Who Is Responsible If a School Bus Gets in an Accident?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continually strives to make school buses safer; in fact, school buses are among the safest vehicles on our roads. Students are 70 times more likely to be involved in an accident when traveling to school by car compared to school bus.
Though school buses are generally safer than any other type of bus, roughly 40 million students in public schools across the country take the bus each day, so accidents are going to occur. NHTSA estimates indicate that approximately 12,000 injuries result from school bus crashes annually.
Liability for School Bus Accidents
Determining liability for accidents involving school buses is based on several factors.
If the accident was caused by the negligence of another driver, than that person and his or her insurer can face civil liability.
If the accident was the fault of the school bus operator, you must determine whether the school has its own in-house buses and drivers, or if it contracts with a transportation provider. Transportation providers maintain liability coverage for accidents based on established laws for that vehicle. If the bus is owned and operated by the school district, the state’s doctrine of sovereign immunity may apply. This immunity shields government entities from civil liability in most circumstances, unless they consent. Massachusetts has, in fact, consented to lawsuits in the past; however, limitations typically apply to damages. In this scenario, you must seek assistance from a seasoned personal injury attorney and remember that the statute of limitations in most injury claims is three years.
Another factor is if the school bus accident was caused by a product defect or malfunction. In this situation, the manufacturer of the vehicle could face civil liability through a product liability action. Manufacturers may be liable when defective products cause injuries, if it can be determined that they failed to warn the consumers of the danger.
Massachusetts School Bus Driver Requirements
- Drivers must be 18 or older and meet enhanced licensing requirements which include an annual medical examination.
- Drivers must conduct a pre-trip and post-trip vehicle safety inspection that physically confirms the condition of the vehicle.
- Drivers may not use mobile devices while operating a school bus unless it is necessary to contact emergency responders.
- Drivers must be sure that each passenger has a seat.
- Drivers must be completely stopped before loading or unloading passengers. There are many other specific rules.
At the law firm of DiBella Law Offices, P.C., our attorneys pursue compensation on behalf of victims in Massachusetts bus accidents, car accidents, trucks accidents, motorcycle accidents, and more. Contact the office today at (781) 262-3338 for a free consultation, and begin your road to recovery!