As the summer ends and a new school year rolls around, most people in Alabama place their children in the care of a school bus driver without hesitation. In fact, it is almost difficult to fathom that a child can be injured or even killed on the way to school. Unfortunately, statistics show another story. Many children are injured or killed each year as they travel to or from school or school-related activities.
School bus accidents can be much more complicated than typical automobile accidents. They often involve state, city or municipal agencies that run the school district. Filing a lawsuit against such agencies or even trying to collect insurance money can be daunting. Furthermore, because the accidents involve children, it is often hard to get a good eyewitness account of the occurrence. Another difficult factor is, of course, the personal anguish a family experiences when dealing with an injured child. It’s important to hire a good attorney with experience in school bus accident law to help you seek compensation for your child’s injuries.
Unsettling School Bus Accident Statistics
According to American School Bus Council Statistics, over 25 million children ride to and from school and other activities on 480,000 school buses each year. Each year there are over 17,000 accidents involving a school bus. Many of these accidents occur as a result of school buses colliding with other vehicles. And many accidents and most of the fatalities occur, when children are hit by a school bus or by passing vehicles when getting on or off the school bus. According to a 2008 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, there were 1,564 school bus related fatalities since 1998, which averages to about 142 per year. Occupants of school buses accounted for 8% of the fatalities. Since 1998,149 school-age pedestrians (younger than 19 years old) have died in school bus related accidents. Over two-thirds were killed by school buses or vehicles functioning as school buses. Approximately one-quarter of these types of fatalities were caused by another vehicle involved in the crash. About one-half of the pedestrians killed were between the ages of five and seven. These numbers are certainly sad and troublesome.
School districts will argue that school buses are considered the safest form of transportation for getting children back and forth to school. But if your child is one of the school bus accident statistics, their arguments will undoubtedly fall on deaf ears. The facts are that school buses are not required by law to have seat belts — a safety tool that can probably save many lives and countless injuries. They are also subject to education budget cuts, which can translate to less maintenance, older buses, and poorly trained drivers. Many additional factors can contribute to school bus accidents including:
- Overloaded buses;
- Faulty brakes;
- Unsafe safety systems, reflectors, and lights;
- Driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Failure of other vehicles to stop or yield
- Negligent driving during bad weather conditions
If your child has been injured or killed in a school bus accident and you suspect negligence caused it, you will need an attorney. Your attorney should have expertise in school bus accident law to help you obtain justice for your child’s injuries. If your school district owns the school bus involved, you may feel strange suing a district that is otherwise a positive part of your life. Also, school districts are run by the state government. There are often special rules that govern filing lawsuits against state government entities. An attorney specializing in school bus accidents can help you navigate these complexities. Conversely, if the school bus is chartered from a bus company, you will probably need help navigating the red tape involved when pursuing a claim against a large company. The attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt have years of experience in similar situations. Let us help you to determine the best way to proceed if your child is injured by a school bus accident. Our goal is to guide clients through difficult times and to obtain the best possible outcomes.
Alabama the Site of One of the Nation’s Most Horrific School Bus Accidents
November 20, 2006, became a day that has gone down in Alabama history as the date of one of the most horrific school bus accidents in the nation. A school bus was sideswiped on an overpass, causing it to plunge over the overpass. Approximately 40 high school students were on board the bus, that plunged nose first onto the street below. There were 34 injuries, many of them critical. Four girls died in the bus accident. The bus did not have safety belts.
Shortly after the accident, the governor of Alabama ordered a study to determine if Alabama should pass a law requiring the use of safety belts on school buses as some other states have. While the study resulted in launching a program that installed seatbelts in some Alabama buses as part of a pilot program, it didn’t result in the passing of any new legislation requiring seatbelts. In that well-publicized and tragic crash, however, the NTSB did find that some of the passengers who were either killed or critically injured might have had their injuries mitigated if they were wearing seatbelts.
Common Carrier Law Raises the Standard of Care Owed To Your Child
Under federal and state law, any company that has entered into a contract to provide transportation to the public is considered a “common carrier.” Common carriers are held to higher standards of care than other vehicle operators because they are paid to transport the public. Specifically, where a driver is required to exercise “reasonable” care to ensure the safety of others, a common carrier is held to a much higher standard. Setting a higher standard makes sense, as the public trusts the common carrier to ensure its safety. Therefore, a school bus driver must use the utmost care to make sure passengers are safe while onboard the bus and also when children are getting on and off the bus. If your child gets injured and you feel your school bus driver did not use the utmost care, you may have a cause of action against the driver, the bus company and/or the school district.
Statute of Limitations
Every state, including the State of Alabama, has what is called a Statute of Limitations. A Statute of Limitations governs the amount of time a person has with which to file a lawsuit. It can vary depending on the type of lawsuit and particular facts of the case. However, the time periods with which to bring certain lawsuits are often relatively short. If your child is injured in a school bus accident and you plan to file a lawsuit for damages, you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident. You don’t want to file a lawsuit only to learn that you took too long and exceeded the time allowable under the Statute of Limitations. Swift action and meeting with an attorney as soon as possible will help you to avoid these problems.
Contact Us If Your Child Has Been Injured
The attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt have years of combined experience dealing with injuries caused by school bus accidents. First and foremost, we know the overwhelming devastation and loss parents feel if their child has been injured, or killed in a school bus accident. It is often difficult at that time to even think of commencing a legal action. However, it could be in the best interest of your injured child. Winning compensation in a lawsuit can help you gain the financial security that you may need to care for your injured child. And holding someone –such as a school district or bus company– accountable can bring you and your family some measure of justice, and possibly prevent the same type of injury from happening to other children. Contact an attorney at Farris, Riley & Pitt, who can counsel you on the facts of your particular situation and help you to understand your legal rights and options.