Articles Posted in Bus Accidents

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School bus accidents can present lots of problems. For starters, buses are much bigger than the cars and SUVs that most people drive on the road. Thus, when a collision occurs, the smaller car can sustain heavy damage. More disastrous is when the school bus is full of children or students. This could lead to a situation where many people are injured as a result of the crash, including severe injuries.

One such crash occurred in California when a school bus driver passed out at the wheel. The bus then veered off the road and smashed head-on into a tree. The lawsuit alleged that the driver suffered from pulmonary hypertension which can cause him to lose consciousness if his blood pressure increases beyond a certain point. The lawsuit further claimed that the school district did not inquire into his medical history before hiring him. Allegedly, three months before the crash, the school district received a call from a fellow employee, who advised that the defendant driver was consistently behaving oddly. The school district required him to submit a drug test, but halted the investigation after the test returned negative. Five lawsuits were filed. One student suffered a broken clavicle while another sustained a traumatic brain injury. The lawsuits were consolidated, and the district settled for $10 million.

This case is a perfect example of why the law allows recovery under the theory of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior is Latin for “let the master answer.” It is a theory of law that holds an employer vicariously liable for the negligent acts of an employee, so long as the employee was operating within the scope of his employment at the time. Applying this legal principle to the case mentioned above, Orange County Unified School District will be held liable for the acts of its driver, so long as Rupple was operating within the scope of his employment.

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An investigation into a March 2017 fatal accident revealed the truck driver who caused it was under the influence of several types of pills at the time of the crash. The truck driver, just 20 years old, crashed into a bus carrying senior citizen congregants of a Texas church who were coming back from a three day retreat. 13 people ended up dying as a result of the collision. The victims were between 61 and 87 years old.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, in addition to local police, responded to the accident scene. Investigators found five partially smoked marijuana cigarettes in the truck as well as two full marijuana cigarettes. The trucker admitted to having taken prescription pills which led investigators to believe he was under the influence. He admitted to taking Clonazepam, Ambien, and Lexapro. Other pill bottles were found in the truck as well.

The facts of the accident suggest the driver could have been under the influence. One witness was driving behind the truck and saw it driving erratically. For example, the trucker had crossed the center line several times. The witness was so concerned about the erratic driving that he called the local sheriff’s office to report what he was seeing and ask law enforcement to get the truck off the road before somebody got hit. Following this accident, the witness got out of his car to check on everyone. When he talked to the trucker, the trucker admitted to texting while driving and apologized multiple times.

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Almost eight years after a devastating and life-altering bus accident, an injured victim was awarded a verdict of $28 million as compensation for her permanent injuries. The victim was just 16 years old when her life changed forever. She and two of her friends were traveling in a car in Coleraine, Minnesota when a school bus T-boned their vehicle, dragging the victim and her friends nearly 100 yards before stopping. The bus was operated by Jay Poshak, an employee of the Ely School District at the time of the accident.

The crash rendered the victim quadriplegic and killed the other passenger. Following trial, the Itasca County, Minnesota, jury returned a verdict of over $28 million in favor of the quadriplegic victim. Fault was apportioned between two drivers: the school bus driver was found to be 10% responsible while the rest of the fault was placed on the victim’s driver, who was just a teenager. Following the bus accident, the State Patrol reconstructed the accident and found that both drivers did not pay enough attention to the road.

According to reports, the large jury verdict is rare for the greater Minnesota area, which is a typically conservative location and not known for handing down big verdicts. However, in this case, the award reflects the damages. The victim was only 16 years old when she lost the use of her arms and legs. The $28 million is meant to compensate for past and future medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, emotional distress, and loss of potential earnings.

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It is common knowledge that seat belts help save lives. Recently released data shows that in 2014, seat belts reduced fatalities for front seat passengers by 50% and saved nearly 13,000 lives. If the idea of self-preservation isn’t enough to get you to buckle up, there’s the fact that driving without a seat belt can result in a ticket or fine from police. Researchers and lawmakers alike recognize the benefits of wearing a seat belt. Why, then, are seat belts not always required on school buses? This exact question is being asked by Tennessee legislators eager to see Tennessee law require all school buses to be equipped with seat belts.

Currently, very few states – including California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas – require school buses to provide seat belts. This is despite overwhelming and convincing support from organizations like the National Safety Council and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Many of those who do not think buses need seat belts argue that school buses are already one of the safest forms of transportation, and adding seat belts would create an unnecessary cost. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that the average cost of equipping a large school bus with seat belts could cost in excess of $10,000 per bus.

Despite the additional cost, the NHTSA maintains that the addition of seat belts could make buses even safer, and the potential of saving the lives of children would more than outweigh the extra cost. Certain lawmakers in Tennessee share that sentiment. Representatives from East Tennessee are actively pushing legislation that would make Tennessee the newest state to require seat belts on school buses.

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At least four people were killed when a train crashed into a charter bus in Biloxi, Mississippi on March 7, 2017. Three of the victims died at the accident scene while a fourth passed away while receiving treatment at the hospital. In addition, at least 35 passengers on the bus were either taken by ambulance or airlifted to local hospitals to be treated for various injuries, and many of the victims remain in critical condition. Per one report, every passenger on the bus sustained at least some type of injury.

The bus was a charter bus carrying around 50 people from Austin, Texas to casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi. Most of the passengers on board were senior citizens. The accident occurred around 2:15 p.m. when the bus was either stopped or stuck on train tracks and got hit by a CSX Transportation freight train. The impact between the two vehicles was so severe that the train pushed the bus approximately 300 feet before coming to a stop. Per one witness, the bus had been stopped on the train tracks for several minutes before it was hit. When they saw the train approaching, passengers tried to get off the bus, recognizing the bus was not going to move and the train was not going to be able to stop in time. Some of the injured passengers had to be cut out of the bus in order to be rescued.

Biloxi police and paramedics immediately responded to the scene to investigate and assist the injured bus passengers. Police Chief John Miller described the aftermath as “terrible” and “chaotic.” Witnesses also described the accident in detail. One witness heard the train honk its horn at the bus to move out of the way before the crash. The witness then saw bodies flying all over the bus once it was hit.

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On November 21, 2016, a bus carrying 35 Chattanooga city school children crashed in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This caused six students to pass away and many others to be injured. The bus driver, Johnthony Walker was subsequently arrested and charged with vehicular homicide and reckless driving. Witnesses and a subsequent investigation revealed that the school bus was traveling well in excess of the posted 30 mph speed limit at the time of the collision. Documents also allege that students and parents had complained about the driver’s conduct prior to this incident, including erratic driving and cursing at students. He had also been involved in a wreck two months prior.

The bus driver was employed by Durham School Services which is headquartered in Warrenville, Illinois. Durham has over 13,000 vehicles with multiple school bus contracts in Tennessee, including Shelby County and Hamilton County. Durham also employs approximately 13,000 bus drivers. Unfortunately, this bus accident was not an isolated incident. Between 2014 and 2016, Durham School Services has been involved in over 340 accidents, with over 200 requiring at least one car involved to be towed. Injuries were reported in 142 of the crashes. In Tennessee alone, Durham had 36 bus accidents involving injuries. In the same 24 month period, Durham vehicles were subject to over 5,000 inspections.

With far too many school bus accidents occurring year after year, this begs the question: “Are school buses safe?” According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 30,000 people are killed annually in traffic accidents. School bus accidents tend to affect younger victims. Between 2000-2009, 43% of school-age pedestrians killed in school-transportation related crashes were between the ages of 5 and 7.

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