School Bus Crashes in Connecticut
At this time of year, we are all focused on getting our kids to school and home again safely. We watch carefully to make sure they get on the school bus safely and do the same for their return.
But once they are on the school bus, we have to trust the bus driver and the company employing him/her and the school system which hired them. We have to hope and trust that everyone involved is equally concerned and will put our kids’ safety first. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
In the past three years, Connecticut’s largest school bus companies – First Student, DATTCO, and Durham School Services – have been named in more than 40 lawsuits involving accidents.
School bus drivers in Connecticut are supposed to have driving records totally free of violations, even relatively minor ones, such as failing to obey a stop sign or failing to yield the right of way. And, there are not yet federal requirements establishing driver training for new school bus drivers.
Accidents involving school buses often result in injury to occupants of private passenger motor vehicles. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) compiles data regarding crashes involving school bus accidents. Nationally, from 2004 to 2012, there were 1,344 people killed in such accidents. Most of those fatal injuries were to people occupying other vehicles.
Who is liable for school bus accidents?
Under a theory of vicarious liability, the owner of the bus, or the entity which employed the bus driver, is liable for an accident caused by the bus driver’s negligence. Because bus companies are considered common carriers under Connecticut law, like trains or cabs or commercial buses, the standard of care is a higher standard of care, and even the slightest fault or negligence on the part of the bus driver is sufficient in many cases to impose liability on both the driver and the bus company. In Connecticut, we have a specific statute which waives sovereign immunity and permits direct lawsuits against municipalities for negligent operation of a school bus, and which establishes the standard of care. sec. 52-557 & 52-557c
What should you do if you or if a child of yours is injured as a result of a careless bus driver?
You should, of course, immediately obtain appropriate medical care. Document the injury. Take photographs of the injury and of the conditions which caused the injury, if at all possible. Make sure to report the injury immediately to the appropriate authorities, including the police, if they have not already been notified. The bus company needs to be put on notice. Since you may not have the time, or confidence, to do all of this by yourself, you should also immediately consult a bus accident attorney. The sooner you contact an attorney, the easier it will be for you to concentrate on your medical care as your number one priority.