Legal Issues Following Panama City School Bus Accident

There are few times as anticipated by schoolchildren as the final days before school lets out for winter break. While summer break is longer, for many youngsters winter break brings the ideal union of no school and holiday presents. For a group of local students, the final school days of December 2012 will also be memorable for a Bay County school bus accident. The event is a reminder for all of us of the importance of school bus safety. For our Panama City injury law firm, the collision is also a reminder of the complex intersection of school buses and accident law.

School Bus and Three Cars Involved in Chain-Reaction Collision

According to the News Herald, a Bay District school bus rear-ended a car on Thursday afternoon, sparking a chain reaction collision with two additional automobiles. The accident happened at the intersection of Transmitter Road and Douglas Road. 41 middle school students were onboard at the time of the crash. Bill Husflet, Superintendent of Bay District Schools, spoke with the press and said the bus driver told law enforcement that the bus would not come to a stop. None of the students were injured, but emergency medical officials did provide services to two people from the three other vehicles involved. No further details on their injuries were reported. Springfield Police Chief Phillip Thorne indicated that the crash is under investigation.

School Bus Accidents: Causes & Unique Legal Issues

School bus accidents, like other roadway crashes, can have a wide range of causes. Like other drivers, school bus drivers can be guilty of negligence or wrongdoing, ranging from driving too fast for road conditions to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Bus drivers may also be inadequately trained or may fail to adhere to special rules governing school bus vehicles, such as the requirement that they stop at all railroad crossings. Collisions involving school buses can also stem from the vehicles themselves, with collisions being due to an inherent product defect or improper maintenance. Of course, fault may also lie with another private driver, including one who fails to yield to a stopped school vehicle.

Florida law (Title XLVIII, Section 1006.22) provides that "[m]aximum regard for safety and adequate protection of health" are the top priority of school districts when planning routes and operating school buses. The law also provides that districts are liable for tort claims (i.e. civil accident claims) involving school buses to the same extent that the state and state agencies are subject to tort claims (Title XLVIII, Section 1006.24). Although the general principle of sovereign immunity bars suits against the government, statutory law provides specific exceptions allowing claims and this provision makes those same rules applicable to claims against a school entity for a bus accident. It also means that these suits are subject to a very complicated set of procedural requirements.

To put it simply, Florida school bus accident cases are complex. Whether the claim is against another private citizen or against the school entity, an injured victim needs a law firm that understands this complexity. Wes Pittman has the experience and knowledge necessary to help those injured in Panama City school bus accidents to recover, regardless of whether the claim is against a private individuals or a school entity.

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