It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. You send your child to school, watch them as they go on the bus, thinking it’s the safest way to get to class anyway. Then you get the news: something happened.
Yes, school buses are a safe option for children to get to school. There’s a lot of regulations to ensure it. For instance, New York is one of the few states in America that make it illegal for cars to pass a school bus, even if the vehicle is on the opposite side of traffic. It’s an extra precaution meant to guarantee safety. But accidents can happen, and when they do, it’s important to know what to do from a legal perspective.
If your child is injured during a school bus ride in Queens, here’s what your legal options are.
Who Is Responsible?
The first step in figuring out what you should do in this situation is to determine who is responsible for the accident. And, in a school bus incident, various parties may be liable:
- The bus driver, meaning they were the one causing the accident;
- The bus manufacturer, if some defect caused the crash;
- Other vehicles that didn’t respect school bus state rules.
Suing the School District
In most cases, the school district is also the legal owner of the school bus, which would theoretically make it liable if and when incidents occur. However, getting compensation can be quite tricky, as the school district is a government entity, and they are often exempted from civil liability.
The process is a bit more complicated when it involves a government institution, and it usually requires:
- Serving a notice of intent;
- Wait for the attorney general review; if they determine the immunity stands, then the lawsuit cannot go forward;
Keep in mind that you may file a personal injury claim against the school district within two years from the date of the accident if the damages do not exceed $1000. If they do, you are required to file the claim within 72 hours, and any claims after that are dismissed.
Suing the Other Driver
If another driver caused the accident, then the legal process is more straightforward. The driver who is at fault is held liable and will most likely compensate the victims through their insurance policy.
However, even if the claim is settled amicably, it’s wise to hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you. Part of their process involves building a case against the other driver by collecting evidence that they were at fault or have priors. The Queens accident attorney can use this case to negotiate a better settlement.
If the insurance company does not pay the settlement, then you can file a lawsuit for compensation. These cases are commonly settled ‘out of court’ meaning that the lawyers from both parties will negotiate a deal.
Suing the Manufacturer
Getting compensation from the company that made the vehicle can prove problematic, mainly if it’s a big corporation. In these cases, you can try and enter a ‘class action’ suit if there are more victims seeking damages. However, while there is no minimum number of plaintiffs for a class action, larger numbers tend to be more effective.
The lawyers will have to prove the bus had a defect to justify the claim, which is often a hard thing to do. They’ll have to work with experts to build their case and prove the malfunction caused the accident and not other factors.
The chain of events after your child is involved in a school bus accident should look like this:
1. Tend to the child and make sure they are alright;
2. Contact a lawyer as soon as you can.
Whoever is responsible should offer you fair compensation for the pain and suffering of the child, and the best way to ensure that happens is with the help of a lawyer.