School buses are simply part of everyday life for most children in the United States. The bright yellow bus not only takes young students to and from school five days a week, but is also frequently used to transport children to sporting events, academic contests, and field trips.
Most rides on the school bus are as safe for children as a ride in their parents’ vehicle, but unfortunately, accidents happen. A child may slip and fall while boarding the bus or if the driver hits the gas before the child is seated. If surrounding vehicles don’t stop when the school bus does, a child may be injured while crossing the street to board the bus or get off at the end of the day. If the school bus gets into a collision, multiple children could suffer serious injuries.
Before the school year in Indiana starts back up again, it’s a good idea to review your rights in case your child is injured on a school bus.
How a School Bus Accident Is Different from a Car Accident
If a school bus collides with another vehicle, you may think you can treat it like any other car accident. However, three key factors affect school bus accidents and make them different (and typically much more complicated) than an average car accident.
1. No Seat Belts
In a regular car accident, if you were injured and you weren’t wearing a seat belt, you won’t be found at fault for your injuries if you didn’t cause the accident, but your insurance company may try to reduce your damages.
Indiana is a fault state, which means that the state takes into account who caused the accident when determining what must be paid by either party in the case. Indiana requires all occupants of a vehicle to be properly restrained, but this doesn’t affect whether or not you’re found to be at fault for the accident. However, your insurance policy may have a provision regarding seat belt use and attempt to diminish your damages.
But school buses in Indiana aren’t required to have seat belts. This means that, even if your child is unrestrained in an accident, your insurance company should not attempt to reduce your damages based on that fact alone. This also means that your child’s injuries are likely to be more severe than in a typical car accident in which your child was properly restrained.
2. Multiple Victims
School buses are often filled to the brim with children as young as five to teenagers finishing their final year in high school. If a school bus crashes, there are likely to be multiple children suffering from a variety of injuries.
Unlike in car accidents, where injured victims in the same vehicle are often friends or family, most children on school buses are unrelated to one another except for the fact that they attend the same school.
Children of different ages suffering from different injuries with different families looking for different amounts and kinds of compensation—that’s going to complicate things quickly. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate the chaos and make sure your child’s injuries aren’t forgotten.
3. Suing a Government Entity
If your child is injured in an accident while riding a public school bus, you will be going head to head against a government entity.
Pursuing a claim against a government entity involves different laws and statutes. These different laws typically make it more difficult to pursue your claim than in a typical car accident with a non-governmental entity.
For example, after a normal Indiana car accident, you have two years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury claim. This is known as the statute of limitations on your case. However, when you’ve suffered injury due to the negligence of a government entity, you may have only 180-270 days (roughly 6-9 months) to file a claim.
An Indiana personal injury attorney knows the different rules for government entities and can make sure you follow them for your school bus accident claim.
Who Is Responsible?
Many different things can cause a school bus accident, which means that many different people or entities may be liable for your child’s injuries. Depending on what caused the school bus to crash, you may be able to hold one or more of the following responsible:
- Bus driver
- Whoever owned and operated the school bus (i.e. public school district, private school, church, third-party company, etc.)
- Bus manufacturer
- Company who repairs and maintains the bus
- Driver of another vehicle involved in the accident
At Hensley Legal Group, we hope that your child has nothing but safe trips to and from school throughout their academic career. But in the event of a school bus accident, an experienced Indiana personal injury attorney can help. If your child has been injured in a school bus accident, call us today or contact us online for a free case review.