You trust school officials with your children. You trust them to keep them safe, and the same is true of school buses and their drivers. And, for some parents, they have little choice but to use school buses. Unfortunately, school bus accidents happen too in Seattle, and children face serious injuries as a result.
Are they common?
Luckily, they are not common, at least according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but they do happen. They compiled statistics from 2009 to 2018 and found that over 1,207 fatal crashes were reported that involved school buses nationwide. These accidents resulted in about 1,400 deaths, including about 250 children.
These numbers may give parents some modicum of comfort because they show that deaths are relatively rare when compared to the number of bus trips taken every year. However, they do happen, and they happen locally too.
What causes them?
School bus accidents are caused by the same things that cause any other road crash, like weather conditions, road hazards, negligent drivers (bus drivers and other drivers), etc. However, they have the additional layer of danger holding dozens of children.
Different than car accidents
While bus accidents are often caused by the same things that cause car accidents, bus accident lawsuits are not the same. This is because school buses are usually owned and operated by public entities (school districts, cities, municipalities, etc.). This makes suing them much more complicated.
Public entities have qualified immunity that limits their liability. In Washington, public entities are immunized for discretionary acts or omissions, but they must involve planning or policy decisions. On the other hand, they are liable for negligent acts or omissions, if they are ministerial or operational functions.
State and federal regulations
School buses are also subject to state and federal regulations and standards that do not cover everyday drivers. These laws mandate design, maintenance, inspection, driver and equipment standards. And, if they are violated, a court can find that there was negligence without any further proof needed.
Finally, while a car accident will usually involve one driver and one insurance company, a school bus accident may involve multiple parties who all share some responsibility and thus share in the consequences. This can be the driver, the bus owner/operator (subcontractor), bus manufacturer/supplier, bus mechanic/technician, the school district itself, school administrators and staff and even other parents and guardians. It all depends on the facts of the crash itself.