School buses are the most common form of mass transit in the United States. As per the National Highway Traffic Safety Organization (NHTSA), 70% of fatalities related to school bus accidents involved occupants of the other vehicles involved in the accident. Even though school buses are considered as 70 times safer for school transportation as compared to travelling by car, accidents caused by school buses regularly make headlines in local news. If you suffered injuries related to a school bus accident, learn how a school bus accident lawyer serving Tennessee at Labrum Law Firm at (615) 338-9500 can help you with your case.
Types of School Bus Accidents
As per the NHTSA, accidents that directly or indirectly involve a vehicle used as a school bus, irrespective of the vehicle's body design, are known as school bus accidents. Generally, a bus is defined as a motor vehicle having a capacity of 11 or more people including the driver. Thus, even vans used for school transportation are considered as school buses if they have a capacity of 11 or more people. The most common types of school bus accidents are:
Accidents Involving Other Motorists
These include accidents where a third vehicle causes the crash indirectly. Rear ending into a vehicle stopped behind a school bus is the most common example of such an accident. Even though the occupants of the school bus might not get injured, significant damage and bodily injuries can arise in rear-ended collisions.
Accidents Involving Pedestrians
These accidents occur when pedestrians get hit by a moving school bus. Pedestrians account for 17% of the deaths caused by school bus-related accidents.
Accidents Involving School Bus Occupants
These include accidents where injuries are caused to school bus occupants including the driver and the children. The school bus accident may either happen due to a crash with another vehicle or when the safety compliance of the school bus is compromised.
Accidents Caused While Getting On and Off a School Bus
If the driver is negligent and starts driving while the children get on or off the school bus, it may lead to serious injuries. Similarly, after getting off the school bus, children are prone to accidents if other vehicles on the road do not exercise caution and follow state laws.
Tennessee School Bus Laws
In the United States, 471,461 school buses used to run daily, transporting about 25 million elementary and secondary school children every day. While this number may be reduced as a result of COVID-19, as soon as the global pandemic is over, there will be more school buses again on the roads. In the meantime, there are still several schools that transport children daily throughout the United States to school. Therefore, in addition to the laws generally applicable to other vehicles on the road, special laws are applicable to school buses. At the federal level, all school buses must meet the prescribed standards under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Some of the most important Tenessee school bus laws include the following:
- School bus drivers must be 25 years of age or older.
- School bus drivers must have at least five years of consecutive driving experience.
- School bus drivers are also required to pass the Tennessee School Bus Endorsement Test.
- School districts must have a written and approved transportation policy and they should also appoint a transportation supervisor.
- Further, other vehicles on the road must also stop when a school bus is parked, picking up or dropping off school students. All traffic on a two-way highway and four-way highway lane with a center turn lane must stop. On a four-way lane with a divider, opposite direction vehicles can keep moving, but the vehicles behind the school bus must stop.
Responsibility in a School Bus Accident
Determining liability in a school bus accident is a complex issue as multiple parties may be involved.
- The accident may be a result of the school bus driver's negligence. In such cases, the school bus driver and the driver's employer may be held liable. Overspeeding and driver distraction are the most common causes of accidents caused by school bus drivers.
- Usually, school districts own and operate school buses and they have the responsibility to maintain the buses in a safe running condition at all times. For example, if an accident is caused due to worn out tires, then the school district may be held liable.
- If the school bus had a manufacturing defect, then the manufacturer can be held liable for product liability claims.
- When the accident is caused by another vehicle on the road, then the driver of that vehicle may be held liable.
Proving responsibility in a school bus accident involves multiple steps and requires a thorough investigation into the facts of the accident. Further, sometimes school districts may become protected by sovereign immunity as they are government entities, and the process to file personal injury claims against them is very different from the standard procedure. These claims must be filed within six months from the date of the accident.
If you are the parent of a child who suffered injuries in a school bus accident or a pedestrian, another vehicle occupant, or a school bus driver who suffered injuries in a school bus accident, learn how a Tennessee School Bus Accident Attorney at Labrum Law at (615) 338-9500 can help you evaluate your case and understand your legal rights.
What Should You Do After a School Bus Accident?
School buses are huge vehicles and getting hit by a school bus can lead to property damage, serious bodily injuries, or even fatalities. If you were involved in a school bus accident or if you are the parent of the child injured in a school bus accident, you should seriously consider taking the following steps:
- Seek immediate medical attention. Sometimes, the symptoms of serious injuries may not show up for days and lead to internal bodily injuries.
- Report the accident to the police, the school district, and other parties involved.
- Make a note of all the important details including the time, place, and cause of the accident. If there were any witnesses around, try to get their contact information.
- Consider contacting a school bus accident lawyer as these are complex claims involving multiple parties.
How Can You Avoid a School Bus Accident?
The NHTSA prescribes the following general safety tips to reduce the chances of a school bus accident:
- Teach your child the best bus stop safety practices including early arrival at the bus stop, standing at a safe distance, and avoiding running or playing at the bus stop.
- Teach your child how to properly get on and off the school bus.
- Teach your child how to exercise caution around the school bus including crossing the street in front of the bus, avoiding walking behind the bus, and approaching the driver for help if the child drops something around the bus.
- Vehicle drivers should be extra careful and follow all state laws while driving around a school bus or bus stop or in neighborhoods with school zones.
Learn How a Tennessee School Bus Accident Attorney Can Help
School bus accidents often involve multiple parties and sometimes more than one party may be at fault. Further, proceeding against school districts may be difficult as they are government bodies. The victim needs to compile significant evidence to prove negligence and proceed with the claim. If you or your child suffered injuries in a school bus accident, consider contacting our legal team at Labrum Law to learn how a Tennessee School Bus Accident Attorney at (615) 338-9500 can help you with your case.