If your child is injured in a school bus accident, you cannot sue the school district. However, many school districts, including Atlanta, carry insurance to cover school bus accident injuries. And, if another driver caused the accident or if your child was being transported in a privately-owned bus, you may be able to sue the other driver or the bus company.
School districts and other governmental entities are protected from lawsuits by a legal doctrine known as “sovereign immunity.” Neither the school district nor its employees can be sued unless the district waives its sovereign immunity. This is why an insurance claim is the best way to recover money after a school bus accident.
Who is liable in a school bus accident?
Fault in a school bus accident depends on how the accident happened and who owns, operates and maintains the bus. School districts and private schools may own their own buses, but they may also contract with private bus companies to provide daily transportation or to take children on field trips or to sporting events. Some of the most common causes and parties at fault in bus accidents include:
- Bus driver negligence. A bus driver might have been distracted, violating a traffic law, or even drinking and driving. In this case, the driver’s employer might also be liable for negligent hiring or negligent supervision.
- Equipment malfunction. An accident might happen because of faulty tires, brakes or other equipment. Sometimes this is because the equipment was not maintained, repaired or updated properly by the school district, bus company or a private maintenance company. Or the equipment manufacturer might be liable if the equipment was defective to begin with.
- Another driver. Another driver might be liable if the other driver caused the accident through negligent driving behaviors such as speeding, tailgating, failing to stop for the school bus, or distracted driving.
In some cases, more than one person or entity is at fault. These cases can become quite complicated, but whoever is at fault must pay for ALL of the injuries and any other damage. A good car accident lawyer can do an independent investigation of your child’s accident to determine who is at fault and whose insurance company must pay.
If I can’t sue the school district, how will I pay for my child’s injuries?
Many people are surprised to hear that most car accident injury claims are resolved through negotiations with insurance companies. We usually recover money for our injured clients without ever having to file car accident law suits around Atlanta. If your school district has insurance for its buses, you should be able to recover money from the insurance company – just as you would in any other accident.
The same thing is true if the accident was caused by another driver or if the bus was operated by a private company. Car owners and private bus companies are required by law to have insurance to cover accident injuries. In most cases, this insurance will be enough to pay for your child’s medical care and other costs.
If your child was seriously injured or if the accident caused widespread injuries to many people, the insurance may not be enough. In these cases, we investigate whether there are other ways to get your claim paid. This might include finding out whether any other person or business was also partly at fault and pursuing a claim under their insurance policy. It could also include looking at your own insurance policies or pursuing another driver or business directly.
What if my child was a pedestrian?
If your child was injured while getting on or off the bus, crossing the street or waiting on the sidewalk, your rights are no different. You can still recover the full cost of your child’s injuries from whoever was at fault. As with other bus accident injuries, there are many potential causes and people responsible. The best thing you can do is get in touch with a car accident lawyer in Atlanta as soon as possible after the accident.
Do I need a lawyer after a school bus accident?
Yes, for several reasons. First, bus accidents can be complicated, especially when third party bus operators, non-employee drivers and equipment maintenance companies are involved. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to investigate an accident claim and can bring in experts to reconstruct the accident or inspect equipment to understand what really caused your child’s injuries and who is liable.
Second, if there is not enough insurance coverage, a lawyer knows how to look for other sources of money that might pay for the accident.
And third, a lawyer knows how to negotiate with the insurance company. Insurance companies don’t like to pay out claims, even when the injured parties are innocent children on their way home from school. It is common for insurance companies to deny claims, try to minimize the extent of the injuries, or blame someone else. None of this is helpful when you are trying to get the best care possible for your injured child. A lawyer will handle the insurance company for you, presenting the strongest possible claim to get you the money you need to help your child recover.
It is best to contact a lawyer as soon as you can after the accident. As time passes, evidence can be destroyed and memories can fade. And if you do need to sue someone, you only have a limited amount of time to do it. A lawyer will explain your rights and the deadlines and help you decide the best steps to take.
Talk to an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer for Free
If your child was injured in a school bus accident, we know how to help – and we won’t charge you anything unless we win you money. Let us give you a FREE consultation, with no obligation. Call us at (404) 341-6555 or fill out the form to the right to get your free consultation today.