April has been a bad month for school bus accidents.We covered this subject in March when a Cherokee County school bus overturned and several students were taken to area hospitals.Since then, school bus accidents continue to be the subject of local news programs across the country.Many students suffered serious personal injuries as a result.
Monday morning of this week, two Pope High School students were injured when a car, driven by a teenage driver, ran up on the sidewalk and struck them.A fifteen-year-old girl was flown by helicopter to Children’s Hospital at Scottish Rite and is in critical condition.A seventeen-year-old boy was taken to Kennestone Hospital and treated and released.
The driver of the Jeep, Corey O’Connell, was driving northbound when a Nissan Maxima stopped in front of him to make a left-hand turn.He did not see the stopped car in time, swerved onto the sidewalk, and ran over a fire hydrant and an electrical box before striking the students with his vehicle.He has been charged with following too closely and failure to maintain his lane.
Earlier this month in Cleveland, Ohio, several students were injured in a runaway bus accident.The children were students at the Arts Academy in Cleveland being chartered on a school field trip.The bus driver, Michael P. Weir, stopped the bus at a gasoline station, left the engine running, and proceeded to pump fuel.After fueling, he went inside the store to pay and use the restroom.While he was gone, the bus began to roll down the hill and pick up speed.Several students were injured when they jumped out of the runaway bus.A student inside the bus grabbed control of the steering wheel and swerved the bus away from a bridge piling and out of oncoming traffic.
Weir violated many rules here:stopping to fuel a bus with children inside, leaving the bus engine running while pumping fuel, leaving his bus unattended with children inside, and (worst of all) leaving his bus unattended with the engine running with children inside.Weir had previous driving violations on this record, and had just had his suspended license reinstated when he was given the keys to drive these children on a field trip.
In Clayton, North Carolina this month, state troopers are still searching for the hit-and-run driver who struck a schoolgirl crossing the street to board her school bus.She suffered a broken jaw and a broken leg.
All of these cases represent a variety of different claims.In the case of the Pope High School students, the injured may have a claim against the driver of the car who struck them.When a driver has been charged with a vehicular violation, those charges if adjudicated against the driver, may be used to prove negligence per se – or negligence as a matter of law.Thus, the jury does not have to decide if the driver’s actions were negligent, the judge will instruct the jury that the actions were negligent as a matter of law.
In the case of the runaway school bus, the students may have a claim against the school, the company who provided the charter bus service, and the negligent driver.The charter bus company may have negligently hired a driver with a bad driving record; the school may have failed to get the qualifications of the charter bus company; and the driver was clearly negligent.
In the case of a hit-and-run driver, uninsured motorist coverage (potentially carried by the parents of the victim) may be able to provide liability coverage for the unknown driver.Also the school bus uninsured motorist coverage may come into affect if she was boarding the school bus at the time of the accident.
These cases can be complicated.If you or someone you love has a claim, contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.