What to Know About School Bus Accidents and Injuries

Katherine M. Fogarty
Fairfax and Northern Virginia Divorce and Family Law Attorney

Statistically, your child is safer in a school bus than in a private family vehicle. While most school bus drivers are compassionate professionals who would do anything to keep their passengers safe, they still make mistakes. School bus accidents

School bus accidents are not common. But when school bus drivers make mistakes, the results can be catastrophic, endangering the lives, health, and safety of their young passengers. 

Trends in School Bus Accidents

Each year, the Virginia Department of Education analyzes trends in school bus accidents. In one recent report, the agency found that over the course of 12 months:

  • School buses were involved in an estimated 138 collisions statewide.
  • When school bus accidents happen, they often involve injuries to multiple children.
  • A significant share of school bus crashes were preventable and involved negligence on the part of the bus driver or another motorist.

The Risks of Riding on School Buses

When school bus accidents do occur, they often result in serious injuries. This is because:

  • Most school buses do not have seat belts. If the bus driver brakes suddenly or hits another vehicle, children could be hurled forward by momentum. 
  • School bus drivers cannot always supervise every passenger. With the number of children on a school bus, the driver can’t monitor the behavior of them all. Children can sometimes hurt one another, bully another rider, or peer-pressure their classmates into behaviors that increase the risk of injury.
  • Buses have a high center of gravity. This increases the risk of rollover crashes. While rollovers are rare, they usually result in multiple injuries.

The Most Common Causes of School Bus Accidents

Most automobile accidents can be attributed to negligence, and school bus collisions are no different. While school bus accidents could happen for any number of reasons, some of the most common causes include:

  • Bus drivers who speed or break other traffic laws
  • Bus drivers who are under the influence of alcohol, illegal substances, or prescription medication
  • Bus drivers who are distracted
  • Poor training
  • Inadequate vehicle maintenance
  • Failure to supervise child passengers

School Bus Collision Injuries

While some school bus-related accidents do not result in critical injuries, children can still get hurt if the collision happens at high speeds or generates significant force. Children can suffer:

What to Do After a School Bus Accident

Parents put a lot of trust in their district when they let their child take the bus to school.

If your child was hurt in a school bus collision, you might feel overwhelmed or even helpless, especially if education officials say they were not at fault for the accident and cannot help your family pay the unexpected medical costs associated with a serious accident.

However, you still have options for compensation. You could improve your family’s chances of making a full legal recovery by:

  • Documenting your child’s injuries. If your child does not need to be rushed to an emergency room, you should photograph their visible injuries.
  • Seeking immediate medical attention. Even if you do not believe your child was seriously hurt in the accident, you should still seek immediate medical attention. Often, children do not know how to explain their pain and discomfort. A physician can help you identify and treat any injuries you did not notice. Going to the doctor also shows the school district, the at-fault motorist, and their insurers that you have serious concerns about your child’s well-being and are not fabricating a claim for financial gain.
  • Preserving any evidence related to the crash. You should preserve all information related to the school bus accident. If the district or the driver provides a verbal or formal explanation, take notes, keep a record, and preserve a copy. You could also talk to the parents of other children who may have been injured in the accident to see if there were any eyewitnesses.
  • Observing your child’s healing journey. You should keep a record of your child’s injuries and how they affect your child’s emotional well-being, academic performance, and physical well-being.
  • Contacting a Virginia school bus accident injury attorney. Once you have addressed your child’s immediate medical needs, contact an attorney. A lawyer can help investigate the causes of an accident, stop evidence from disappearing, and advocate for your family’s best interests.

Mistakes to Avoid After a Virginia School Bus Accident

If your child was hurt in a Virginia school bus accident, you should avoid:

  • Giving unnecessary information to school officials. After a serious bus accident, the school district will likely do everything it can to avoid paying for your child’s injuries. You should avoid speaking to school officials about your child’s behavior or role in an accident without a lawyer present.
  • Speaking to an insurance adjuster. You may be contacted by a representative from the insurance company for the at-fault motorist or school. You should never speak to an adjuster or provide a recorded statement without first consulting with an attorney. Since insurance companies are for-profit businesses, they are usually more concerned about their bottom-line than your child’s well-being. They will attempt to devalue your claim, even if it means using your own words against you.
  • Trying to negotiate a settlement on your own. If the insurance company knows you have a strong case, they might try to offer an early settlement. However, these fast settlement offers are rarely fair to you, your child, and your family. They might include enough money to pay off your child’s medical bills but won’t account for physical rehabilitation, prescription medication, follow-up appointments, or the money you lose taking time away from work to care for your child.

Who Might Be Responsible for an Accident

Even if the school bus driver or another motorist was found liable for an accident, they might not be the only person to blame for your child’s injuries. Other defendants could include:

  • A school district
  • The company or organization that owns the bus
  • The company or organization that trained the school bus driver
  • The school bus manufacturer or a vehicle parts maker
  • A government entity that neglected an on-road hazard or other dangerous feature

Your Possible Damages in a Virginia School Bus Collision Claim

Virginia does not ordinarily limit the damages parents can receive in a personal injury claim. This means, your family could receive as much money as needed to ensure your child’s well-being.

However, school bus accident injury claims can be subject to surprising limitations. Every state has special “sovereign immunity” rules that protect public officials and employees from civil liability in accidents that arise in the course of their ordinary duties. In other words, the school could claim sovereign immunity—forcing your family to accept a low-ball settlement offer or preventing you from recovering damages altogether.

Why You Need an Attorney

Filing a personal injury claim against a Virginia school bus driver, school district, or transportation contractor can be difficult. To win, you will have to demonstrate that your child’s injuries were caused by an act of gross negligence.

An experienced Virginia school bus accident attorney can help you investigate the circumstances of the accident, interview eyewitnesses, and collect the evidence needed to dismantle a negligent driver or official’s claims of “immunity.”

However, you have to act fast. If you are making a claim against a government entity, your filing may be subject to special procedures and deadlines. If you wait too long to take action, you might lose your chance at securing compensation.

Contact Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi

If your child has been injured in a Virginia school bus accident, your family deserves experienced and aggressive representation. Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi has spent years fighting for our clients’ rights. We have helped Virginia families recover millions of dollars in damages, including recent six- and seven-figure settlements.

You do not have to accept a school’s claim of sovereign immunity or an insurance company’s low-ball offer. Our dedicated team of attorneys and legal professionals can help your family get the compensation you need and the justice you deserve. Please send us a message online, or call us toll-free at 877-652-1553 to schedule your free, no-obligation appointment today.