March 4, 2012 – The recent rash of school bus accidents has placed a spotlight on the dangers faced by our children each day as they head out to school. The tragic February 16th school bus accident in Chesterfield, Burlington County, New Jersey left one little girl dead, and 17 other children hospitalized including her two triplet sisters and a young boy in critical condition. Less than a week later, a box truck careened into a car, starting a chain-reaction accident involving a Cumberland County, New Jersey school bus and sending 7 students to the hospital. Just days ago, a school bus crashed and overturned just outside Allentown, Pennsylvania. Fortunately, although all the children aboard that bus where taken to a Lehigh Valley hospital as a precaution, no one was injured. Unfortunately, however, it is just another example of just how at risk our children are.
The causes of bus accidents can be similar to those of other motor vehicle accidents. They include dangerous road conditions, poor equipment maintenance and improper operation, and most frequently, human error. In fact, in a recent study commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, researchers looking at the causes of 39 New Jersey bus accidents found that driver actions and/or failure to act or react to present conditions were a significant factor in bus accidents studied. The study found that almost 50% of the reasons for the accidents were attributable to the bus, with almost all those reasons being bus driver error. Of the remaining 50% of the accidents caused by something other than the bus, 80% were attributable to the driver of another vehicle failing to properly act or react, and 20% were caused by an action of a pedestrian. Clearly, driver error – whether that of the bus driver or the driver of the other vehicle – is an overwhelming cause of concern for the safety of bus passengers.
Of even more concern is the realization that overcoming driver error and avoiding a crash is more difficult in the case of a bus accident because of the size and maneuverability of buses. Also, as compared to an accident involving regular passenger vehicles, the severity of a crash and the extent of the personal injuries in a bus crash can be more extensive. Due to their high center of gravity, buses have a propensity for rollovers and the lack of school bus seatbelt requirements in most states, including Pennsylvania, arguably leaves our children vulnerable to ejection and traumatic brain injuries in the case of a rollover. When you or a loved one is injured in a bus accident, you need to consult with a team of experienced bus accident attorneys who understand the special issues involved in proving the causes of a bus accident and who will help you receive full compensation for your injuries.
In the Chesterfield school bus accident, the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating how several factors played into the causation of the crash at a dangerous intersection. The bus driver stopped in accordance with the traffic controls at the intersection, but pulled into the intersection to get a better view when his line of sight was restricted by environment factors. He has alleged that he didn’t see the oncoming dump truck until it was too late to avoid the crash. What part did poor road and line of sight maintenance, by government entities and/or private property owners, contribute to the deadly crash? In addition, the bus driver had only three-weeks of experience and had driven that route only nine times. Did his lack of experience, and possible lack of proper training, contribute to the accident? The dump truck that struck the school bus and sent it spinning into a utility pole was found to be 2 tons more than its capacity limit of 80,000 pounds. Did this violation of weight restrictions impact the driver’s ability to stop before hitting the bus and add to the severity of the crash and resulting personal injuries? These are just a few considerations that are being reviewed by the NTSB in its ongoing investigation and just a few of the considerations that would be addressed by experience, knowledgeable bus accident attorneys.
The Philadelphia personal injury lawyers of Messa & Associates are skilled trial attorneys in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Our accident attorneys have decades of experience litigating complicated lawsuits involving catastrophic injuries resulting from all types of motor vehicle accidents. We understand the complexities of proving causation in an accident case when several factors come together and result in a tragedy of traumatic personal injury or even death. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a New Jersey or Pennsylvania bus accident, or other motor vehicle crash, call us today for a free consultation to discuss your matter or contact us online.
Joseph L. Messa, Jr. is the founding partner of Messa & Associates, P.C. He is an AV-rated attorney (highest rating available), listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. Read More