Fatal Bus Accident Caused by Negligence

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Charges are likely to be filed against a school bus driver who allegedly ran a red light, causing a fatal car accident on October 19.

According to local police, the crash occurred on Monday afternoon when the school bus, which was transporting 15 junior high school girls on the volleyball team, struck a passenger car that was turning left onto the Parkway in front of it.

The driver of the passenger car - 25-year-old Mikinzie Cassandra Watts - was airlifted to a Nevada hospital. She died from her injuries Monday night.

Nobody riding on the school bus was injured.

The accident is still under investigation and police say charges are pending in the case, but are likely to be filed on behalf of Watts' family.

Bus Accident Injuries

While buses are a fairly safe mode of transportation, dozens of people are still injured in bus accidents every year. Injuries sustained during a bus accident come in a wide range – from whiplash to serious trauma, and even death. Since many buses are not equipped with seatbelts, their passengers are left unrestrained. In an accident this can lead whiplash, head injuries, soft tissue injuries, broken bones, or a combination of all these. When a bus comes into contact with a pedestrian or passenger car, there are numerous injuries that can result, simply because a bus is so much larger than a car or human body. In cases such as these, the victim is entitled to compensation for injuries and life changes sustained as a result of that accident.

Rear- End Accidents

In a rear-end accident the impact propels the driver’s and passengers' bodies forward while their heads stay in place. This action exposes the neck to sudden, extreme extension and flexion that follows a whip-like motion. Opposite to popular belief, whiplash is commonly caused by low speed, low impact, rear-end automobile collisions.

Other Types of Whiplash Incidents

Whiplash can also occur in other types of accidents not limited to but including the following:

  • car and truck accidents that don’t involve rear-end impact
  • contact sports such as football, hockey, and soccer
  • intentional assaults
  • skiing and snowboarding accidents
  • repetitive stress injuries that occur at work
  • child abuse (shaken baby syndrome, for example), and
  • slips and falls that occur in stores and homes or on poorly-maintained sidewalks.

Symptoms of Whiplash

If you’ve been involved in an accident you should look for signs of a whiplash or neck injury. It may take several days for symptoms to appear. Symptoms include:

  • neck pain and stiffness
  • decreased range of motion
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • shoulder, arm, or back pain
  • unusual sensations such as burning, prickling, or tingling in arms
  • sleep disturbance, fatigue, or trouble concentrating, and
  • other cognitive or psychological difficulties.

Legal Note: Personal injury attorneys will often avoid using the word “whiplash” due to the fact that in recent years the word “whiplash” has come to be associated with fake or exaggerated personal injury claims.  These types of injuries are now commonly referred to by more technical names like hyperextension/hyperflexion injury, myofascial injury, neck sprain or strain, and cervical strain or sprain. If you have been involved in an accident it might be a good idea to avoid using the word in your personal injury action or insurance claim.

Added Risks of Riding in Bus

There are also added risks that come with riding in a bus, such as a higher risk of rollover and the lack of seatbelts or safety restraints. Because of this, there is greater risk for higher levels of injury. There are claims that are specific to bus accidents, and you’ll need to know your rights if you are involved in this type of accident.

Unique Claims

When it comes to assigning fault in a bus accident, it can be difficult. This is because buses are often owned by a wide variety of entities – government, school districts, and public transportation bureaus. Filing these kinds of claims can be far more difficult than filing a typical insurance claim in a car accident.

Determining Liability

Often some form of initial investigation will be required to determine liability in the bus accident. Various things factor into this, including:

  • Fatigued bus driver
  • Untrained, or inadequately trained drivers
  • DUI
  • A bus that is improperly loaded or overloaded
  • Poorly maintained bus

What to Do

The first thing you should do if you are involved in a bus accident is get medical attention. Injuries can often take time to appear as well, so you might not see or feel anything until weeks later. Also, keep a journal of any injuries sustained. Note how painful the injuries are. This journal should also include all hospital vists and any medical bills that pertain to the sustained injuries. All this will be used as evidence if you decide to pursue a claim. At that point, it is advised that you contact an attorney that can help you build your case.

Negligence

Most cases involving personal injury require that “negligence” be established as the fault for the accident. An injured person and his or her legal team will need to establish that the other person’s negligent actions caused the injury. To understand negligence, you’ll want to understand two other concepts: duty of care, and the “breach” of that duty.

“Duty of care” is the responsibility one person has to avoid causing harm to another person. With a personal injury claim or lawsuit a lawyer will need to prove that another person had a  duty of care in the accident that caused the injury.  An injured person (called the plaintiff) will need to demonstrate exactly how the other party (called the defendant) failed to meet that duty of care. After duty of care is established, it will need to be shown that the plaintiff sustained real injuries that were caused by that breach of duty of care.

Level of Reasonable Care

For a plaintiff to demonstrate a breach of care he or she, or their legal team will need to show that actions either taken or not taken by the defendant failed to me a level of reasonable care. An appropriate level of reasonable care will be determined by the specific situation surrounding the case.

Establishing Who Is At Fault

After duty of care is established, a plaintiff  needs to establish exactly how the defendant “breached” the standard of care. Either the defendant did something or failed to do something that would have been reasonable under the circumstances. It will need to be shown that the defendant is legally at fault for causing the injuries sustained by the plaintiff.

For example, with a car accident, fault can be established a number of ways, including:

  • showing the defendant violated a traffic law. A police report can be helpful for determining this.
  • testimony of eyewitness to the accident,
  • the plaintiff’s own testimony regarding what happened, and
  • examination of evidence at the accident scene, including vehicle damage.

Comparative Fault

Occasionally a plaintiff will share fault with the defendant. In these cases it must be shown that the plaintiff’s own conduct played a role in causing his or her injuries in addition to the defendant’s negligence. For example, in the car accident scenario, perhaps the defendant made an abrupt left turn in front of the plaintiff’s car. But if the plaintiff was shown to be driving at a limit above the speed limit the the jury or insurance adjuster might decide that the plaintiff’s own negligence played a part in causing the accident.

Every state follows some variation of one of two legal rules: comparative negligence or contributory negligence.

In comparative negligence states each party is able to collect collect damages equal to the percent of fault that belongs to the other party. So in the above example, the plaintiff’s total compensation or damages award would be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of his or her fault.

In contributory negligence states, if a plaintiff is found to be even one percent responsible for causing the accident, he or she is not able to collect damages from other at-fault defendants.

Lastly, to establish negligence the plaintiff will need to show how he or she was harmed by the defendant’s action (or inaction).

Reconstructing the Accident

When an accident occurs, and there are no eye-witnesses, it’s hard to understand exactly what occurred. The accident needs to be reconstructed by investigators in order to get a full understanding. Once that understanding has been given, liability can be assessed. The dynamics, methodology, and principles involved in reconstructing a pedestrian accident are slightly different than those used to reconstruct car accidents.  A investigator looks at car speed as well as pedestrian speed (which can be very difficult to determine), perception and reaction time, as well as highway design and sign placement. The pedestrian’s impact kinematics (which is how the pedestrian moved at or through the impact phase of the collision) are reconstructed. Once all these factors have been identified, a lawyer can build a negligence or wrongful death case based on the investigator’s findings.

Working with a Personal Injury Attorney After an Accident

If you have been a victim in a car, truck, pedestrian, or bicycle accident, you should immediately contact a personal injury attorney that understands the specific laws around these types of accidents. They will be able to perform a full investigation and build your case. It’s crucial that you work with someone that knows the intricacies of the laws surrounding these types of cases as well as your specific state’s laws. The attorneys at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC have experience handling personal injury cases such as car accidents, pedestrian accidents, and bicycle accidents. They will help build a case to ensure you receive everything you need to recover from your specific accident.

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