Recently, in Pennsylvania as well as other states throughout the country, there have been numerous school bus accidents which have resulted in serious injuries and death. In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a motorcyclist was killed after a collision with a school bus on March 22, 2012. And in Burlington County, New Jersey, an 11-year old girl was killed in a school bus accident on February 17, 2012.
School bus accidents are especially tragic because, most of the time, the victims are children.
These accidents require immediate investigation and analysis in light of federal and state guidelines.
The first inquiry must be to identify the owner of the school bus and the driver of the school bus. If the owner of the school bus is the school district, then the amount of damages may be capped at $500,000 by Pennsylvania law. If the owner of the school bus is a private company, such as First Student, Inc. or Laidlaw, then the amount of damages are not capped.
It is important to identify the driver in order to perform a complete background check on the driver to determine whether he or she had any prior record and had the appropriate license to operate the school bus.
Buses are common carriers and are obligated to provide a higher level of safety. Essentially, they fit into the same category as trains and planes. All common carriers may be liable for personal injuries to passengers. The carrier must have the essential equipment and a sensible degree of skill to carry out the transportation of passengers. Federal and State policies vary but, in general, if a personal injury occurs because the carrier was not in compliance with safety regulations, the carrier may have total liability for personal injuries. Liability issues in bus accidents often involve driver negligence, driver training, inadequate security, dangerous roadways, weather conditions, defective products, drunk driving and improper maintenance.