Like many parents, you put your child on the school bus each day and trust the driver to get them there safely. In most cases, your children will get to school just fine day after day. However, a child injured in a school bus accident can be just as jarring as it is unexpected. However, while a school bus may look like your usual auto accident, it is actually much more complex due to the potential for sovereign immunity that can bar you from recovering compensation for your child’s injuries.
What is Sovereign Immunity?
The reason that a school bus accident is more complex than your standard auto accident is not because of the potential number of young victims, but rather because the school district is protected by sovereign immunity. Sovereign, or governmental immunity is what protects governmental entities from liability in civil issues. If your school district owns its buses, then as a school-owned entity, those buses are considered protected by this immunity in the case of accidents.
The good news is that sovereign immunity is often waived in school bus cases where the government employee – the bus driver – was responsible for the accident. Unfortunately, this is what makes the actual legal action more complex. If your child was hurt in a school bus accident, you must first notify the attorney general of your intent to sue. They will examine the accident and determine if they will waive sovereign immunity for it. If it is decided that the case can proceed, you are limited to filing an accident lawsuit against the school district within the next two years. The part that often limits the families of victims of a school bus accident is that you have only 72 hours after the accident to notify the government entity – the school district – of your intent to contact the attorney general.
Do All School Bus Actions Need Sovereign Immunity Waived?
If your child has been injured in a school bus accident, you might not need to worry about sovereign immunity. If you examine the accident report or talk to police officers that handled the accident, you will get a good idea of what caused it. If it was school bus driver negligence, then that is covered by sovereign immunity.
However, if a bus accident was caused by another auto driver, a malfunction of the bus that was due to the lack of maintenance or from the manufacturer, or unanticipated issues like icy roads – these are not covered by sovereign immunity. In these circumstances, you can pursue the case as you would any other personal injury case. If the accident was caused by another auto driver’s negligence, they are liable. If the bus malfunctioned from faulty parts, you can pursue legal action against the manufacturer of the bus, the manufacturer of a specific failed part, or those responsible for maintenance. Unfortunately, if unexpected weather caused the accident, there isn’t much you can do unless you discover negligence in preventing it.
Has your child been in a school bus accident? You will likely be highly focused on making sure they are okay after such a traumatic and serious event, but you will also want to make sure you are taken care of financially. While school buses are designed to be safe, if a child has been seriously hurt, their recovery can cost quite a bit – and you shouldn’t be left paying for it. Contact us today to see what we can do to help you. The Law Office of Freeman & Freeman can help you examine your case to determine liability in order to get you the compensation that your accident deserves.