A school bus carrying nine students heading home from a summer school program at Sonoma State University overturned on Highway 101 near Asti, skidding on its side for 200 feet before coming to rest in the middle of the freeway, according to an article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Some of the students and the driver suffered injuries during the California bus accident.
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Ramos said that everyone in the bus was able to get out through the front windshield, which had popped out. . Some students suffered cuts and bruises while the driver complained of pain. One student was treated for a dislocated shoulder and another was treated for head injuries at a local hospital. Thankfully none of the students were seriously injured. This accident could have been catastrophic.
The bus, which was operated by First Student, a national school bus company, crashed when the driver drifted off the side of the freeway, officials said. Bus company officials said the driver was a veteran employee and was one of their best drivers. Doesn’t sound like it however.
From the news accounts it appears that the carrier company will be held fully responsible for this bus accident. Buses are considered “common carriers” and that includes school buses, city buses and charter buses. Common carriers have an “utmost duty of care” to their passengers, which is a much higher duty than that of your friend who is driving you to school.
Although the article says that students suffered “minor” injuries, the students and the driver would be well-advised to get a complete physical check-up to make sure that they have not suffered non-obvious injuries. Often in traffic accidents, injuries do not become apparent until days after the incident. Although people walk away from the scene of a dangerous bus crash, they feel the effects of the accident days later when the adrenaline rush wears off and the aces and pains set in. These could range from serious internal injuries and bleeding, concussions, contusions, whiplash or even spinal injuries. It can take a year to years for spinal injuries to show up.
The rights of the students to compensation for medical expenses, injuries, financial losses pain and suffer seem pretty clear. Often in these types of accidents I recommend that people wait a full year before settling a claim. In that way there is enough time for pretty much every injury to manifest themselves.
The students have at least two years to file a lawsuit to preserve their rights. Students under 18 have two years from their 18th birthday. Any claim against a governmental agency, like Sonoma State, has a six month claim filing process however.
There is no present benefit to these students to giving a recorded statements to insurance company investigators or adjusters until they are ready to settle any claim they have.
There are a lot of twists and turns in the claims process if an injury is severe. Anyone with a severe injury surely should consult with orange county personal injury attorneys. Those with minor injuries that want to make a claim may want to at least chat with an personal injury attorney to get an idea what there claim is worth before trying to work out a settlement with the bus company’s insurance company. Nearly every personal injury attorney worth his salt will provide a free consultation