All westbound lanes of Interstate Highway 80 (“I-80”) in Berkeley were blocked last week after a crash involving a school bus, which hurt at least a dozen children. According to the California Highway Patrol, there were at least 45 to 50 students onboard a bus from Berkeley to Oakland, heading for a field trip to a park. The bus got into a collision with at least three other cars near the Ashby Avenue exit of I-80. The crash occurred around 10 a.m.
The collision occurred when the bus rear-ended a Nissan van. This set off a chain reaction of collisions with five other vehicles. It’s unclear what caused the bus to hit the car. According to authorities, at least a dozen of the students, who were between 5 and 15 years old, suffered minor injuries. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. Some of the injuries included scrapes and bloody noses. One school counselor suffered a cut on the face.
Berkeley emergency responders treated children on the scene. Some were taken to a local hospital for further treatment. Four adults on the bus and drivers of two other vehicles also went to the hospital for treatment. None of the children on the bus were wearing seatbelts. Under California law, buses built after July 1, 2005 must be equipped with seatbelts. The bus the children were riding in was an older bus that did not have seatbelts.
It’s very fortunate that none of these children were seriously injured. Overall, school bus safety in the U.S. is very good. About 19 children die every year in crashes related to school-transportation. On average, about five of those die in school vehicles such as school buses, and about 14 are pedestrians.
The public school system as well as private bus companies that may contract with the school have a legal duty to operate their buses safely. It’s impossible to ensure that no collision will ever occur, but they do have a duty to make the drive as safe as possible for the students. This includes conducting comprehensive background checks on drivers, making sure the buses are in good operating condition, and providing appropriate training to the drivers. If a school system or bus company finds out that a driver is not driving in a safe manner, it is responsible for taking the appropriate actions such as firing the driver.
If a public school system or a private bus company fails to operate a school bus in a safe manner, and students, teachers, other passengers, or other drivers are harmed as a result, the victims of the collision can sue for damages. This could include compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more. Every year, there are countless school bus passengers injured or killed in collisions involving buses that are owned or operated by school districts, counties, or other governmental entities.
It’s important that you speak to an experienced personal injury attorney if you have been injured in a collision in a school bus. There are strict deadlines that must be met in order to preserve your legal rights. Do not take a quick settlement from the school district without consulting an attorney, especially if the collision was a serious one.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that any school district in charge of safely transporting students to and from school should take their responsibilities seriously, and if they fail to keep students safe they should be held legally accountable. Call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco personal injury attorney today at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000. She will provide you with a free consultation on your case. Call to learn more.