School Transportation Accidents in Focus: Wilmington Injury Watch
School bus accidents are at the forefront of people's minds when they think of school transportation accidents. However, students are at greater risk while outside the bus, when traveling with friends or in large passenger vans used by many churches and youth groups.
Whenever a child is injured at school or while participating in a school-related function, an experienced injury lawyer in Wilmington should be contacted. These are complex cases. Many schools enjoy additional protection under sovereign immunity laws of North Carolina, which generally prohibit lawsuits against the state or lesser government entities (including school boards) for traditional activities.
There are exceptions, but ascertaining whether one is applicable to your situation is a complicated matter. While classroom and after-school sports would likely be considered traditional activities, a school-sanctioned concert might not be under the law.
School Injuries - Busing Accidents in North Carolina
School bus accidents fall under a second exception to sovereign immunity, in which the state has consented under certain circumstances to waive its immunity rights. This case is applicable as a result of having purchased liability insurance for busing operations. These cases are handled before the industrial commission, rather than in state court. In recent years, districts have joined the North Carolina School Board Trust instead of purchasing liability insurance, and in such cases the North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled they have not waived immunity.
Statistically speaking, the government continues to report that school buses are among the safest forms of travel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 1,147 people have been killed in school-transportation accidents in the last decade. In the vast majority of those cases, the people killed were occupants of a passenger vehicle, a pedestrian or a bicyclist.
In other words, your child's highest risk of being injured in a busing accident is while boarding or deboarding the bus.
Still, school busing services face a number of challenges. In an increasing number of cases, school districts are contracting with private companies to provide a district's busing service, which can lead to cost-cutting and personnel issues. Overall bus safety and maintenance present another issue.
Injuries After School, Traveling for Sports, Riding with Friends
Of more concern than the potential for school-bus injuries is the risk of injuries in 15-passenger vans or while traveling with friends to a school-sanctioned event.
Large vans have a poor safety record and are notorious for being involved in rollover accidents. They are so dangerous, in fact, that the government has outlawed their use for school transportation. In fact, Under 49 U.S.C. 30101, ester., federal law requires vehicles carrying 11 or more people to or from school-related events to comply with all school bus regulations, including the use of stop arms and other safety features.
In the event of a school transportation accident, you should seek the legal advocacy of an experienced Wilmington bus accident attorney. The legal team at The Law Offices of Richard Flexner will work to protect your rights.