Liability for School Bus Accident in North Carolina

school busRecently, a county school bus was involved in a crash in Greensboro. It was headed to a middle school. A car involved in the crash overturned, and somebody inside was trapped and then taken to the hospital. The bus was full of kids, and one person was moved by stretcher out of the bus, but it wasn’t clear at the time whether the person being moved was a child or adult.

Sometimes North Carolina school bus accidents are results of mechanical problems or defects, but most are results of driver negligence — either the school bus driver’s or somebody else’s. Another reason for crashes is driver fatigue. A driver may be sleepy while driving, particularly on early morning drives. Some accidents happen because of driver mistakes. A bus driver may fail to slow for a yellow light, or a driver in another vehicle may fail to stop and wait when the bus displays flashing red lights. Often, drivers try to go around a stopped school bus, which endangers the kids who are being picked up or dropped off.

It can be challenging to recover damages after your child is injured in a school bus accident. If the bus is owned by a private company, you may be able to sue the driver and the company for negligence. This means you would need to show that the defendant owed you a duty of care, breached it, and thereby caused injuries. Under the doctrine of vicarious liability, the company could be held indirectly liable for the driver’s negligent acts. The company could also be held directly liable if it failed to use due care while hiring or supervising the driver. For example, if a driver had multiple DUIs, but the company hired him without conducting a background check, and then the accident occurred because of the driver’s drunk driving, the company could be held directly liable for negligent hiring.

However, the situation is somewhat different if the school bus is public, and the driver was hired by a county or city. The doctrine of sovereign immunity bars some lawsuits against governmental entities. The doctrine of sovereign immunity exempts governmental entities and liabilities for their agents’ torts, except when sovereign immunity has been waived. Under the North Carolina Tort Claims Act, the North Carolina Industrial Commission has jurisdiction to hear and decide tort claims against county and city boards of education for school bus accidents. The driver must be a county or city employee who is paid or authorized to be paid by the county or city. Alternatively, the driver must be an unpaid school bus driver trainee who’s being supervised by the Department of Transportation, the Division of Motor Vehicles, or another authorized employee of their boards or county or city administrative units.

In these cases, instead of suing in civil court, you must file a claim with the Commission. The Commission’s finding, however, can be appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The maximum amount that can be recovered cumulatively by all accident victims for one person’s acts in one occurrence is $1 million.

If you suffered injuries due to the fault of another driver, the experienced Charlotte car accident lawyers at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. We represent clients in the Charlotte, NC metro area and also in Greensboro, NC and Winston-Salem, NC. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.

More Blog Posts You Might Be Interested In:

Vicarious Liability in a North Carolina Trucking Accident

Intervening Negligence by a Plaintiff Motorcyclist in North Carolina

Wrongful Death and Contributory Negligence in North Carolina