It is every parent’s worst nightmare – “School bus impaled by logs after collision north of Edmonton in Barrhead,” were the headlines in all the Alberta media outlets on November 2, 2021. Logs on a turning logging truck swung out and went though the side of the school bus. Unbelievably, and thankfully, no one was seriously injured but these types of random accidents can befall children riding as passengers in a school bus, with disastrous results.
A 2008 Final Report reviewing school bus collisions for Alberta Transportation recorded that every day in Alberta more than 5000 school buses were used to transport over 265,000 young Albertans to school. Over the five-year period of the study a total of 2,318 school bus collisions were reported in Alberta. Six of the collisions were fatal, 319 resulted in injury and of those injured, 42 resulted in major injuries requiring admission to hospital. Of the six fatal collisions, three occurred in rural Alberta.
When a School Bus Accident Happens Who is Liable for Damages?
If your child is injured in a school bus accident what are your next steps after ensuring that your child’s medical needs are met? As a parent, if your child is under 18 years old, you are their legal representative. As such, you can commence a lawsuit against the negligent parties who caused the school bus collision. In addition to the drivers of other vehicles that may have caused or contributed to a road accident involving a school bus, potential defendants in the lawsuit could include:
- the bus driver, who may have driven negligently
- the manager or supervisor of the bus driver
- the owner of the school bus company who may, for example, not have trained the bus driver properly, or failed to maintain the trucks in a safe working order
- the manufacturer of the bus or tires, if the equipment was faulty
- the person or company responsible for maintaining or repairing the bus, if they had been negligent in their duties
- the school board of trustees if, for example, the board did not take steps to safeguard against negligence
- the municipality or other government body if, for example, the sight lines on the road were not properly kept unobstructed
The leading Ontario case of Mattinson v. Wonnacott (1975), 8 OR (2d) 654 illustrates an example of who can be found liable for injuries to school bus passengers. In this case, a five-year-old child, who was attending kindergarten at a school some four miles from his home, was supposed to be picked up by the school bus driver and then dropped off after school at the end of the laneway leading to his home. The Ontario County School Board had entered into a contract with an independent bus operator to transport the children to school. There had been a prior warning to the school board that there should be another adult on the bus to supervise the young “exuberant and undisciplined” children. On the day of the accident, unknown to the bus driver, the young child left the bus and was playing in a field. He ran onto the busy roadway and was struck by the defendant motorist. The defendant motorist, the bus driver, the school bus company and the school board were found to be liable for his injuries. The school board was liable as they failed to place a second supervising adult on the buses. No contributory negligence was attached to the child.
In the Alberta case of Sleeman v. Foothills School Division No. 38,  1 WWR 145, the defendant bus driver was driving the school van which he independently owned and operated under a contract with the trustees of the Foothills School Division. He was driving children to a rural school at an excessive speed, and was not keeping an adequate lookout for other traffic. Because of his negligence he was in an accident with an oncoming truck, and the force of the collision propelled the infant plaintiff through the window of the school van. She was severely injured. The oncoming driver, the bus driver and the School Division were found to liable for her damages.
Safety Tips for School Bus Riders
When children are involved in car accidents, including accidents on school buses, the injuries are often very serious. While injuries can happen while a child is on board a bus, they are more likely to happen when getting on or off a bus or while the child is crossing a roadway to board or after exiting a bus. In these cases, the law on Pedestrian Accidents also comes into play.
It goes without saying the drivers must always exercise extreme caution around school buses.
While we can’t prevent every single accident there are some proactive steps that we can teach our children to hopefully avoid an accident and lessen the damage if an accident does occur. For an overview take a look at the school bus safety tips from MyHealthAlberta.
About CAM LLP injury lawyers
Since 1962, our lawyers have been achieving precedent-setting results for injured Albertans. We have extensive experience in assisting passengers and pedestrians who have been injured in accidents involving school buses, including young children and their loved ones.
We will assess all the facts, explain your situation, determine who is potentially liable to pay damages for your injuries, and take the necessary steps to secure fair compensation.
Years of experience evaluating claims, negotiating settlements with insurance companies, and helping injured people get fair compensation makes a difference.
Please contact us for a free consultation.