A school bus with the words, "who is at fault for a school bus accident."

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When parents send their children to school, they often worry about their grades and behavior and what extracurricular activities they will choose. Parents also worry about whether their child will get to school and home safely when riding the bus. School bus accidents involve our society’s most vulnerable victims, our children. They often lead to injuries, ranging from minor scrapes and bruises to more serious injuries such as traumatic brain injuries. When a school bus accident occurs, many people wonder who will be held liable for the accident? If it is the school bus driver’s fault, is it the driver or the school that is held accountable? This article takes a closer look at this most serious question.

School Bus Accident Statistics

The latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are from 2016, but they still paint a clear picture of the magnitude of these accidents. Here are the latest statistics:

  • In 2016 a total number of 118 passengers of a school bus died during an accident. Out of these fatalities, 50 of those were the driver of the school bus and 68 were students.
  • 163 pedestrians died after being struck by a school bus in 2016.
  • 902 passengers of the other vehicles involved in a school bus accident were killed in 2016.

Who Is at Fault for School Bus Accidents?

Negligence is often the causing factor of school bus-related accidents, whether it is negligence from the other driver or the school bus driver. To prove negligence, it is important to establish that the responsible party had a duty to act in a particular manner for the safety of themselves and those around them. When an individual breaches this duty of care, this is considered negligence and when that negligence results in an accident and injury, he or she could be held liable for their actions. However, to determine who is at fault, it is important to know these key terms:

Comparative Negligence

In the state of Texas, the law follows a modified form of comparative negligence. Comparative negligence generally means that each individual is responsible for his or her negligent actions. “Pure” comparative negligence means that a person can recover for their damages even if they are 99% at-fault for causing the accident. However, Texas follows a modified form of comparative negligence (often called “proportionate responsibility”), which means that a person cannot recover damages if their percentage of responsibility is more than 50%. So, if a school bus driver ran a stoplight but was hit by a vehicle that was speeding, then both parties may be assigned a percentage of liability. Whether you can recover damages in this example depends on your percentage of responsibility in causing the accident.

Negligence Per Se

Texas state law automatically finds a party negligent if they have broken a law that was designed to keep the public safe. For example, if the school bus driver was speeding in a school zone and struck a pedestrian, the driver would automatically be found at fault. This is because the school zone laws restricting the speed limit were designed to keep students and faculty safe. Because the driver broke the law, they will automatically be considered negligent, which could make getting compensation easier.

Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability states that if an employee, such as a school bus driver, is performing the duties of their job and they are negligent, then the liability could be held by the employer. This is often the case with school bus accidents.

Negligent Hiring

Employers must check the credentials and background of potential employees before hiring them. The employer may be held liable for an accident concerning their employee if there is evidence that the employee’s past behavior could have predicted the accident from a background check. For example, if a school hires a school bus driver with a record for reckless driving, then this could be considered negligent hiring and the school can be held liable for any accidents concerning the driver.

From Whom Do You Seek Compensation?

All personal injury lawsuits must be brought against the responsible individual or party. School bus accidents prove difficult as multiple parties are involved. The driver, the school district, the school, or the manufacturer of the bus could be responsible for the damages and injuries of the accident. When it comes to seeking compensation for your child’s injuries and damages from a school bus accident, it helps to have an experienced attorney on your side. He or she can help you determine the negligence, ensuring that you get the compensation you deserve.

A personal injury attorney can help you answer important questions to determine against whom you should bring your case. Examples of these questions include:

  • Was there a mechanical issue that resulted in the accident?
  • Did something distract the school bus driver, such as a child or cell phone?
  • Was the driver following the laws?
  • Was the driver qualified to drive a school bus?

All the answers to these questions must then be reviewed against local, state, and federal law to identify what duty has been breached and resulted in the accident. Once these questions are answered, your personal injury attorney can help you sue the correct party.

Getting the Compensation You Deserve

When it comes to school bus accidents and your child getting injured, you will want the knowledgeable team of the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. to be on your side. We can help you navigate the legal system and hold the responsible party accountable, allowing you to get the compensation you deserve. While you focus on the recovery of your child, our team will fight hard to ensure that your road to recovery is made easier. Contact our team to schedule a free no-obligation consultation or for more information on our services. Find out why more people are putting their trust in the Hernandez Law Group today!