School Bus Accidents

March 6, 2024

By Promoting Justice

According to the National Safety Council, 108 people in the United States died in school bus accidents in 2021, an increase of 50% over the previous year. Another 9,700 people were injured. If you are a parent of a child injured or tragically killed in a school bus accident, a skilled personal injury lawyer with Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer may be able to answer your questions and help you evaluate your next steps. Call (802) 457-4848 in New Hampshire, Vermont, or Florida today to schedule your free consultation with a knowledgeable member of our team to learn more.

Common Types of School Bus Accidents

Many different types of accidents may occur with school buses. Some of the most common include:

  • Rear-end collisions – School buses, by the very nature of their use, are prone to frequent stops –– not just on residential city streets, but on winding rural roads with limited visibility and along busy state highways where traffic hurtles by at 65 miles per hour. Unsurprisingly, then, school buses are also very commonly involved in rear-end collisions caused by the driver of another vehicle failing to brake in time. However, school buses may also be the at-fault party in rear-end collisions, particularly on wet or icy roads where their weight makes it difficult to bring such a large vehicle to a swift stop.
  • Head-on collisions – A head-on collision occurs when the school bus and another vehicle collide at the front of their respective vehicles. These collisions can easily be deadly when involving a large vehicle like a school bus.
  • Passenger injuries – Not all school bus accidents involve traffic reports. Passengers can be injured on a bus even when a collision does not occur. Children can fall from their seats, or sustain bruises from jostling, when a bus comes to a stop abruptly.
  • Pedestrian accidents – The National Safety Council reports that 16% of fatalities involving school buses from 2012 to 2021 were pedestrians. PSchool bus drivers distracted by rambunctious children may take their eyes off the road at just the wrong instant, and strike an unlucky pedestrian. Schoolchildren boarding or departing the bus may also become victims of pedestrian school bus accidents if the school bus resumes motion while they are crossing its path.
  • Bicycle accidents – About 3% of the fatalities involving school buses from 2012 to 2021 were bicyclists, according to the National Safety Council.
  • Parked car accidents – School buses are large and difficult to maneuver, sometimes resulting in “sideswipe” accidents with parked vehicles and potentially injuring any occupants inside.

Common Causes Of School Bus Accidents 

There is no single factor that can account for all school bus accidents. School bus accidents can be caused for many different reasons, including:

  • Sudden stops and starts
  • Distracted drivers
  • Speeding
  • Following too closely 
  • Driver impairment
  • Failing to observe laws about not passing buses when the stop sign is out
  • Overcrowding of school buses
  • Passengers leaning on an emergency door
  • Negligence by other motorists
  • Mechanical failure or malfunction 

If your child has been injured in a school bus accident, a bus accident lawyer from Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer may be able to investigate the accident and help to determine its cause.

Dangers of School Buses 

School buses are generally a safe form of transportation, and most school bus rides pass without incident. The safest place for a passenger on a school bus is in the middle of the bus in an aisle seat between the tires. If there is a collision, it is less jarring for a passenger in this location and the passenger is less likely to be injured. However, these seats are not always available. Therefore, passengers could be in positions in the bus where they may be more likely to be injured, such as in the back of a bus when it is struck in a rear-end collision. 

On the other hand, many school buses do not have seat belts. If there is a collision, students may be thrown from their seats and into other passengers, harming themselves and the other passengers. Some school buses are also overloaded and when a collision occurs, those passengers who are seated precariously, or not seated at all, can be thrust about the bus, sustaining injuries themselves and potentially injuring other passengers as well.

Factors Leading to School Bus Accidents

Bus drivers are under substantial pressure to get schoolchildren to their destinations on time. This can lead to speeding or making other safety shortcuts. Other motorists can also get impatient when following a school bus, potentially tempting them into unsafely passing the bus and causing an accident. There are also many distractions on a school bus with children yelling, fighting, and talking to the driver. These distractions can interfere with the bus driver’s attention and create the conditions for a distracted driving accident. Additionally, school buses log significant mileage, seeing heavy use over much of the year. This can lead to significant wear and tear on the vehicle. If the bus is not properly maintained, accidents are more likely to occur when tires blow out, brakes fail, or other mechanical malfunctions occur. 

What To Do After a School Bus Accident

Parents of children injured in school bus accidents can take a few key steps to safeguard the child’s immediate welfare and prepare for potential next steps. Consider the following:

  • Seek prompt medical attention. 
  • Report the injuries to the school. 
  • Request a copy of the accident report.
  • Ask for the names of any witnesses. 
  • Take pictures of your child’s injuries. 
  • Speak to a bus accident lawyer.

Filing Deadlines for School Bus Accident Claims

One of the many issues that can complicate personal injury cases stemming from school bus accidents is that many of them involve governmental entities. Many states impose a separate statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits filed against governmental entities as opposed to civil actions filed against commercial entities or individuals. Depending on the state, the filing deadlines and procedural guidelines in a school bus accident may therefore be different from those that pertain to most other traffic accident injuries in the same jurisdiction. 

New Hampshire Rev. Stat. § 507-B:7 maintains a statute of limitations of three years for bodily injury actions against governmental units, with an additional requirement for plaintiffs to notify the clerk of the unit in question, by registered mail, within 60 days of the injury, or within 60 days of the discovery of the injury, if the injury was not immediately apparent. A 2023 update to Florida’s civil torts code establishes a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases arising from negligence under § 95.11 Fla. Stat. (2023). The State of Vermont, meanwhile, maintains a statute of limitations of six years for a variety of claims under § 511 Ver. Rev. Stat. (2023), but the state also applies a number of exceptions to this rule, so parents of children injured in Vermont school bus accidents may wish to consult with a lawyer familiar with the laws in their state.  

Contact a Bus Accident Lawyer for Help With Your Claim

If your child has been injured in an accident involving a school bus, consider contacting a bus accident lawyer with Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer. Our experienced bus accident attorneys represent individuals who have been injured in school bus accidents and help families seek compensation for the children’s medical expenses, as well as the wages their parents lose while providing care. When necessary, we are also ready to help families fight for compensation to cover the projected losses of a lifetime of reduced earning capacity due to injury-induced permanent disability. Call (802) 457-4848 to schedule your free and confidential consultation.