Imagine getting the call that your child has been injured in a school bus crash, when you had already complained about the driver earlier that school year. Tennessee parents felt that recently when their children were involved in a fatal school bus crash.
No one wants to think about children being hurt on school buses. Between 2005 and 2014, only 53 children died in school bus accidents. With nearly 25 million children taking the bus in America every day, you might expect it to be more common.
Just before Thanksgiving that number jumped. A school bus driver for Hamilton County Schools in Chattanooga, Tennessee was transporting approximately three dozen Woodmore Elementary School students when he lost control and crashed. Five children died and another 12 were taken to the hospital. Six remain in intensive care.
Federal Agencies Investigate School Bus Crash
The crash triggered investigations at all levels, starting with the National Transportation Safety Board. The Durham School Services, which employed the bus driver, has contracts across the country, busing over a million schoolchildren every day. Now, their records and their hiring practices are being called into question. If it is found that Durham didn’t properly screen drivers, the company could face lawsuits by the victims’ families.
Individual Liability for Reckless Bus Driver
The Chattanooga Police Department has arrested the driver for vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving. They say the driver was traveling well above the street’s 30 m.p.h. speed limit when the bus fell on its side, struck a mailbox, an elevated driveway, and a telephone pole, and ended up wrapped around a large tree.
But this isn’t the first time the driver has raised safety concerns. He was in a minor bus accident in September. In addition, many parents and students had reported his reckless behavior. The New York Times reports:
“The bus driver drives fast,” the Woodmore Elementary School student wrote. The driver of Bus No. 366, the child added, drove so that it felt “like the bus is going to flip over.” And when a student stood in the aisle, the child wrote, the driver “stops the bus and he makes people hit their head.”
The Hamilton County School District received many complaints, including that the driver would intentionally swerve to knock children over, and slam on the brakes, causing them to fall out of their seats. When all this evidence comes to light, the driver will most likely be found liable for the loss of the children’s lives.
Lawsuits against school transportation companies can be complicated. It’s a matter of showing what the employers knew and when they knew it. But if the Tennessee lawyers are able to demonstrate the school, and its transportation contractor ignored the risk, the families may be able to see compensation for their losses.
David Christensen is a personal injury attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents school bus crash victims against school districts. If your child was hurt because of a school bus driver’s negligence, contact Christensen Law for a free consultation.