As another school year begins this fall, many parents in the Atlanta area will be sending their children to school each morning on a school bus. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that taking a bus is the safest way for children to get to and from school, thousands of children are injured each year in school bus-related accidents. In many cases, school bus accidents are the result of someone’s negligence, meaning that victims may be able to recover for their injuries by bringing a personal injury claim.
In order to prevail in a personal injury claim based on a school bus accident, in most cases a plaintiff must be able to identify the negligent conduct that caused the accident to happen. School bus accidents can occur for a number of reasons, and some of the most common include the following:
- Bus driver error – While most bus drivers are well trained and operate their vehicles with the utmost care, some make errors that can result in devastating accidents. Examples of driver errors include speeding, failing to maintain a proper lookout, failing to extend the stop sign arm at a stop, failing to wait for children to cross the street, or not accounting for poor weather conditions.
- Other drivers – No one can account for the negligence of other drivers, including the most attentive and careful of bus drivers. Other drivers cause a significant number of school bus accidents and can often be held liable for any injuries they cause.
- Poor vehicle maintenance – The party that operates a school bus is responsible for its maintenance and ensuring that it is safe. Issues such as faulty brakes, worn tires, and mechanical issues can potentially cause serious and injury-causing accidents.
- Faulty vehicle design or manufacture – Vehicle manufacturers have a duty to ensure that their cars, trucks, and buses are safe to operate. Design and manufacture defects often can go unnoticed until after an accident happens, potentially causing catastrophic injuries to passengers and other motorists, pedestrians, or bicyclists.
Because school bus accidents may implicate a public school district, a special set of legal rules may apply. Under a legal doctrine known as sovereign immunity, the government and its various subdivisions and agencies are immune from suit unless they consent to be sued. Further, claims against governmental entities (states, counties and cities) have specific notice requirements (Ante Litem Notice) that may be as soon as 6 months after the accident. If the proper notice is not provided, the claim or lawsuit may be barred. As a result, it is important that school bus accident victims discuss their case with an attorney familiar with personal injury law and bringing suits against public entities immediately after an accident.
Anyone who has been affected by a school bus accident should discuss their case with an accident attorney immediately. To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyers, call Goldstein Hayes & Lina, LLC today at (404) 869-8600.