School Bus Accidents in the US and Pennsylvania

School buses play an important role in ensuring our children get to and from school safely. However, school bus accidents do happen. Knowing the causes of school bus accidents, taking preventative measures, and making those responsible accountable can all help our children have a safer future. School bus accident lawyer at Ethen Ostroff Law and its affiliated firms are well-versed in the legal complexities surrounding school bus accidents. Continue reading to find out how they can assist affected families.

 

A significant accident occurred on Route 115 in Luzerne County, PA, when a tow truck collided head-on with a school bus carrying 54 children. The students ranged from kindergarten to eighth grade from the Bear Creek Community Charter School in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The accident happened at approximately 8:10 a.m., injuring 49 children and 2 adults. The injured were taken to the hospital for treatment. The bus driver, Suzanne Ent, 53, and the tow truck driver, Edward Steinmann, 28, were also injured, but their injuries were minor. According to police, Steinmann suffered a medical issue that caused him to cross into oncoming traffic. 

School bus accidents are unfortunately, a common occurrence. The National Safety Council data reported that 108 people died in school bus-related accidents in 2021, marking a 50% increase from the pandemic-related low of 54 deaths in 2020. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, in Pennsylvania, 1,700 school bus accidents in 2019 resulted in 378 injuries. 78 injuries.

Who Owns or Manages School Buses in the US?

In the United States, school buses are owned and operated by school districts or private contractors. School districts usually own buses and hire drivers and other personnel. However, they may also contract with a private company to provide transportation services. The private contractors are responsible for hiring drivers and maintaining the buses, while the school districts are responsible for ensuring that the transportation services meet safety standards.

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Common Causes of School Bus Accidents

There are several reasons why school bus accidents can occur. The most common causes are: 

  • Driver negligence/fatigue: Risky driving behaviors of school bus drivers, like speeding, tailgating, unsafe lane changes, texting, talking on the phone, talking to passengers, and driving while tired, can cause accidents. 
  • School bus design: School buses are prone to tipping over, especially when making sharp turns or coming to a sudden stop because they are difficult to maneuver and control due to their size. 
  • Mechanical breakdown: Poor maintenance or manufacturing flaws can lead to accidents. 
  • Blind spots: Blind spots on buses are more significant than on cars. If other drivers are not aware of the blind spots, an accident can occur. 
  • Left-hand Turns: A large bus making a left turn may cross into an oncoming lane. 
  • Weather conditions: Rain, snow, and ice make roads slippery with reduced visibility, making school buses challenging to control. Extreme heat or cold also affects bus performance, increasing the risk of accidents. 
  • Bus company negligence: Hiring inexperienced drivers and inadequate or improper bus maintenance can result in avoidable accidents. 
  • School district negligence: Accidents can occur if the school district fails to inspect school buses on a regular basis. Brake failure, tire failure, defective parts, and other issues can all lead to an accident. 
  • Road conditions: Accidents can result from poorly paved roads. 
  • Other drivers: Another driver’s negligence or recklessness causes other school bus accidents. 
  • Failure to yield the right-of-way: Accidents can happen if drivers fail to yield the right of way.
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Pennsylvania's School Bus Stopping Law

The safety of the children on or around the school bus is a shared responsibility between the parents, students, administrators, teachers, transportation staff, and the general driving public. Pennsylvania places a high priority on school bus safety. The state’s school bus stopping law requires motorists to: 

  • Stop at least 10 feet away from school buses with red lights flashing and stop arms extended. 
  • Stop when driving behind a bus, meeting the bus, or approaching an intersection where a bus has stopped. 
  • Stop until the red lights stop flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safety when following or passing a school bus. 
  • Drivers may continue without stopping in opposing lanes only if physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails, or concrete medians separate oncoming traffic from the bus 
  • Only proceed once all the children have reached a safe location. 

 

If you are convicted of violating Pennsylvania’s School Bus Stopping Law, you will face the following penalties: 

  • $250 fine 
  • 60-day license suspension 
  • Five points on your driving record 

For more information, review Pennsylvania’s School Bus Stopping Law Fact Sheet. 

Tips for School Bus Drivers

Here are some tips that will help school bus drivers drive safely: 

  • Conduct a pre-trip inspection before every run to check for mechanical defects that could jeopardize safety. 
  • Be dependable because your students rely on you every day. 
  • Create a positive rapport with your students. 
  • Prohibit children from standing on the bus while it is running. 
  • Before turning off your eight-way light system and moving the school bus, make sure all of the children unloading are in a safe location. 
  • Children can exit the bus only after all traffic has stopped and the safety equipment has been activated. 
  • Do a post-trip inspection of your bus after unloading all the children at the school or after your last stop to ensure no child has been left on the bus. 
  • Prohibit anyone from obstructing aisles or emergency exits. 
  • Prepare to act appropriately in an emergency or a crash. 
  • Make sure students are familiar with school bus emergency procedures, equipment uses, and safe loading and unloading procedures. 
  • When approaching a railroad track, always take the “Five Alive” Operation Lifesaver steps. For more information, go to the Operation Lifesaver website (https://oli.org/). 
  • Even if the bus’s eight-way light system is still activated, emergency vehicles can proceed with caution without jeopardizing the students’ safety.
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Tips for Parents and Students for a Safe Bus Ride

Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure a safe ride to and from school:

  • Arrive five minutes early at the bus stop and do not run across the street to catch the bus. 
  • Wait for the bus away from the road. 
  • Never run after a moving school bus. 
  • Refrain from forcing your way on or off a school bus. 
  • Walk 10 feet in front of the bus when crossing so that the school bus driver can see you. 
  • Never cross the street until the school bus has stopped all traffic. 
  • Stay seated while the school bus is moving.  
  • Never stick your head, arms, or hands out the window. 
  • Avoid distracting your school bus driver. 
  • Be calm and quiet if your school bus crosses railroad tracks so that your driver can listen for a train 
  • Never block the aisle or emergency exits. Listen to the driver during an emergency and follow their instructions. 
  • Do not cross the street behind a school bus. 
  • Never go back for anything you leave on the bus or drop outside of the bus. The driver might not notice you and start moving the bus. 
  • Do not enter a car or talk to strangers at the bus stop.

What to do if you are in a bus accident?

School bus drivers involved in an accident should follow these safety protocols: 

  • Make sure the school bus is secure. Display appropriate warning signs and only move the vehicle further once directed. Do not move the vehicle further until directed to do so. 
  • Make sure all students are safe. Check for injuries and account for all passengers on the bus.  
  • While waiting for emergency medical services, provide any immediate first aid that is required.  
  • If it is unsafe to remain on the bus, evacuate all students. 
  • Report the accident right away. Radio the appropriate department’s dispatcher immediately with the following accident details: bus number, route number, location, school the students attend, and severity of the accident. 
  • Speak with any witnesses. Talk to anyone who witnessed the accident and get their names and addresses if they are present. 
  • Do not make any statements. Other than contacting the school, gathering information from witnesses, and speaking with police, do not give any statements to bystanders, the media, or insurance investigators.

Common Injuries Sustained in a School Bus-Related Accidents?

  • Bruises, cuts, and scrapes 
  • Broken or fractured bones 
  • Head trauma 
  • Internal organ damage or internal bleeding 
  • Neck and spinal cord injuries 
  • Permanent scarring and disfigurement 
  • Psychological injuries 
  • Spinal damage 
  • Torn ligaments and tendons  

 

When in an accident, it is important that you get medical attention immediately, even if you don’t feel injured. There are injuries that develop over time. 

Who is responsible for a school bus-related accident?

Depending on the situation, liability in school bus accidents may lie with multiple parties, including: 

  • The school bus driver: If the school bus driver’s negligence or unsafe driving behavior caused the accident. 
  • The school district or the bus company: If a lack of proper training, poor maintenance, or a failure to implement safety measures caused the accident. 
  • Other drivers: If the accident was because of another driver’s negligence. 
  • The school bus manufacturer: If a manufacturing defect or faulty parts caused the accident. 

 

Consult with the school bus accident attorneys at Ethen Ostroff Law to identify the at-fault party in your case.

How do you file a school bus-related accident claim?

If you or your child has been involved in a school bus accident and suffered injuries, it is important to take the following steps to file a claim for compensation: 

  1. Seek medical attention immediately.
  1. Collect evidence such as photos of the scene, police reports, medical records, and witness statements to support your claim and establish liability.
  1. Consult with a school bus accident lawyer who can evaluate your case, determine your legal options, and negotiate with your insurance company.
  1. Submit your “Notice of Claim” within six months of the accident if you are in Pennsylvania.
  1. File a lawsuit if responsible parties refuse to settle your claim. A school bus accident lawyer in your state can help you prepare and file the case and represent you in court.
  1. Negotiate a settlement. In many cases, parties involved in a school bus accident claim can reach a settlement agreement without going to trial. Your lawyer can negotiate with the other parties to reach a fair settlement that covers your damages.

How long do you have to make a claim for a school bus accident-related injury?

Your window to file a claim depends on where the accident happened. In Pennsylvania, you have two years after the accident. Consult with a Pennsylvania school bus accident injury lawyer to assess your situation and determine the best course of action. 

Potential Legal Claims in a School Bus Accident

If you or your child suffer injuries in a school bus accident, you may have claims against one or more parties. The possible claims include: 

  • Negligence against the school bus driver or other vehicle’s driver if the driver’s negligence caused the accident. 
  • School district liability against the school district if its negligence contributed to the accident. 
  • Private bus owner liability against the bus owner if the school bus involved in the accident is private. 
  • Product liability against the manufacturer or distributor of the bus or parts if the accident was because of a defect in the school bus or its parts. 
  • School crossing guard liability against the school district if the guard erred while directing traffic.

What compensation can you get from a school bus accident injury lawsuit?

If you or your child were hurt in a school bus accident and decide to sue, you could get money to cover: 

  • Medical bills: Money for doctor and hospital costs. 
  • Lost wages: Compensation if you can’t work because of the accident. 
  • Wrongful death: For families if someone passed away. 
  • Pain and suffering: Money for the emotional and physical pain. 
  • Loss of consortium: If it affects your relationships. 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life: For changes in your life after the accident. 
  • Disability or disfigurement: Compensation for lasting changes. 
  • Punitive damages: If the responsible party was really reckless. 

 

Remember, what you can get depends on your situation and the law where you live. Talking to a school bus accident attorney can help you understand better. 

Can you claim whiplash from a bus crash?

Absolutely. You can claim whiplash if you were involved in a bus crash. Whiplash is a common injury in accidents like these. If you got whiplash in a school bus accident, you could potentially get compensation to help with your medical expenses, lost income, and pain. To understand your rights and options for compensation, reach out to a school bus accident lawyer in Pennsylvania or your state. 

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What happens if a bus crashes?

The circumstances of the accident and the state laws will determine what happens next after a bus accident. Here’s a rundown:

  • Injuries and damages. Bus accidents can cause injuries. Injuries are assessed and addressed.
  • An investigation of the accident is conducted to determine the cause and who’s to blame. This involves gathering evidence, talking to witnesses, and checking police reports.
  • When the investigation is done, the at-fault party is determined based on the evidence. The at-fault party must compensate those injured.
  • There will be negotiations with insurance companies to ensure fair compensation for those injured. 
  • If needed, a claim may be filed against the responsible party to seek compensation for those injured. 

What happens if a bus driver crashes?

When a bus driver crashes, there can be many different possible outcomes. Injuries and a loss of life have grave consequences. The bus company can be held responsible for covering the damage and the driver may face criminal charges. This is a complex matter that needs careful consideration and consultation with a state or Pennsylvania school bus accident lawyer. 

Examples of School Bus Accident Lawsuits

The following are examples of school bus accidents resulting in lawsuits:

  • In November 2016, a school bus driver in Chattanooga, Tennessee, crashed into a tree. Five children were killed and injured many. The driver faced serious charges, including vehicular homicide. He got four years in prison as a sentence.
  • In 2019, a train hit a school bus in Texas. The accident killed the bus driver and a student. The victims’ families sued the school district and the company responsible for maintaining the railroad crossing. They claimed negligence and sought compensation for their loss.
  • In November 2022, a school bus crashed in rural Magoffin County, Kentucky. The parents of two injured students sued the bus driver and the school district administration, alleging negligence.

How can a personal injury lawyer help with your school bus accident claim?

School bus accidents, particularly those involving injured children, are so complicated to navigate legally. Insurance companies and the school system also have no incentive to compensate victims. Your best chance of getting a fair settlement is with a personal injury lawyer. Here are ways an attorney can help you with your claim:

  • Advise you on your rights and options. 
  • Look into the accident and gather evidence that will support your case. 
  • Negotiate with insurance companies for fair compensation for your losses. 
  • Represent you in court. He can draft, file, and argue your case before a judge and jury. 
  • Ask for compensation for your accident-related damage. 
  • File a claim against the party responsible for your losses. 

What is the role of insurance companies in a school bus accident claim?

Insurance companies play a significant role in a school bus accident claim. The insurance company of the party at fault is responsible for compensating the injured party for their damages. But insurance companies prioritize their interests over ensuring fair compensation for those who’ve been injured. Here are ways a personal injury lawyer can help you deal with the insurance process in your school bus accident claim:

  • Negotiate with insurance companies while protecting your rights. 
  • Explain the insurance policies involved in your case and determine the best course of action. 
  • File a claim against the party at fault for your losses. 
  • Represent you in court if negotiations are unsuccessful. He will argue your case before a judge and jury. 
  • Seek compensation for your damages.

What are some common types of evidence gathered after a school bus accident?

Evidence is crucial in your school bus accident case, and it can impact the outcome significantly. Common types of evidence you can gather that will support your case include:

  • Contact information of passengers, bus drivers, emergency personnel, witnesses, and others who were on the scene 
  • Information of the other vehicles involved in the accident 
  • Injuries sustained by passengers, drivers, and pedestrians 
  • Medical records related to your injuries sustained in the accident 
  • Photos of your injuries and the accident scene, including any damage to the bus or other vehicles 
  • Receipts, bills, notes, and other documents related to the bus accident 
  • Road signs and skid marks at the scene of the accident

Ethen Ostroff Law: School Bus Accident Lawyers

A tragic school bus accident underscores the importance of being a responsible driver, having proper school bus maintenance and operation, and keeping students safe. Seek legal counsel if you or your child were injured in a school bus accident to defend your rights and pursue just compensation for your losses and damages.

However, after you or your child gets hurt, your attention shouldn’t be diverted from recovering. You should focus on your health or your child’s recovery while you let our school bus accident attorneys at Ethen Ostroff Law and our partner firms handle the rest. Our Pennsylvania school bus accident lawyers are committed to assisting victims in getting justice for their injuries and losses.

At Ethen Ostroff Law and affiliates, we understand the devastating impact that school bus accidents can have on families, like the one that happened in Luzerne County. We provide comprehensive support throughout the legal process, from evaluating the accident to negotiating with insurers and, if necessary, filing a lawsuit on your behalf. Together with our affiliated firms, we make sure you get maximum recovery.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a school bus accident, call Ethen Ostroff Law today at 610-510-8883 or Submit form for a free consultation on how to protect your rights and seek fair compensation for your injuries and losses. 

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