This past March marked the one-year anniversary of a tragic school bus crash in Port St. Lucie, which killed one child and injured 16 others as well as the bus driver. A truck laden with sod rammed into the school bus. The bus driver, Albert Hazen, was cited for carelessly failing to yield when turning. Under the circumstances, Mr. Hazen was not criminally prosecuted and received only the legal minimum — a suspended license and $1,000.00 fine — for his role in the accident. The parents of the deceased child are in the process of litigating a wrongful death suit, which may or may not show liability on the part of the truck driver.
Causes of accidents include:
- Bus driver negligence or carelessness
- Unsafe driving by other motorists
- Impaired, distracted or fatigued driver
- Defective equipment like seat belts and machinery
- Unsafe road conditions, like intemperate weather
Often accidents can be complicated, involving multiple parties that might be at fault, including the bus driver, the bus company, other drivers (or even passengers), manufacturers, a school district or municipality, and sometimes federal or state entities. On school trips the accident may occur out of state, possibly leading to the involvement of additional parties. Multiple insurance companies for the many parties involved crowd the picture and add to the complexities. Additionally, vital evidence and witnesses may be gone or harder to pursue even if it is just days after the event occurred.
Buses are usually larger than other vehicles and may cause grave damage on impact. Or, as above, the bus itself may be overwhelmed by a heavier vehicle. To conform to federal safety standards, buses must be well maintained and driven cautiously. A bus driver needs to be completely attentive to the road and the buses need working brakes and seatbelts and periodic inspections.
Bus companies may have finite insurance coverage divided between every injured person. Given the amount of passengers in a bad crash, obtaining your just portion from the company and from other sources of compensation is crucial.
The accident cited above highlights the intensified perils of school bus crashes. Buses contain the most precious cargo there is — our children. Although buses are designed with safety in mind, fatalities happen every year. For more than 35 years we have helped bus accident victims with professionalism and care. Please contact the Law Offices of Cohn & Smith, PA for a free consultation.