge a dime unless we obtain a settlement for you and your family.
What safety standards to bus drivers have to follow?
School transportation buses must follow laws set for by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) as well any applicable State Regulations and those of local municipalities and the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Federal rules are extremely strict on school bus drivers and operators as unsafe action can result in the 26,000 pound vehicle causing catastrophic injuries and damages.
As an example, the FMCSR states that “extreme caution" is required when operating a commercial motor vehicle in hazardous conditions exist. Article § 392.14 of the FMCSR explains that hazardous conditions include any situation where snow, ice, fog, mist, rain, dust smoke, or similar adversely affect visibility or traction.
Under the Federal regulations, employers must screen their drivers before hiring them, prevent suspended drivers from operating a bus, create drug screen programs, ensure the motor carriers are safe for travel, assign safety rating to each bus, make sure each drivers meet federal qualification standards, and much more.
However, just because the law is clearly established, does not mean that the rules are followed. This is where we step in. A lawyer that handles bus accidents is required to investigate each accident and determine what violations caused on contributed in causing your injuries and damages. So who or really to blame for a school bus crash? The answer is, it really depends, and there could be more than one liable Defendant.
Although determining liability may seem obvious in certain situations, deterring the safety standard that have been violated is not. Liability is determined by by prior case law, existing regulations, and industry experts. The assistance of a qualified school bus accident lawyer is necessary to help sort out liability and protect your recovery claim.
Can We Also Sue For A Punitive Damages Award?
Yes, but receiving one is rare. Plaintiffs and their attorneys have a high burden to prove and win an award of punitive damages. First, there must be, "actual damages" present. Actual damages are those that have a direct monetary value, such as bills or property damages. Next, you have to prove the Defendant's conduct was grossly negligent, which essentially means that the actions were strongly offensive and would shock the conscience of a reasonable person.
But most importantly, the situations that may create an opportunity of a punitive damages award are those of catastrophic injury against a private companies that either hired the driver, or a that failed to inspecting the bus, or maintain its parts and accessories on the bus, including its tires.
How Often Do Bus Crashes Happen?
School bus related accidents frequency occur in the United States and cause an average of 124 fatalities each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) school bus accidents killed 117 people nationwide in 2018. From 2009 to 2018, around 70% of bus-related deaths were occupants of the vehicle struck by the bus, about 17% were pedestrians, 5% were passengers, and 2% were bicyclists. Of the non-fatal injuries during this same time period, 36% of those injured were school bus passengers, 51% were occupants of other vehicles, 8% were bus drivers, and the others pedestrians.
School bus accidents occur in many ways. Buses may collide with another vehicle, a sign, or another object. Moreover, children can also get hurt while entering, exiting, or riding the bus. For example, slip and fall incidents often on school buses.
Ultimately, however, school bus accidents are comparatively rare. Children are safer on a school bus than almost any other form of transportation. Nonetheless, accidents happen.
Experienced Lawyers That Help With School Bus Accident Injuries in Texas, Louisiana, California, and Beyond
The disruption, confusion, and emotional distress that arises after the aftermath of serious personal injury event can be devastating. We understand. With the assistance of an experienced Trial Lawyer victims and their families can focus on healing while the attorneys fights to pursue full compensation on your behalf.
If you would like to learn more about your options for legal recourse following a catastrophic injury, Sneed|Mitchell LLP stands ready to provide the legal insights and guidance you need, step by step. Consultations with our firm are always free and without any obligation. Take the step by calling our School Bus Accident Lawyers at (866)434-0014.