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school bus accident injury

School Bus Accident Injury Claims in Connecticut

School Bus Accident Injury Statistics & Bringing Claims in Connecticut

Why Pursue a School Bus Accident Injury Claim?

When a child is injured or killed, the last thing a family wants to think about is a long court battle. The first instinct of any parent is to care for their child. If the child passed away, the sorrow can be overwhelming. However, those are exactly the reasons why it is important to bring and fully pursue school bus injury claims.

If your child is hurt or permanently injured, the costs of medical care, special equipment, mental, emotional and physical therapy and special education can place additional burdens on your family. Not to mention the lost time at work, constant worrying and overall loss of life’s enjoyment knowing your child is in pain. Pursuing a school bus injury claim against the responsible parties can help pay for the costs of your child’s injury and get them the professional help they need and deserve while not completely decimating your finances.

Pursuing school bus injury claims against those who are responsible also makes them clean up their act, keeping other families and parents from feeling the pain of child injury. When school districts and school bus service providers are thinking of upgrading or repairing their equipment, they weigh the cost of such equipment upgrades and repairs against the cost of insurance and potential future litigation. When they are forced to pay for the damages that their decisions make, it actually encourages them to spend money on safety in the future.

School bus injuries do not just happen, they are caused by individuals and the decisions they make. When bringing a claim for damages against an organization, such as a town, school district, or company, you are holding them responsible for the poor decisions and negligent or reckless actions of the individuals they entrusted with the care of your children. To some degree, it simply comes down to making sure the person who caused the injury to your child is held responsible and feels some repercussions for their mistakes.

School Bus Accident Statistics – Are School Bus Injuries A Problem?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, maintains the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, which produces Traffic Safety Fact Sheet. the most recent Traffic Safety Fact Sheet for School Transportation Related Crashes was published in June of 2014, covering the years 2003 through 2012. The statistics are national in scope.

Between 2003 and 2012, there were 348,253 fatal motor vehicle accidents. of those, only 1,222 were school transportation related, only 0.35%. This fact makes school buses the safest form of transportation for children to and from school. However, a closer look shows that fatal school bus accidents are indeed a very big problem.

While the number of fatal school bus crashes from 2003-2012 was 1,222, the number of actual fatalities was 1,353. That is 135 school bus accident fatalities every year! Most of the fatalities in school bus accidents were occupants of other vehicles that were involved in the crash with the school bus, making up 71% of school bus accident fatalities. Non-occupants of any vehicle, such as pedestrians or cyclists, made up 21% of school bus accident fatalities. Actually occupants of a school bus or school transportation vehicle accounted for only 8% of school bus accident fatalities.

Most school bus accident injuries caused to children occurred when the child was getting on or off the school bus. Of the 284 pedestrians who died in school bus accidents between 2003 and 2012, 119 were school-aged children. Of those 119 children, 65% were killed because they were struck by a school bus.

For the years 2003 to 2012, there were 89 crashes in which at least one occupant of the school transportation vehicle died.

Pursuing a School Bus Accident Injury Claim in Connecticut

When it comes down to finding the responsible party and holding them accountable, there are three main issues: what caused the accident, who is responsible and how to bring the claim. Each situation is different and no two cases are alike: the circumstances of the accident, the resulting injuries, the individuals involved, are all different in every case. therefore, we will take a look at some generalities.

The cause of the accident will need to be investigated. Some factors that can contribute to school bus accidents are:

  1. Faulty vehicles – Faulty brakes can cause a vehicle not to stop in time, faulty turn signals or brake lights can cause a breakdown in communication, bald tires can cause loss of control in rain or snow, etc. School districts and bus companies can be liable for not maintaining their vehicles in a reasonably safe condition.
  2. Weather conditions – Nobody can control the weather, but we can control how we act in dangerous weather conditions. Every driver knows that driving in snowstorms, hurricanes, and even downpours can be dangerous. Ignoring the dangers of weather conditions can rise to the level of negligence or even recklessness.
  3. Driver negligence – Not all drivers are created equal. While most school bus drivers are trained professionals, even professionals make bad choices, or even think they are so good that they can take risks other driver wouldn’t. When a driver makes a decision that they should know could lead to an accident they are acting negligently, and could be liable for the accident if it happens. When the driver knows that the risk of an accident is not just possible but is LIKELY, they are acting recklessly.
  4. Defective roads – Defective roads can cause accidents, or add to the damage caused by an accident that otherwise wouldn’t have been as devastating. A pothole can blow out tires causing vehicles to suddenly stop or swerve across lanes of traffic. A faulty guardrail, instead of stopping a slipping school bus, can give under it’s weight allowing it to roll down a hill.

Once you have investigated and found the cause of the accident, you need to figure out who was responsible for the accident and who was responsible for oversight. Some of the players and possible parties to a school bus accident injury claim could be:

  1. Town & School District;
  2. School Bus Drivers;
  3. Drivers of other vehicles;
  4. Department of Transportation;
  5. Other State or town employees;
  6. Private companies providing school transportation services to the schools; and/or
  7. Insurance companies for all parties involved.

Finally, there is the issue of how to bring a claim. When pursuing a school bus injury claim, you will most likely be battling a municipality, or local government, and will therefore run up against the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that  protects government agencies, entities and employees from liability for acts they perform in their line of duty. For example, sovereign immunity would protect a firefighter from liability for broken windows and doors when fighting a fire. However, sovereign immunity does not offer protection when the agencies, entities or individuals representing the government act outside of their standard policies and practices or outside of their scope of employment. Looking at the same firefighter for an example, it would not be reasonable to offer him protection from liability if he decides to fight fire with gasoline, or if the firefighter decides to drive a school bus.

There are also some instances when the government can waive its sovereign immunity through statute and allow citizens to sue the government for those specific reasons.

In either case, when you are bringing a school bus accident injury claim against the State or a municipality, you are going to deal with host of different rules, many of which are very different than when you are bringing an injury claim against any individual. To start, there will be different statutes of limitations (how long you have to bring the claim) and services of process requirements (how to bring the claim).

An experienced school bus accident injury lawyer can help you properly investigate the cause or causes of the accident, evaluate which damages are related to the accident and how much those damages are worth, help identify the people responsible for the accident and in what ways their actions make them liable, and finally make sure your claim is brought before the proper authorities within the proper time frame to be successful. If you are in need of legal counsel for your or your child’s school bus accident injury claim, contact us today.

 

Child Injuries Caused by Motorists Failure to Stop for School Bus

A recent video posted by ABC World News shows the gross negligence and recklessness of drivers as they pass school buses unloading children. While the video is national in scope, Connecticut statistics for infractions issued for failure to stop for a school bus show that our State has a similar problem.

Connecticut General Statute 14-279 requires that any motor vehicle shall immediately stop not less than 10 feet in front of or behind a school bus displaying flashing red lights on any highway, private road, parking area or school grounds. Authorized emergency vehicles are also required to stop. It should be noted that the statute only requires the bus to display flashing red lights, and does not require use of the STOP sign commonly found on the sides of buses.

In 2011, there were 582 ticketed offenses for passing an unloading school bus. Between 2007 and 2011 there were a total of 3,107 ticketed offenses. Those are the numbers JUST for Connecticut. That’s 3,107 potentially life threatening injuries to children.

When the law was first being enacted in 1985, the Executive Director of the Connecticut School Transportation Association at that time, Robin Leeds, called the passing of unloading school buses “the most serious problem in school transportation”. She noted that back then “all our fatalities occur here” and “our most severe injuries as well”.

The fine for passing a school bus unloading children is $450 per occurrence. However, the main risk is that of injuring a child. When injury is caused to another in the process of breaking a law, that action is considered negligence per se. Therefore, drivers passing a school bus that injure a child shall be liable for the injuries to that child without having to prove negligence; negligence will be assumed by the court.

Between football injuries and bullying, many parents spend a lot of time worrying about how safe their children are at school. However, there seems to be just as much if not more risk in getting the children to and from school safely. If your child is injured in an accident while getting on or off of a school bus remember one thing: it was not an accident, it was caused by the negligent or reckless actions of another person. You should seek the help of experienced personal injury attorneys, especially those with experience handling child injury matters. At G&G Law, LLC our attorneys work together to combine their experiences in personal injury matters and their experience in representing the welfare and interests of children, to seek proper compensation for injured children and their parents.

The ABC World News Video can be seen HERE.