The Role of Defective Parts and Equipment in School Bus Accidents
School buses are generally used twice a day during the school year and during the Summer months in some cases or more if transporting students to athletic or other events. Because they are transporting large numbers of students, state and federal regulations addressing bus safety and maintenance must be strictly observed.
Regulations require that bus companies, or school districts if they own and are responsible for the buses, have maintenance policies and practices in place. These include pre-trip inspections by drivers or service personnel. Tires should be routinely checked for air pressure and tread depth. Steering and braking systems should be inspected daily. If a driver suspects a problem, he or she must immediately report it and have the issue examined.
Tire blowouts often lead to loss of control and cause serious accidents and injuries. It is much harder to control a large vehicle like a bus than a passenger vehicle. Rollovers in such cases are a risk as well. The failure of a braking or steering system is obvious.
Occasionally, a bus has a defective part or wiring. This could be the result of poor maintenance or a defect in the manufacture of the part or in its design. If a piece of equipment, steering or brake system is suspected to be defective, expert testimony is needed to verify and support the allegation. Examples of defects found in school buses include:
- Poorly designed brake systems
- Brake failures
- Electrical or wiring problems leading to fires
- Poor ventilation or cooling system overheating an engine and causing a vehicle fire
- Seats that detach in a collision
- Collapse of a roof in a rollover where structural failure should not have occurred
Principles of product liability law apply in such cases where an injured claimant needs to show:
- That the item or piece of equipment was defective
- The defect was the cause of the injury
- The item or piece of equipment was being used as it was intended
If the item was defectively manufactured, you could compare to a properly manufactured one and show, for example, that there was a crack in it or was missing some other piece. You would then have to show that this defect was a contributing cause of your accident and injuries.
But if the item was allegedly defectively designed, you have to demonstrate that the danger created by the design was unreasonable. The examples above are instructive. For instance, a seat in a moderate collision should not detach from its structure. But if a bus falls 50 feet from a bridge onto asphalt and the roof collapses, it is highly unlikely any roof could have withstood that degree of force.
Otherwise, the equipment manufacturer and/or designer could be held liable for your injuries.