While they are rare, school bus accidents do happen, and children can be seriously injured. It is important to take the right steps if your child is injured as a result of an accident involving a school bus. This could be a crash caused by the bus driver’s negligence or incompetence, or it could be the fault of another driver.
If your child is hurt, you may have questions about who is legally responsible. You may wonder who is going to pay for the cost of treating your child’s injuries. An experienced South Carolina accident lawyer can help to clarify any confusion you may have around this stressful situation. Here, we explain what actions to take at the scene of the accident, as well as what to do afterward to protect your legal rights.
What to Do When Your Child Is Injured on a School Bus
It is one of the most dreaded phone calls that a parent can receive. Your child’s school bus has been in an accident. As you arrive at the scene of the accident or the designated meeting point, some of the steps you should take are similar to what you should do with any car accident. However, a school bus crash is a special situation, and you want to be sure you are protecting your child’s right to recover damages.
If possible, we suggest doing the following:
- Make sure your child is okay. Go to the scene of the accident or the hospital. Follow the instructions given by emergency personnel, but insist on seeing your child.
- Seek prompt medical care for your child. If the victims were not transported to the hospital from the scene of the crash, take your child to the emergency room. Obvious injuries need immediate treatment. Even if you do not think your child is hurt, get them checked out by a doctor within 72 hours of the accident. An exam can reveal hidden injuries. It also provides a paper trail, proving you took appropriate steps following the bus accident. This can protect your child's rights in the case of disputes with insurers and other parties.
- Talk to the other parents. Exchange contact information with the other parents and share information with one another. They are going through the same things you are, and shared information can help strengthen your case.
- Get the contact information for any witnesses. Eyewitnesses to the school bus accident are an invaluable resource.
- Collect evidence. Take photos of the crash scene, noting road and weather conditions. Note the damage to the school bus and any other vehicles or property involved in the accident. If you can get a copy of the police report or the officer’s contact information, this is very valuable to have too.
- Continue monitoring your child. Look for any symptoms of injuries that may come up a few days after the accident. Your child may not experience the symptoms of whiplash or a concussion until several days later. Get these symptoms checked out as soon as you notice them.
Obviously, taking care of your child is your number-one priority, but it’s also important to preserve evidence of the accident for a potential claim for damages. Work with your South Carolina personal injury attorney to discuss important questions concerning the cause of the accident, legal liability, and what compensation you may be entitled to receive. They can contact the school district, insurance companies, and other sources to collect evidence and build your case.
What Caused the School Bus Crash?
It will be important to determine the case of the crash. Some of the more common causes of school bus accidents are:
- Unqualified or underqualified bus driver. Drivers should have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) with a passenger endorsement. The school district should scrutinize the driver’s credentials and driving record carefully before hiring them.
- Poor training or lack of experience. Driving a school bus is not the same as driving a minivan. Drivers need to be properly trained in their operation. This involves managing a bus full of children and not just the mechanics of driving.
- Negligence or distracted driving. The bus driver may disobey traffic laws or engage in dangerous behavior like speeding, failing to yield, or skipping stop signs. This can cause accidents. They might also be distracted and not paying attention to the road.
- Other drivers. School bus crashes are not always the bus driver’s fault. Other motorists could have made mistakes or violated traffic laws. Impatient drivers may try to pass a stopped school bus when they shouldn’t, for instance.
- Mechanical flaws or defective design. Older school buses, in particular, may not be up to current standards. Flaws in the design can lead to dangerous risks.
- Lack of or improper maintenance. School buses should stick to a strict maintenance schedule. When the bus falls into disrepair, it can be dangerous to ride in. Examples may include balding tires and failing brakes.
- Dangerous traffic or weather conditions. Inclement weather or poor road conditions can be factors in causing a school bus collision.
Who Is the Defendant in a School Bus Crash Case?
When pursuing legal action, the plaintiff must name the defendant in the lawsuit. This process starts with uncovering the root cause of the accident. This can help identify who is responsible and, thus, legally liable. Depending on the cause, the defendant may be one or more of the following:
- The bus driver
- The school district
- The bus manufacturer
- Other drivers involved in the accident
- The bus repair or maintenance company
What Damages Can I Seek to Recover?
Personal injury lawsuits can be complex; ones involving school bus drivers and school districts can be even more complicated. It is prudent to hire a personal injury attorney as early in the process as possible. They can help explain the statute of limitations on such a case, for example. They can also examine what damages you may be eligible to recover in a civil suit.
You may be entitled to compensation for damages such as:
- Current medical bills
- Future medical costs and continued care
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment in life
- Potential loss of future earning potential
- Loss of income to care for the injured child
- Punitive costs
It’s important not only to identify what damages you may be able to recover on behalf of your child but also how you go about valuing each of these items. Once you sign a settlement, there may be no recourse for future compensation. An experienced lawyer can help you factor in all current and expected future damages and handle the entire litigation process.
Was Your Child Injured in a South Carolina Bus Accident?
If your child was injured in a school bus accident, you need to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 864-712-7317 to schedule your free consultation. We will schedule a time to meet with you at one of our offices in Anderson or Greenville—whichever location is most convenient for you.