Who Is Liable for School Bus Accidents in Pennsylvania?
Every day, thousands of parents place their trust in school bus drivers to transport their children safely to and from school. While many bus drivers are careful to observe all traffic laws and to drive carefully and responsibly, accidents still can and do happen.
Tragically, many school bus accidents result in serious injuries that are painful, debilitating, and expensive to treat. Fortunately, the negligent parties, which can include the school bus driver as well as the school district, can be held accountable for their actions.
If your child was recently involved in a school bus accident, it is critical to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you file the appropriate claims. Call us at (215) 486-0123 today.
Governmental Immunity in School Bus Accidents
Pennsylvania school districts are generally immune from liability for injuries suffered by students on school property. However, there are exceptions to this rule that allow the parents of injured students to file claims for damages against the school district.
According to Pennsylvania law, the government has waived its immunity to particular civil actions, including those that involve:
- The care or custody of a student’s personal property;
- The care or control of school grounds and other property owned by the school district;
- Vehicle liability; and
- Sidewalks and streets on school property.
If a civil action falls under one of these categories, a child’s parent may be able to file a claim in court as long as:
- The child was injured as a result of the actions of a school district employee; and
- Damages would be recoverable under common law if the injury were caused by someone who was not protected by immunity.
Whether a bus is operated by a school district or a private company that has been contracted by the school, these entities have the responsibility of ensuring that reasonable care is taken to keep students safe.
This means that to collect damages from a bus driver or school district, the plaintiff must demonstrate that those parties failed to take reasonable care, which contributed to or caused the accident.
This could include a number of different types of negligent acts, including:
- Driver error, such as fatigue, intoxication, or distraction;
- Failing to maintain the bus in accordance with federal and state regulations;
- Negligent hiring;
- A failure to provide adequate training; and
- A failure to supervise.
- For example, bus drivers are required to conduct regular preventive maintenance, which includes:
- Pre-trip inspections;
- Operational inspections; and
- Post-trip inspections.
If a driver fails to conduct this type of maintenance and a preventable mechanical error later leads to an accident, he or she can be held accountable for any resulting injuries. Furthermore, if the school district failed to implement training or failed to oversee such inspections, it too could be held liable in court.