School buses are the safest mode of transportation to get children to and from school because they are among the most regulated vehicles on the road. The greatest risk to a child is around approaching or leaving a bus rather than riding on it.
School bus safety is a place where road safety meets pedestrian safety. All need to be aware of the rules of the road to protect children.
Can The School Or Bus Driver Be Liable For Injuries After A Child Gets Off The Schoolbus?
When parents put their kids on a school bus, they expect their children to get to their destination safely and to be let off in a safe place. Unfortunately, accidents occur where the child has safely gotten off the school bus but is then hit by another vehicle. In these cases, the school or bus company has been held liable for the child’s injuries.
If another vehicle harms your child while they are getting off of a bus, the driver of that vehicle may be responsible for the accident and any resulting injuries. As in other personal injury cases, liability for accidents comes down to negligence. Suppose a bus driver or the driver of another vehicle behaves negligently. In that case, the bus driver, their employer, or the driver of another vehicle may be held liable for any accidents or injuries that occur as a result.
Is There a Difference Between Private and Public School Rules?
Municipal or state governments run most school buses operated by school districts or public education systems. Because these entities are protected by immunity, you must follow strict procedures to make a claim against them. You must file a notice of a claim before you file a lawsuit in most places. If you don’t file your notice in time, you could entirely lose your right to legal action. This deadline is more pressing than even the statute of limitations in most places.
If a private school bus accident has occurred and was caused by a school’s employee, you can file a claim against the driver and the private school the same way you would in any other commercial vehicle accident. You can school the school directly or file a third-party claim against the school’s insurance company.
The key is to act quickly. If your child was injured while getting off of a school bus, you need to act as soon as possible. You may have a limited time from the date of the accident to file a claim against the school district.
Dropping the Child Off On The Opposite Side Of the Road
Some parents have been able to recover because of the driver’s negligence in dropping the child off on the opposite side of the road.
For example, an eight-year-old child was able to recover because the bus driver negligently controlled the exit from the bus by stopping it on the opposite side of the highway from the child’s home. The driver opened the bus door, and the child exited, attempting to cross the highway. The driver was negligent for allowing the child to cross when an automobile was approaching the bus at a dangerous time.
Pulling Over Too Far From The Curb
In some cases, the school or bus company may be liable for stopping the bus too far from the curb, causing an accident. One child recovered when he exited the bus and was hit by a speeding oncoming car while trying to cross at the rear of the bus. The bus driver was found negligent for not stopping the bus as far to the right as possible and not parking the bus at least eight feet from the center of the highway as required by statute.
Failing To Lookout For Oncoming Vehicles
Courts have held school bus drivers liable for failing to maintain an adequate lookout while children exit the bus. One school bus driver was found negligent when he let children out while a truck passed. One child walked around the front of the bus and collided with the truck. The driver knew the highway was busy and that children would immediately cross the highway to reach their home, but he opened the door and let the children out anyway, without checking for oncoming traffic from the rear.
Improper Use Of Flashing Lights
Almost every state now requires school bus drivers to operate a stop bar and warning lights that are plainly visible to traffic in both directions before letting students off the bus. Additionally, many states require bus drivers to make students cross in front of the bus so that they are visible at all times. Failing to follow these precautions may be evidence of negligence per se (an act that is intrinsically negligent because of the violation of a statute).
What Are Bus Safety Tips for Parents?
There are several safety tips that parents can follow. They include:
- Walking children to the bus stop and waiting with them at least six feet away from the curb until the bus arrives, and waiting at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
- Teaching kids to wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting off, use the handrails while exiting, and to always walk on the correct side of the bus
- If your child needs to cross a street after exiting the bus, instruct them to take five giant steps in front of the bus (about ten feet), make eye contact with the bus driver, and only cross the street once the driver has indicated it’s safe to do so
- Teach children to look left, right, and left again before crossing any streets
- If your child drops something, they should tell the bus driver to make sure the driver is able to see them before they pick it up
What are Safety Tips for Drivers?
Safety tips for bus drivers include:
- Drivers should always follow the speed limit and slow down while in school zones and near bus stops
- Learn and follow the school bus laws in the state. Slow down and stop while driving near a school bus that is flashing yellow or red lights. Flashing yellow or red lights mean the bus is either preparing to stop or already stopped, and children are getting on or off the bus
- When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, look out for children walking or bicycling to school
- When driving in neighborhoods or school zones, watch out for children who may be on their way to school
- Slow down, watch for children walking in the street, and pay attention to sidewalks in neighborhoods
- Watch for children playing near bus stops
- Be alert. Children arriving late for a bus may run into the street without looking for traffic
Should I Contact An Attorney If My Child Was Injured Getting Off A School Bus?
It is always a difficult and emotional time when children are injured. If you think your child was injured because of a school bus driver’s negligence, you should immediately contact a personal injury attorney. Proving your case can be difficult, but an attorney can help hold the school or bus company responsible so you can recover damages for your child’s injuries.