The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has determined that school buses are 70x more likely than cars to get children to school safely. Despite this fact, thousands of children get hurt in school bus accidents every year. If your child has been injured in a school bus accident, you may be able to bring litigation against one or more parties, including:
- The school district or private entity that owns the bus
- The bus driver
- The manufacturer of the parts on the bus
- The driver who hit the school bus, thus leading to the accident (if the other driver was determined to be at fault)
Unfortunately, gaining compensation from a school bus accident is often quite difficult. Here is what you should do if you find yourself in this situation:
Suing the School District
The logical choice is to sue the school or the school district for a bus accident that resulted in the injury of your child. After all, the school or school district was the one to hire the bus driver or bus company to begin with. Any missed training, errors, or mistakes on behalf of the bus driver should fall back on the school. However, when it comes to suing the Texas school system, there is some red tape you need to get through.
Sovereign Immunity and What It Means for Your Lawsuit
The doctrine of “sovereign immunity” comes from an old English Law that granted immunity to the king, protecting him from having a claim brought against him. While the United States doesn’t abide by kings, the principle of sovereign immunity has been adopted by some states, Texas being one of them. This allows these state governments to function effectively and execute imperative administrative actions without the scrutiny or backlash of the people. For example, under this doctrine, individuals cannot file a lawsuit against the state just because they don’t like a certain driving law, tax law, or any other laws.
This doctrine also applies to school districts and individual schools, protecting teachers and staff from lawsuits due to the disagreement of an unhappy parent. While this makes pursuing a legal case against the school difficult, it is not impossible. Texas state law makes an exception for auto accidents where a government employee (which includes school bus drivers) committed negligence while performing their duties that resulted in the injury of another. If the school bus driver was negligent and it can be proven that one or more of the following is true, then you may be able to pursue a case against the school or school district:
- The school or school district failed to perform a background check on the bus driver
- The school bus driver did not have the right certification or training to be driving the bus
- The school or district forced the driver to transport too many children
- The school or district failed to give an annual inspection of the bus
- The school or district failed to provide a safe route for the bus driver to take when transporting the children
It is important to note that you will need the aid of a skilled car accident attorney to ensure that your case is being handled correctly. The team of car accident attorneys at Branch & Dhillon, P.C. can effectively help you hold the school responsible for the negligence or willful disregard for your child’s safety accountable.
Privately Owned Buses
If the school bus is privately owned – such as by a contracted agency or a private school – it may be easier to prosecute the responsible entity for one of the above acts of negligent or willful disregard for safety.
Bringing Litigation Against the School Bus Driver
It is often easier to sue a government employee than it is to sue a government agency. A school bus driver is also responsible for the safety of your children when they are boarding or seated on the school bus. You may be able to receive compensation for your child’s injuries if the bus driver was found guilty of any of the following:
- Was drunk or under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident
- Lost their certification due to a prior DUI
- Did not have the proper licensing for driving a bus
- Began driving before your child was properly seated on the bus
These are only a few examples of cases in which the bus driver may be found liable for the accident.
Suing the School Bus Manufacturer
Sometimes, the driver and district are not at fault or are only partially at fault for the accident. If the bus had faulty parts that caused the accident, the manufacturer of those parts may be found responsible for the accident. Of course, if these problems should have been found during annual inspections, the school district may also be found to be partially at fault.
When Another Driver Causes the Crash
In some cases, the accident may be caused by another driver. Car accidents are all too common in Texas, and sometimes a negligent or aggressive driver will end up hitting a school bus. In these cases, the driver that caused the crash will usually be the one held liable for the school bus accident.
If your child was hurt or killed in a school bus accident, contact the law offices of Branch & Dhillon, P.C. immediately. You often have a limited amount of time to bring litigation against a government agency or employee, so it is important that you act fast. Call us today to schedule your free consultation.