Episode 47: Western Kentucky injury attorney Jeff Roberts discusses school bus collisions resulting in injuries to the students on board. No parent wants to receive that phone call. These cases can be complicated by factors such as sovereign immunity. However, Jeff explains how these cases are generally handled and who may be held accountable, when negligence is involved.
School Bus Collisions Are Generally Handled as Personal Injury Claims
Jeff begins by reminding us that a school bus involved in a collision with another vehicle, resulting in injuries, is generally a personal injury claim. There may be multiple students injured. If a commercial vehicle is involved, it adds additional factors to be considered.
As we recorded this episode, Jeff comments that there were recently 2 separate school bus collisions in the Murray area. One involved a Murray school bus and the other involved a Calloway County school bus.
Parents Should Seek Medical Treatment for their Children
Children, especially younger children, are resilient. However, they may have pain from injuries they can’t easily explain. Taking your child to a doctor to have them checked out. It’s possible they’ve sustained a concussion or other brain trauma, which might not be physically noticeable.
Another significant risk for children is the potential for PSTD related to the collision. They may have fear or anxiety getting back on a bus or into a vehicle. A licensed therapist can be covered in the medical expense reimbursement, the same as a visit to the doctor’s office.
Common Injuries from School Bus Collisions
Unfortunately, most school buses don’t have seatbelts. A wreck could cause any number of injuries including, but not limited to the following:
- Whiplash (“a soft tissue injury”)
- Broken Bones
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Lacerations Resulting in Scarring
- Amputations, Paralysis or Loss of Use Injuries
Traumatic Brain Injury
A bus wreck or automobile accident could easily result in the driver or passengers sustaining a traumatic brain injury. These can occur at relatively slow speeds. The brain collides with the interior of the skull often resulting in some type of mild or traumatic brain injury. A concussion is a brain injury, for example.
Jeff comments that the students may not show cuts or bruises on their heads, but that doesn’t mean a brain injury has not occurred. These are interior injuries. They are sometimes referred to as closed head injuries.
Symptoms Indicating a Potential Brain Injury
There are symptoms parents should keep an eye out for, if their child has been involved in a collision. Many people fail to realize that changes in their child’s behavior, speech or abilities may be directly indicators of a brain injury. Jeff provides a several common symptoms:
- Mood Swings, including Anger
- Memory Issues
- Difficulty Focusing or Concentrating
- Changes in How They Speak or What They Might Say
- Change in the Child’s Sense of Smell
Interestingly, brain trauma may not show up on an X-ray or MRI. Those are the most common types of test the child might receive in the ER. These could indicate the presence of a bleed or other manifestation, but they don’t fully indicate that a trauma occurred. It’s one reason traumatic brain injuries are often missed.
Wrongful Death Claims
Tragically, it’s possible that one or more students could die either at the time of the collision, or later due to the injuries sustained in the collision. Should this happen, the parents may decide to pursue a wrongful death claim. The parents may also have a loss of consortium claim. This is not a situation any parent wants to face.
Jeff has handled many car accident, motorcycle wreck and trucking collisions, since 1992. He’s very experienced with the emotions surviving family members have as a result of a traffic fatality, especially one involving a child. He understands the importance of the need to be compassionate and to remember the delicate nature of what the family is being forced to experience.
What Is Sovereign Immunity and Why Does It Matter?
Sovereign immunity refers to the fact that the government is immune to being sued, unless they have waved that immunity. In a school bus crash, if the bus driver was the negligent party (i.e. he/she ran a stop sign), you can pursue a claim against the driver and the school board.
Jeff explains that in Kentucky a city school district is usually not entitled to sovereign immunity, but a state or county school district could claim immunity. The parents would need to file a claim against the Board of Claims or County Commission if immunity is sovereign issue. There are different requirements in this type of proceeding.
Mechanical Failures Causing a School Bus Crash
Jeff discusses the situation in which a bus tire blow out leads to a collision. This is usually not the bus driver’s fault (although there could be a claim of negligence against the bus driver). The claim would be filed against the school bus mechanic or supervisor, who are supposed to maintain the equipment. It may be possible to also file a claim against the school system. Mechanical failures could include brakes, turn signals, brake lights, headlights and many other equipment-related issues.
Third-Party Negligence Claims
This is type of claim would be involved if another driver causes the collision. In previous episodes, Jeff has explained limits related to the negligent driver’s insurance. The issue parents need to understand is that even if the attorney or attorneys are able to get the policy limits from the at-fault driver’s coverage, those funds will be divided up among all of the injured students involved as a result of the crash.
The attorney handling the injured student’s claims may be able to find insurance on the school bus or coverage in the parents own policies to provide additional sources to pay for the medical expenses and other damage. This is usually Under Insured Coverage (UIM) or Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM).
If the at-fault driver was intoxicated (alcohol or drugs) at the time of the collision, Jeff would also make a claim for punitive damages. In the event that a commercial vehicle (i.e. deliver truck, tractor trailer, etc.) is involved, this insurance coverages could be significant.
No-Fault Coverage (“PIP Coverage”)
In Kentucky, this important source of coverage is also available to every passenger on the bus. Jeff explains that this coverage would help cover medical expenses and certain other expenses. It will usually provide $10,000 of coverage for each injured victim. Unlike the normal insurance coverage of the at-fault driver, the $10,000 would not need to be divided among the victims.
Parents may also have chosen “added reparations coverage” on their own policies. If this is the case, the PIP benefits could significantly exceed the $10,000. You might consider speaking with your automobile insurance agent about this option.
This Is Not a “Walk It Off” Situation
If your child has been injured in a school bus crash, you should definitely take the situation seriously. It’s important to talk with your child. You may observe changes in their physical movements or mood swings. If they simply don’t seem to be themselves, it may be a symptom of a serious issue. At least consider a visit to your pediatrician. Remember, your PIP claim should easily handle an office visit.
If you child is exhibiting signs of PTSD, it’s important that you consider involving a counselor or therapist who can work with your child. PTSD is a serious situation and can have a significant impact on your child’s quality of life. Mental health treatment is healthcare. If it’s related to the bus crash, treatment will also be handled by your PIP coverage.
Jeff Roberts Represents Injured Clients Throughout Kentucky
With offices located in Calloway County and now Christian County, Jeff has a history of representing personal injury clients, workers’ compensation clients and social security disability clients across the state. He’s represented clients from Paducah, Bowling Green, Louisville, Covington, Whitesville and many other Kentucky locations. He’s not just a Western Kentucky injury attorney.
We hope you found this episode insightful and helpful. Thank you for listening!
Is It Time to Speak with an Attorney about Your School Bus Injury Claim?
The office phone number is (270) 753-0053 or toll free at 800-844-5108. For more information, visit www.JeffRobertsLaw.com. This podcast is meant to provide information and is not legal advice. Jeff’s principal office is located at 509 Main Street, Murray, Kentucky. Co-host Jim Ray is a non-attorney spokesperson. This is an advertisement.