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What Happens If My Child is Injured in a School Bus Accident?

Post By Corey Heit

What to do if your child is in a school bus accident is one of those questions that hits you at 3 am and prevents you from getting back to sleep.

You hope to never need a definitive answer, but you also know that school buses crash and some children’s parents face the tough tasks of both nursing their son or daughter back to health and holding negligent or reckless drivers legally accountable.

For instance, one analysis determined that during 2015, 1,319 crashes involving school buses in Ohio left 289 bus passengers injured. Police assigned fault for 601 of these crashes to bus drivers, and for another 588 to drivers of other vehicles. Fault could not be conclusively determined in the remaining cases.

These statistics only tell part of the story, however. Crashes between buses and cars are the most common incidents, but pedestrians and bike riders also get hit by buses. Students walking through school parking lots and waiting at bus stops are particularly at risk for getting hit and hurt.

So, again, what should you do if your child got injured in a school bus crash?

The first, and most important, thing is to ensure your child receives medical care. Even if the injuries appear minor, visit the emergency room or your pediatrician. A full examination might reveal a concussion or internal injuries that produced few immediately obvious symptoms.

Keep all the paperwork you receive from doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers. Producing those documents will be essential if you pursue insurance claims or file a personal injury lawsuit.

Rely on your own health insurance to cover medical bills and prescription costs. Never wait to access health care. If reimbursement must be made from a crash settlement or civil trial jury award, your health insurer will deal directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to make those arrangements.

And do be aware that you can file claims against the at-fault driver even if that individual is the school bus driver who is employed by the school or school district. A controlling opinion from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office that is backed up by multiple Ohio Supreme Court rulings states that

A driver of a school wagon or motor van, used in the transportation of pupils to and from the public schools, is individually liable for injuries caused by the negligence of such driver in the operation of such wagon or motor van, even though such driver was at the time employed by a board of education and was engaged in the performance of a public duty required by law to be performed by such board of education. Such liability may be enforced in a civil action sounding in tort. In addition, under the holding of the Supreme Court of Ohio … a driver of a wagon or motor van, used in the transportation of pupils to and from the public schools, together with his sureties, are liable on the bond of the driver … for the negligent operation of the school wagon or motor van by such driver, in the performance of the duties for which he was employed, and such liability may be enforced against the driver and his sureties in a proper action brought for that purpose.

Strip out the legal jargon, and you end up with a legal right to sue both a bus driver and the bus driver’s employer. The employer, who is usually the city or county school board, also has a duty to insure its bus drivers.

A school board will fight personal injury claims, so partnering with a dedicated and caring personal injury attorney makes sense. The lawyer will know the law and make sure that the school board follows the rules and acts in good faith.

If the unthinkable happens and your child suffers injuries in an Ohio school bus crash, consider reaching out to Corey Heit of Heit Law. From his offices in Westerville, Corey advises and represents personal injury clients in Columbus and throughout Franklin County. He offers free consultations to all potential clients, and he takes appointments online. You can also speak with Corey by calling (614) 898-5300.

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