School bus accidents in the Tampa region are an unfortunately all-too-common occurrence. Each year, over 33 percent of all traffic fatalities are school transportation-related.
Some recent news reports have shared some disturbing findings of recent school bus accidents—including that some school bus drivers continue to transport students despite having numerous prior driving offenses on their record. Some of these drivers have even caused prior crashes, yet school districts still let them get behind the wheel of a bus with young children as passengers.
Several individuals and entities might be responsible for a bus accident. First, the bus driver may be liable for the crash. Bus driver negligence is one of the most common causes of school bus accidents, and negligence can take several forms. Often, negligence involves a driver who violated a traffic law or regulation, engaged in distracted driving, or operated the bus while they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
School bus drivers owe their passengers a higher duty of care than other motor vehicle drivers because they transport young school children to and from school daily. They must maintain a special driver’s license, and as such, they must abide by a higher standard of care than the driver of a non-commercial vehicle. A bus driver should handle each situation as a “reasonable bus driver” would, and if they depart from this standard and cause harm, they are negligent.
Violating Traffic Laws
School bus drivers often violate this reasonable duty of care when they violate various traffic laws. For example, they might operate their buses far over the posted speed limit, fail to use a turn signal when necessary, fail to maintain the bus, or fail to yield the right-of-way at a stop sign or traffic light. When school bus drivers violate these standard traffic laws, they significantly increase the chances of an accident that leads to passenger injuries.
School bus accidents also happen when drivers engage in distracted driving. This occurs when a driver pays attention to something other than driving. A school bus driver can become distracted when they text and drive or use another electronic device.
Even having their head turned to discipline a student on the bus can divert their attention away from the road, leading to a severe collision. Even when the driver looks away for a second or two, it can be long enough for them to miss an oncoming motor vehicle or another road obstacle.
Driving Under the Influence
Finally, school bus accidents happen when bus drivers operate their vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Since bus drivers are professional drivers, they have stricter rules about impaired driving than the drivers of passenger vehicles. When a driver operates a bus while intoxicated or impaired, they significantly increase the chances that they will cause a collision.
Alcohol, in particular, can significantly impair a bus driver’s physical abilities and prevent them from seeing clearly. In addition, alcohol can delay a driver’s reaction time. As a result, the driver might not stop their bus in time to avoid a severe impact with another vehicle.
School Districts and Bus Companies
School districts are responsible for making sure they employ capable drivers who have good driving records without a history of prior driving infractions, accidents, or crimes. When school districts do not do their due diligence when hiring drivers or when they retain a problem driver, they increase the chances of an accident.
Depending on the circumstances of an accident, a school district can be on the line for negligent hiring, negligent retention, or negligent supervision over a school bus driver who later causes an accident.
School districts also might have vicarious liability if they employed the bus driver. If a separate bus company employed the driver and contracted with a school, that business might be on the hook for vicarious liability.
Entities that perform repair work on a bus must complete their job properly. When they fail to do so and a bus malfunctions in the middle of the road, a serious accident with another vehicle can occur. In many instances, it takes expert testimony at trial to prove that negligent repair work caused or contributed to a school bus accident.
Bus Part Manufacturers
Bus part manufacturers must ensure that they manufacture their products safely and they properly test their products before selling them. Steering devices, transmission systems, and braking components are especially susceptible to malfunction if manufacturers and designers do not do the necessary work beforehand.
If a bus accident victim can demonstrate—usually through expert testimony—that a collision occurred because of a defective part, the accident victim might file a claim against the responsible product manufacturer or distributor.
If your child has suffered injuries in a school bus accident that resulted from someone else’s negligence, you have legal rights and options. The skilled team of bus accident lawyers at Lucas, Macyszyn & Dyer Injury Firm can help you explore these options and can file a claim against all potentially responsible parties in your child’s case. We can then work to get your child the compensation they deserve to recover for their injuries.