Articles Posted in Bus Accidents

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In a recent case in New Jersey, a pedestrian was struck by a city bus in an intersection.  The bus’ impact caused catastrophic injuries to the pedestrian including permanent brain injury, as well as multiple fractures and broken bones.

What is as, if not more, troubling about this accident is that the driver of the bus had a record of being involved in over 50 accidents during his 30-year course of driving for his employer.  What’s more, the driver had over 40 violations during his employment for issues ranging from distracted and careless driving, driving with a suspended license, and failing to follow police instructions.  Yet, the bus company allowed the driver to continue to drive buses despite the egregious driving record the employee had.  When this happens, an employer can be held responsible for their employee’s negligence.

Under Georgia law, and in most states as well, if an employee commits a negligent act while on the job, the employer can be liable for their employee’s negligence under the theory of respondeat superior.  An employer can also be held independently liable for injuries caused by their employee’s actions under the theory of negligent hiring, supervision or retention.  If the injury victim can prove that the employer knew or should have known that the employee had the tendency to engage in certain behaviors, such as careless driving, and that the accident and injuries were caused by similar behavior, the employer can be liable for failing to properly hire, supervise or retain the employee.

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According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, two drivers were injured Wednesday morning when two school buses collided in DeKalb County. A bus from Bright Beginnings Learning Center, traveling southbound, rear-ended a DeKalb County special needs bus en route to McNair High School.

While no children were harmed during this particular bus accident, the collision itself brings back to minds of auto accident attorneys the as of yet unresolved question regarding school bus seatbelt safety and the requirement of safety belts on large school buses. It’s a question that causes concerns about accident and wrongful death claims as well.

In 2008, in a move designed to curb the approximate 10,000 child injuries that occurred each year as a result of school bus crashes, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration did require the installation of seat and shoulder belts on smaller buses. The new federal regulations also stipulated that seat backs be raised on all school buses from 20 inches to 24 inches high, preventing children from tumbling forward during sudden stops.

However, as a story from the Injury News Board pointed out, there was still a “huge gap left by the regulations. Seat belts are still not required on the large school buses. NHTSA has not resolved that question, but instead it sets standards for seat belts on the larger buses in which most children ride.”

The choice by the NHTSA to allow this question to go largely unresolved seems to be starkly incongruous, especially in light of the fact that bus drivers themselves are required to wear restraints when transporting students. Furthermore, the standards set, while providing guidelines, are nothing more than mere suggestions that protect bus manufacturers against liability for accidents. Consumer group, Public Citizen, sees the omission as extending a “blanket of immunity to the manufacturing industry,” writes reporter Jane Akre.
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The federal administration has rejected a petition by consumer safety groups calling for the installation of seat belts on school buses. According to the administration, it does not have enough evidence to indicate that the benefits of installing seatbelts on all school buses would justify the heavy expenses involved. This position is reprehensible. It is well known that seatbelts save lives and in this case, we are talking about the lives of innocent children.

As Atlanta bus accident lawyers and parents ourselves, the topic of school bus safety is one that’s particularly close to us, especially now that schools have started and thousands of children across Atlanta and Georgia are traveling by school buses. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this week announced that it is rejecting a petition by consumer safety groups, asking for seatbelts on all school buses.

Safety groups including the Center for Auto Safety and the National Coalition for School Bus Safety had submitted a petition for a federal mandate for seat belts on all school buses. However, the agency has said that requiring seatbelts on all school buses means heavy expenses. According to the agency estimates, installing seatbelts would cost between $5,485 and $7,346 for a large school bus. These seatbelts are expected to cost between $375 and $600 each.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes that the safety benefits from requiring seat belts on school buses do not justify these expenses. The agency also believes that it would be better for the federal administration to stay out of this issue, and leave it to state and local governments.
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