University Avenue, Walnut Street, and Bethel Avenue become congested every weekday in Muncie as parents and buses pick up and drop off students. During this daily traffic jam, it may be tempting to pass a school bus when no child is in sight. However, this risky driving behavior can carry serious implications.
State law requires all motorists to stop whenever a school bus is picking up or dropping off children (unless the roadway is divided by a physical barrier or median, such as on a highway), as indicated by the flashing red lights and extended stop-sign arm.
Despite these laws, school bus accidents still happen every year. Indiana Public Radio quoted a traffic study from the Indiana Department of Education that discovered roughly 3,000 vehicles illegally passed stopped school buses over the course of a day.
If your child is injured in a school bus accident, liability could fall on one or several parties, including the school, the bus driver, the private transportation company that owns the buses, or the other driver.
Who is Liable for Your Child’s Injuries?
The Muncie school district is responsible for safety from the beginning of the day to the end of the day, including transportation to and from school on school buses. The school may bear the majority of the responsibility for a bus accident if:
- The bus accident was caused by the bus driver, and the driver is employed by the school
- The school owns the bus, and the bus accident was caused by malfunctioning parts that should’ve been addressed during required routine maintenance
- The transportation company contracted by the school was providing transportation services outside the terms of the contract
The school is also responsible for maintaining the property and creating safe conditions for students, teachers, and visitors. If your child is injured in a bus accident caused by the school’s negligence (for example, if the school doesn’t salt the parking lot in anticipation of an expected wintry storm, and a school bus skids on the icy asphalt and crashed into a light pole), then the school could be held liable.
The Bus Driver
Bus drivers must have a clean driving record and must go through an extensive screening process before hiring, including drug tests, sobriety tests, and a background check. If the bus driver drives while intoxicated, for example, then the bus driver may be held responsible for the accident and named as an individual defendant. However, the school who employed the bus driver would also likely be liable for employing someone who would ever drive under the influence.
The Private Transportation Company
If the school district rents their school buses from a private transportation company, then the company must meet the requirements laid out in their contract. If the company doesn’t meet those requirements, then they can be held responsible for bus accidents caused by that failure. However, if the school asks the company to provide transportation outside of the contract (for example, if the contract doesn’t include field trips and the schools asks them to provide buses anyway), then the school could share liability.
It may be difficult to determine how much liability can be assigned to a third-party transportation service in the case of a school bus accident. Our experienced Muncie personal injury attorneys carefully go through the details of each contract and each case to determine what liability, if any, can be assigned to the private company.
The Other Driver
Driving behind a school bus can be annoying, especially if you are running late to work or class. Distraction and impatience often cause traffic accidents, including accidents involving a school bus.
All drivers in Indiana are required to have car insurance. If your child is injured in a school bus accident in Indiana that was caused by another driver, then the costs of their treatment will likely be covered by the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Help from a Muncie Personal Injury Attorney
Different laws may apply if a Muncie school bus is involved in an accident in another state. But in all bus accident cases, the students riding the bus bear no responsibility and should have their treatment taken care of by one of the parties listed above.
A local personal injury attorney from Hensley Legal Group can offer your family the legal guidance and support you need if your child has been injured in a Muncie school bus accident. Call our Muncie office today or contact us online for a free conversation about your personal injury claim.