North Carolina children should be able to safely cross the street to their school bus, and, most of the time, they can do exactly that. However, even when parents take all the proper precautions, school bus related accidents can sometimes happen. If your child has suffered personal injuries while crossing the street to board the school bus, the North Carolina accident attorneys of Maginnis Law can help you hold all negligent parties responsible. Unlike other firms who may only pursue claims against the driver who struck your child, our firm will look at whether there were other root causes of the school bus incident, including whether the bus driver and school system met their “standard of care.” By doing so, we can make sure that you and your child are fully compensated for the physical harms and financial losses caused by the accident.
Automobile Driver Negligence
The first party to typically offer to settle a personal injury or wrongful death claim after a child is struck while crossing the street to board the school bus is the automobile insurance company for the driver who struck the child. This is only natural, as their insured’s negligence is usually the most obvious. If your child’s injuries are significant, as they often times are when a child is struck by a car, the carrier will usually offer to “tender the limits” of its insurance policy. Unfortunately, in North Carolina, these limits can be completely inadequate to compensate all of the harms of a serious child pedestrian accident. In a high publicity case our firm handled for an Apex boy who was struck while crossing the street to his Wake County School Bus, the at-fault driver had only $30,000 of car insurance. This was insufficient, as the boy had suffered multiple facial and ankle fractures.
Bus Driver Negligence
When the at-fault driver’s automobile insurance is insufficient, a competent North Carolina attorney should always evaluate whether there was negligence on the part of the school bus driver. There are certain tasks that all North Carolina school bus drivers are supposed to perform to minimize the chance of harm to the students they transport to school each day. For example, in a recent case we determined from the data recorded by the school bus that, on a dark, foggy morning, the bus driver had never activated her amber lights and had just turned her red lights on immediately before the crash. This did not provide the other driver sufficient warning that a bus stop was up ahead and the school bus was about to stop. Other tasks a driver must do when load and unloading include checking for danger, activating red lights, only opening the door when it’s safe to do so, and they now must signal to children when it’s safe to cross. For a full list of a bus driver’s obligations, see pages 11 and 12 of the North Carolina School Bus Driver Handout.
School System Negligence
The final evaluation we make is whether the bus route was properly designed. We have found that over the past 5 to 10 years, school systems have been designing bus routes that maximize financial savings but increase safety risks. For example, the routes often require children to cross fast, dangerous roads when they previously did not. While negligent school bus route design claims can be procedurally very difficult because of sovereign immunity and insurance coverage issues, they may provide an avenue of additional recovery if your child has been seriously injured or killed.
Free Consultation and Contingency Fee Arrangement
The Raleigh attorneys of Maginnis Law handle school bus accident cases on a contingency fee basis – meaning that you and your child pay no attorneys’ fees unless and until a settlement or verdict is recovered. Our lead personal injury attorney, T. Shawn Howard, is experienced in handling complex accident cases. He has been on the forefront of trying to ensure that children have rights when the school system incorrectly forces them to cross dangerous roads. If you would like to schedule a free consultation with Shawn, call Maginnis Law at (919) 526-0450 or visit our contact page.