With a lack of seat belts and an over-abundance of children in a small space, school buses may not seem like the safest of vehicles. However, the fact remains that school buses can be considered the safest vehicles on the road for children.
Still, many school-vehicle-related accidents occur every year, which result in an average of four to six annual fatalities. That doesn’t include the number of children who survive school bus accidents but suffer life-changing physical or emotional injuries.
The layers of responsibility in getting children from home to school and back again are complicated and vary not only by state, but also by school district. That’s why you’ll have the most accurate information and guidance if you work with a local accident attorney.
In most school bus accidents, one of five parties will likely be legally responsible for the injuries sustained:
- The school
- A private bus company
- Another driver
- A parts manufacturer
- A public entity
When the School May Be Liable
The school can only be held responsible for a child’s injuries on the school bus under certain conditions, including:
- The accident was caused by the driver’s negligence, and the school employs the bus driver.
- The accident was a result of vehicle malfunction that should have been addressed during required, routine maintenance.
- The private bus company contracted by the school was not contractually bound to perform required services that led to the accident.
As a rule of thumb, if a school bus is involved in an accident due to driver error and the school employs the driver, the school will be liable for any injuries sustained.
When a Bus Company May Be Liable
Some schools may opt to hire a private company to take care of facilitating student transportation. Drivers in this scenario are employed by the company, which is required to have liability insurance according to Indiana state minimums.
Things get complicated when evaluating whether responsibility for a particular incident falls on the school or the company. To determine who was liable in any given Indiana school bus accident, attorneys will pore over the details of the contract between the two entities: if the school did not stipulate the specific duties that led to the accident, the private contractor may be held only partially liable, if at all.
This means that if your school uses a third-party transportation service that is involved in an accident, matters are more complicated than an individual can typically handle. In these cases, experienced attorneys can make the call for who will be held liable for children’s injuries in that specific case.
When Another Driver May Be Liable
Most Indiana schools make it their mission to ensure the safety and well-being of their students. That mindset typically extends to the school bus.
Unfortunately, not every other vehicle on the road has this mission in mind. The school and bus driver could do everything right to ensure maximum safety for their students, and a school bus accident could still occur due to someone else’s negligence. If another driver causes a school bus accident, you may be able to recover compensation for your child’s injuries from that driver’s insurance company.
When a Parts Manufacturer May Be Liable
In rare cases, automobile accidents can be caused by faulty parts from the manufacturer. Companies that make and distribute parts for school buses can be liable for injuries from accidents where a part didn’t function as designed through no fault of the mechanic or driver.
Manufacturers of school bus parts are held to strict standards, and any defective products that reach the market endanger people’s safety. An experienced attorney can help you file a claim against a manufacturing company if your child sustains injuries due to a faulty part on a school bus.
When a Public Entity May Be Liable
We’ve all been driving on Indiana’s pothole-riddled roads for long enough to know that sometimes accidents or injuries occur because of poor roadways and dangerous intersections. The city and/or state is responsible for maintaining roads and making intersections as safe as possible, so if there’s no other cause for the accident, the government may be to blame.
Government lawsuits are extremely unlikely to result in financial compensation, however. Indiana law makes government entities (except for a select few) immune to civil lawsuits, except in cases of “wanton misconduct.” It’s difficult to sue a government entity, and different rules apply to these claims. If it turns out the government is at fault for your child’s school bus accident, you’ll likely want an experienced personal injury attorney on your side to go through your options.
Help from an Indiana Personal Injury Attorney
Having to call countless people at the school, bus company, and even the mechanic shop is about the last thing on your mind when you find out your child has been hurt in a school bus accident. Instead, you can make one phone call and have an experienced personal injury attorney take care of everything.
Hensley Legal Group’s personal injury lawyers know what it’s like to have your life turned upside down in a single moment. We’ll handle everything from phone calls to paperwork so you can focus on taking care of your family. Contact us online or give us a call today for a free consultation of your potential case.