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When you send your child off to school in someone else’s care, you want to believe that they are safe. Fortunately, the nation’s school children generally are quite safe on the buses that transport them to and from school. Injuries to child passengers on school buses are fairly uncommon, and fatalities quite rare.
School Bus Injury Statistics
In 2020, there were 4,800 injuries associated with school bus accidents. But, only a small percentage of those injured were students traveling on the buses. Nationwide, just 600 children were injured as passengers on school buses, or about 12.5% of those injured in school bus crashes.
Of course, 2020 numbers aren’t entirely representative. Pandemic-related school shutdowns and partial-week attendance meant that far fewer children were riding on school buses. In previous years, the numbers were larger and the percentage attributable to passengers on the bus also somewhat larger. But, students riding the bus still made up a minority of those injured in bus-related accidents.
For example, in 2019, there were about 13,000 injuries associated with school bus collisions. 6,000 of those injuries were to occupants of other vehicles, 1,000 were to school bus drivers themselves, and another 1,000 were to pedestrians. That’s a total of 8,000, or 61.5% of those injured in bus crashes that year. Still, about 5,000 school bus passengers were injured in bus crashes.
That sounds like a pretty large number. However, it’s important to note that nearly 500,000 school buses around the United States transport about 23 million children each school day. In other words, the chances of any child passenger on a school bus being injured during a given year are about 1 in 5,000. And, the odds of a particular child being injured as a passenger in a school bus accident on any given day of the school year are about one in one million.
School Bus Fatalities
School bus fatalities are even rarer. In 2020, there were just 54 school bus casualties nationwide, and just one of those killed in a school bus crash was a passenger on the bus. In previous years, the number of fatalities was approximately double the 2020 number, due to the greater number of trips and of children riding school buses. Still, the number of school bus passengers killed in traffic crashes was very low. In fact, that number has been a single digit in every year since 2010.
Liability for Ohio School Bus Injuries
Overall, children are pretty safe on Ohio school buses. But, accidents do happen. It is important to know what your rights are if your child has been injured on a school bus. And, while school children on the bus are generally our first thought when we hear of a bus crash, we know they aren’t the most likely to be injured or killed. Other school bus accident victims may also need and be entitled to compensation.
How Does Sovereign Immunity Impact Liability for School Bus Accidents?
Usually, an Ohio employer is legally responsible for injuries caused by the negligence of their employees if the incident occurs while the employee is performing their duties for the employer. But, this liability doesn’t always apply when the employer is a political subdivision. Ohio law protects governmental units from a wide range of civil liability.
However, the law contains a specific exception for motor vehicle accidents. ORC §2744.02(B)(1) provides:
Except as otherwise provided in this division, political subdivisions are liable for injury, death, or loss to person or property caused by the negligent operation of any motor vehicle by their employees when the employees are engaged within the scope of their employment and authority.
None of the exceptions to this provision relate to school buses. In other words, someone injured by a negligent school bus driver has the same basic rights to recover against the school district as they might have to recover against a furniture store if they had been hit by a driver operating a company owned delivery truck.
Ohio law (ORC §3327.09) also requires the board of education for each school district to secure liability insurance for school bus drivers. The minimum amount of insurance required is:
- $100,000 per person
- $300,000 per occurrence
- $50,000 for property damage, and
- $3,000 in medical payments coverage
This potential liability extends to children riding on the school bus, but also to other people who are injured or suffer property damage as the result of a school bus accident. For example:
- Drivers of and passengers in other vehicles that are injured in or as a result of a school bus crash
- A pedestrian or bicyclist who is hit by a school bus
- A property owner whose property is damaged as the result of a school bus accident the last accident, such as the owner of a motor vehicle that is damaged in a collision with a school bus or a homeowner whose 100-year-old tree is knocked down due to a school bus accident
Liability of Other Parties
All of the information above relates to the liability of a school district for an accident caused by the bus driver’s negligence. However, other people may bear or share liability for a school bus accident. For example:
- Another motorist may have caused or significantly contributed to the collision. In that case, the other driver could be liable to anyone who was injured or who sustained property damage in the crash. This includes children who may have been riding on the school bus at the time of the collision.
- The school bus driver may be individually liable for accidents caused in whole or part by the driver’s negligence.
- Under certain circumstances, someone not directly involved in the crash may be wholly or partly responsible for damages. Some possible examples include the manufacturer of a defective vehicle part (on the bus or on another vehicle involved in the collision) that caused or contributed to the crash, or the part responsible for faulty road design or maintenance that contributed to the collision.
An Experienced Ohio Bus Accident Lawyer is Your Best Resource
Ohio law makes school districts responsible if their bus drivers negligently injure or kill someone, or even damage their property. But, that doesn’t mean the school district will simply cut you a check to cover your medical expenses and other losses. At Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz, we’ve been fighting for fair compensation for injury victims for decades.
To learn more about how we can help, call 937-222-2222 or fill out the contact form on this page.