A school bus was struck by an 18-wheeler on October 25, causing injuries but no deaths. The crash occurred on Highway 71 at Tucker Hill Lane, just outside of Austin, where the truck driver ran through a red light – surveillance video from a nearby gas station shows the accident and showed the truck clearly failing to stop. The bus driver and 9 students were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment, though the exact extent of the damage remains unknown as of this writing. While school bus accidents are rare, parents should know that if their child is injured, it is possible to try to hold someone liable for the accident.
Bus Drivers Have Rules
There are multiple potential causes of school bus accidents, though the cause of the Hwy 71 crash appears apparent enough. Many of them usually have to do with bus driver error (yes, even school bus drivers) – speeding, driving recklessly, such as going too fast in inclement weather, and alcohol or drug abuse can all contribute. Other causes may include poorly maintained roads (especially with a large vehicle like a school bus, a pothole can cause problems).
School buses have heightened duties with regard to the duty of care owed to passengers. While drivers must meet specific requirements in order to be licensed and certified, school buses are also classified in general as common carriers in Texas (the state follows the common law classifications for such things). A common carrier is a commercial company or entity paid to transport goods or people, who is then responsible for the well-being of the transport. If someone suffers an injury while using a common carrier like a school bus, they may be able to receive additional compensation above what they might otherwise, just because a common carrier has a higher duty it is supposed to uphold.
The Texas Tort Claims Act
One potential issue with bringing suit against a school district or other entity that owns and maintains school buses is that many of these are considered governmental entities or offshoots. Traditionally, it was not possible under U.S. law to bring suit against federal or state governments, because if it were, the states would not be able to govern. However, over the last century, laws have been passed allowing certain exceptions.
Texas’ is called the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA), and it explicitly allows for lawsuits against the government if they concern property damage, injury or death resulting from an employee acting “within the scope of their employment” (that is, while engaged in work or something related to work) if caused by the “operation or use of a motor-driven vehicle.” While this will not cover all bus accidents, and it does not address the potential affirmative defenses that a school district could bring up, it does circumvent a major legal obstacle in most cases.
Can a School Bus Accident Attorney Help You?
For a parent, having their child be injured is one of the most frightening events possible. However, there are options for your family to be compensated so that your child and you can both focus on resting and healing. The passionate New Braunfels bus accident attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm can try to help answer your questions and give guidance on where to go from here. Call our office today at 888-392-0039 to schedule an initial consultation.