Who May Be Liable for Injuries in a School Bus Accident?

We entrust our children’s safety to school bus drivers and operators, depending on them to exercise proper care. But school bus accidents can and do happen. When injuries result, parents need to take prompt and decisive action to make the people and entities responsible pay the damages that are appropriate.

School bus accidents can be the result of many causes, including driver negligence, mechanical failures and poor road or weather conditions. The danger of accidents is increased on field trips and other lengthy excursions, especially on highways. Injuries to children can be compounded by non-use of seat belts or other safety measures.

Under New Jersey law, the comparative negligence of all parties involved determines allocation of liability for damages. This may involve analyzing the involvement of any or all of the following:

  1. Bus driver — Negligent driving, such as speeding, reckless operation or driving under the influence, could cause accidents that result in harm to youthful passengers.
  2. Bus operator — If the bus was owned or leased by a private company, that entity can be liable for the negligence of the driver it hires and also for not giving the bus proper maintenance
  3. School or school district — If the school or district contracts with the bus operator for chartered services, it can be held liable for negligence in its duty to vet the operator’s qualifications. If the school or district owns the bus and hires the driver, it can be liable on that basis.
  4. Bus maintenance provider — If improper maintenance of the bus contributed to the accident, the mechanic or parts supplier could be held liable.
  5. Third-party driver — In cases where another vehicle collided with the school bus, the other driver could be held liable to the extent of their own negligence.
  6. School-affiliated organization — A parent group like the PTA or another non-profit organization that has its own events and charters buses can be held vicariously liable.

Several other factors may influence liability in a school bus accident case. One of these is whether parental consent to the child’s participation in the excursion could serve as a waiver of liability. Another factor is whether there was adequate supervision of the children during a trip.

An experienced bus accident attorney can help ensure that the rights of injured passengers are protected and that they receive the compensation they deserve. An attorney can assess the legal merits, identify potentially liable parties, gather evidence to support the claim and negotiate with insurance companies and defense attorneys to reach a fair settlement.

Seigel Law in Ridgewood is a premier personal injury law firm serving clients who have been injured in bus accidents throughout northern New Jersey, including Bergen, Passaic, Essex and Hudson counties. To schedule a free consultation, call our firm at 201-444-4000 or contact us online.

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