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Who Is Liable In A North Carolina School Bus Accident?

December 24, 2018

Thousands of school bus drivers transport millions of children every day throughout the country. Generally, you’d expect their drivers would exercise care. However, many times what could have been a normal ride to school ends up in an accident. Who is to blame for a school bus accident? Our Charlotte bus accident lawyers at Dewey, Ramsay & Hunt can help explain more about who may be responsible for a school bus accident in North Carolina.

How Often Do Bus Accidents Happen in North Carolina?

Bus accidents happen more often than you’d expect. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2007 to 2016, more than 1,200 people died in 1,147 school-transportation-related accidents in the U.S. Additionally, almost 300 school-age American children died in school bus accidents during the same year span in the country. Unfortunately, North Carolina is no stranger to school bus accidents. According to North Carolina’s 2016 Traffic Crash Facts report, there were 939 bus crashes, 4 fatal bus crashes, and 296 school bus accidents involving injuries. While school buses are still considered to be safer than passenger cars, accidents always happen and so do injuries.

What Causes Bus Accidents in North Carolina?

School bus crashes can happen for different reasons. Many bus accidents can be caused by the negligent actions of other motorists on the road. However, many school bus accidents can occur due to negligence from the bus driver and their employer. Some of the leading causes of school bus accidents include the following.

Drowsy Driving

Driving fatigued or tired can be extremely dangerous for school bus drivers, their passengers, and other motorists. Generally, bus drivers need to be alert and awake to ensure their passenger’s safety and avoid unnecessary accidents. However, there are no laws requiring the school bus driver to rest for a determined amount of time. Instead, North Carolina’s Department of Transportation suggests drivers should take safety measures such as taking at least six hours of sleep, taking a break every 150 miles or sooner, and drinking caffeinated beverages. If you were injured because of a negligent school bus driver, you can file a personal injury lawsuit.

Distracted Driving

Keeping your eyes on the road while driving is essential. Sadly, the introduction of modern technology such as GPS, touchscreen radio, smartphones, and other electronic devices, has increased the number of distracted driving accidents in the U.S. A distracted school bus driver can cause a devastating crash and injuries to their passengers and other surrounding motorists. You can file a claim against the distracted bus driver who caused your injuries.

Mechanical Failure

School bus owners have the responsibility to keep their vehicles running in optimal condition. This means they must make sure their busses are mechanically sound. Mechanical failure due to lack of maintenance can contribute to a severe accident. Therefore, if the negligent actions of a driver or their company caused your injuries, you can hold them accountable by filing a lawsuit.

Determining Liability for School Bus Accidents in North Carolina

Many school bus accidents are based on a negligence theory. This means the plaintiff must show the defendant owed them a duty of care, the defendant breached their duty of care, the breach of duty caused you harm, and you suffered damages. While the driver is responsible for operating the school bus, he may not be the only liable party. If the bus belongs to a private company, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the driver and his employer for negligence. Under the legal doctrine known as vicarious liability, the bus company is negligent for the actions of their employees. This means, if the school bus driver was negligent, their employer can be indirectly liable for your injuries.

However, if the school bus belongs to the state, your chances of filing a lawsuit can be limited. According to the sovereign immunity doctrine, you cannot sue the government for the negligent actions of its employees. The only way you can file a lawsuit against the government is if the government waives its immunity. In cases like this, instead of filing a lawsuit with the court, the plaintiff has to file their claim with North Carolina’s Industrial Commission. However, the determination of the Industrial Commission can be appealed to the state’s Court of Appeals.

Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyer Handling School Bus Accident Claims

Unfortunately, an accident with a school bus in North Carolina will likely cause injuries to all parties involved. Dealing with your injuries can be very difficult. However, you don’t have to be alone during this trying time. Let our Charlotte personal injury attorneys put their skill and knowledge to work for you. To learn more about your potential claim with one of our attorneys call the law offices of Dewey, Ramsay, & Hunt today at (704) 377-3737.