According to School Transportation News, roughly 23.5 million kids use school buses every day, and as per Stanford’s Stanford Children’s Health data, around 17,000 kids get treatment in the emergency room every year for injuries due to accidents, involving a school bus. In 2018, 117 individuals died in the country in accidents, involving a school bus. These figures point toward one thing – school bus accidents are more common than we assume.
A study by the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) also showed that there has been a significant rise in the number of school bus crashes in Florida between 2012 and 2015. In 2015, over 2,600 automobile crashes directly involved a school bus in the Sunshine State, with a maximum number of accidents occurring in Central and South Florida. These accidents led to 1,225 documented injuries.
School Bus Requirements
Despite these numbers, school buses are still considered the safest mode of transportation for school-going kids. As per Florida law, all school buses in the state need to fulfill six basic safety requirements below:
- Heavier duty braking system
- Fire retardant seating
- Fuel system integrity
- Additional emergency exits
- Two-point seat belts
- Front bumper-mounted crossing arms and dual stop signal arms
Seatbelts are a debatable subject in Florida, as it is one among those few states that require seatbelts on every school bus, purchased after January 1, 2001. Also, a two-point lap belt is a mandate for school buses in Florida and the state prioritizes buses that transport elementary-school kids.
How School Bus Accidents are Different
Typically, school buses are owned and operated by private transport companies or by school districts. If a crash involves a school bus, which is owned or operated by a government body, a personal injury case arising out of the crash is regulated by a specific set of rules that is different from the rules that govern crashes, involving school buses, owned or operated by a private entity.
Personal injury claims filed against Florida, including its subdivision and agencies, are dealt with as per Florida Statutes section 768.28. According to the law, Florida waives its right to sovereign immunity and agrees to be charged under specific torts, mentioned in the act, which include:
- Government employees can’t be held responsible personally for injuries. Rather, all injury claims must be filed against the government agency or entity, employing them. The only exception is if the injury was caused deliberately.
- Damages are restricted to $200,000 in injury cases against the government of Florida, or $300,000 if the injury claim is against several state bodies
- Neither punitive damages nor interest that accrued prior to the final judgment can be awarded
- Florida reserves the right to appeal any resolution of the case
- Actions against state universities must be brought in the county, where the campus of the university is located
If the university has a “substantial presence” in the county, where the injury occurred, the case may be filed in that particular county. Defendants in a school bus accident may include:
- The driver of the school bus
- The school district
- The private school, charter, or other owner/operator company
- The manufacturers of the bus and its parts
- A driver of another passenger vehicle; or
- The government body responsible for the construction, maintenance, or design of the roadway, where the crash happened
The Risks Associated with School Bus Crashes
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) recorded 320,874 fatal automobile accidents in the country between 2007 and 2016 – of which, 1,147 involved some type of school transportation. This figure is not even 1% of all accidents, but school bus crashes can pose a grave risk for multiple reasons.
Crashes involving a school bus can be risky for everyone involved. Since buses are usually huge vehicles, weighing between 10,000 to 13,000 kilograms, they can cause serious damage to other vehicles in a collision. Other factors that may up the risk of a bus accident are:
- School buses without seatbelts can be particularly dangerous in case they rollover
- School buses often contain more than recommended number of occupants, which increases the possible number of victims in the event of a collision.
- School buses are tougher to control, particularly at a higher speed.
- School buses are less likely to be as well maintained as personal automobiles.
In case you or your kid suffered injuries in an accident, involving a school bus, you may have the right to reimburse fiscal damages. A personal injury lawyer in Clermont, Florida can help you receive the recompense you deserve.
Types of Compensation in a School Bus Accident
If the accident case, involving a school bus, falls in your favor, you may be eligible to receive recompense to cover your losses. Some of these monetary compensations may cover:
- Direct medical expenses for the injuries
- Cost of long-term psychological and/or physical rehabilitation
- Lost income or reduced earning potential due to the injuries
- Pain and suffering because of the accident
Note that depending on the severity of your injuries and your specific situation, you may even be entitled to some additional damages.
Calling a Personal Injury Attorney in Florida after a School Bus Crash
If you or your kid suffered injuries in a school bus accident, either as a bus passenger or as the occupant of other vehicles involved, you may first need to identify the party responsible for the crash. There may be appellants based on the specific situation of your case. Your personal injury attorney in Clermont, Florida can help you determine the most liable party and discuss with you your possible legal options so that you receive the maximum compensation possible to cover your losses.