Articles Posted in Bus Accidents

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Last Wednesday, a church bus carrying seniors back to North Carolina was tragically involved in a fatal car accident on I-40 near Knoxville. Eight people died and several others were injured.

According to an article in the Knoxville News Sentinel, the church bus was coming from a Christian festival in Gatlinburg when the front left tire blew out, causing it to cross a median and collide with a Chevy Tahoe and then a tractor-trailer. Of the eight passengers killed, six were on the bus, one in the Tahoe, and one in the tractor trailer.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville received 12 of the accident patients. The recent government shutdown affected the accident, as the The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates bus accidents, was not able to investigate the accident.

Bus accidents do not occur as frequently as other types of accidents; however, they can be more tragic and heartbreaking. A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s study reported that 254 people were killed in bus accidents in 2009. All types of accidents can cause some kind of harm and grief. While there is no significant reporting of bus accidents in Tennessee, a July 2013 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study reported that 946 people were killed in car accidents in Tennessee.
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Critical injuries were reported following the Tennessee crash of a passenger van carrying 11 people, seven of those being 16-year-old members of a girls basketball team. Two other passengers were under the age of 2.

Our Knoxville injury lawyers understand that the minivan driver, one of the coaches, clipped another vehicle, causing the vehicle to cross over the yellow line into oncoming traffic. At that point, the van smashed nearly head-on into a Camaro.

The incident happened about 20 miles south of Nashville.

The girls were in Tennessee to compete in a basketball tournament. The children were hurt, but were released from the hospital. However, the adult coaches as well as the two adults in the Camaro were critically injured.

In many cases, such accidents involving school travel occur in 15-passenger vans, which are so dangerous the federal government outlaws their use for school transportation. Even though they are frequently used to transport school sports teams, students, day care children, the elderly and church groups. When loaded with more than 10 people, these vans are three times more likely to roll over.

There were more than 1,500 fatal crashes involving 15 passenger vans between 1994 and 2004. A third of those involved a rollover.

One of the biggest problems with these vehicles is that the tires are frequently under-inflated. That in turn leads to higher tire temperatures, which results in faster tire deterioration and stability is significantly diminished. The more passengers you add, the more the center of gravity shifts higher further to the rear. That is going to increase the tendency for a rollover, and it’s also going to up the chances that the driver is going to lose control if he or she needs to enact an emergency maneuver.

Another recent passenger van crash this month in Illinois resulted in five deaths and six injuries. The van, which belonged to a church group, reportedly smashed into a median, crossed into oncoming traffic and then rolled over several times. Nine of the 11 individuals were tossed from the vehicle.

Horrific crashes like this are a large part of the reason why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued numerous cautionary advisories pertaining to the use of 15-passenger vans. Among those warnings are those that state the vehicles should not be used to transport school children, as they don’t provide the same level of safety as a larger school bus. In fact, federal law forbids schools from purchasing new 15-passenger vans for the purpose of transporting students.

If you or your organization regularly uses a 15-passenger van, take the time to read the following:

  • Make sure the vehicle is properly maintained;
  • Owners should ensure that any drivers are fully-trained and experienced in operating one of these vehicles and also that he or she is properly licensed;
  • Overloading should not be done under ANY circumstances;
  • Make sure that the tires are properly sized and also inflated;
  • Prior to every trip, drivers should check tire inflation and ensure there are no significant signs of wear;
  • Passengers should buckle up each and every time.

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In a unanimous decision, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled to reverse an earlier finding by an appellate court that federal law barred the wife of a man disabled in a bus accident from pursuing an injury claim.

Our Knoxville bus accident attorneys know that the ruling in Lake v. Memphis Landsmen, a decade in coming, will clear the way not only for this family to pursue just compensation, but also for anyone in the future facing down a similar situation.

According to court records, here is what happened:

In mid-March of 1998, a 60,000-pound concrete truck crashed into an 11,500-pound shuttle bus that was being used to take passengers to and from the Memphis International Airport and a local rental car company.

A passenger who was on that bus suffered severe and permanent brain injuries as a result of the crash.

Subsequently, the man’s wife filed a personal injury lawsuit against the bus’s owner, the manufacturer, the maker of the bus windows and the franchisor of the rental car business. The claims were for product liability and negligence. The plaintiff contended that the bus wasn’t safe because it was not equipped with seat belts, the side windows were made with tempered glass as opposed to laminated glass and the vehicle contained seats that lined the perimeter, instead of a safer forward-facing arrangement.

The driver was also accused of failing to employ reasonable and ordinary care while driving the bus, and that as such, his employer was liable.

The window manufacturer was awarded a summary judgment, while the bus owner and franchisor received a partial summary judgement on the claims of product liability. However, the trial court denied a portion of the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the basis that the claims were preempted by the standards set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association.

At the trial, a physicist specializing in motor vehicle safety testified that the bus did not provide adequate safeguards to protect against occupant ejection.

A jury later found the plaintiffs had sustained more than $8.5 million in damages. However, the jury also found that 100 percent of the blame belonged to the owner of the concrete truck, and that firm had already settled with the plaintiffs prior to trial.

The plaintiffs appealed for a new trial, but the defendants continued to assert that under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 205 and 208, 49 CFR 571.205, .208(1994), the issue with seat belts, window glass and perimeter seating were insufficient to establish negligence or liability. The Court of Appeals then ruled in the defendants’ favor.

Now, the Tennessee Supreme Court has reversed that decision, remanding the case back to the appellate court for reconsideration on the basis of Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America Inc., a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision, which found that the decision of whether to provide seat belts in a bus is not one preempted by federal regulation and therefore wasn’t sufficient grounds to toss out a case of alleged negligence.

So now, the case can move forward. We will be watching the developments closely.
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A high school student was in critical condition after a Tennessee school bus accident injured 20. Authorities report the bus flipped three times on Mount Wesley Road in Washington County.

Knoxville personal injury lawyers understand autumn is the most dangerous time of year for school bus accidents. Bus drivers are new to the job or coming back after summer break. Motorists are often impatient when the slow, lumbering yellow buses reappear on our roads. Add to that the large number of children walking, riding bikes and taking the bus to and from school each day and the risks for accidents increase exponentially.

While most think the majority of busing accidents occur when traveling to and from school, the fact is a significant number of these accidents occur when a bus is traveling on a field trip, sporting event or other after-school activity.

In this case, the Tennessee Highway Patrol reports one of the bus’ tires slipped off the narrow shoulder of the road.

CNN reports the bus was carrying 67 passengers at the time of the crash, which was caused by the driver overcorrecting. Accident victims were taken to Johnson Medical Center, Holston Valley Medical Center and Franklin Woods Community Hospital. Two underwent surgery and were expected to recover, according to hospital staff.

Twelve patients were hospitalized overnight. Neck injuries, scalp lacerations and broken bones were among the injuries reported.

The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security reports nearly 10,000 school buses a day hit the roads in Tennessee. Public school districts are responsible for bus safety. Bus drivers with a school-bus endorsement must undergo a mandatory 4-hour safety-training session and buses must undergo two types of inspections — annual and follow-ups, which occur during the school year.

At the age of 12, buses must also undergo extended utilization inspections each summer. At age 17, a bus must be removed from service.

But the fact remains many school-bus accidents are pedestrian accidents that occur around a bus or near a bus stop — either when a school bus or a passenger vehicle strikes a student. It’s for this reason that Tennessee law requires all cars to stop for a bus displaying red flashing lights (unless traveling the opposite direction on the other side of a divided highway). This is your signal that the bus is loading or unloading passengers.

Motorists should remain vigilant in neighborhoods, especially during the early morning and afternoon hours. And parents should teach their child how to get to and from the bus stop safely. Clarksville Online reports children are most at risk of being hit when running to catch the bus.

Tennessee School Bus Safety Tips:

-Teach children to get to the bus stop on time and not to engage in horseplay. Students should wait at least 5 giant steps away from the curb.

-Teach your child to make eye contact with the bus driver and other motorists and make sure it’s safe to cross.

-Children should be taught never to attempt to retrieve an item dropped beneath the bus; notify the bus driver.

-Parents who believe a bus stop is located in a dangerous place should be proactive in contacting their school district.
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Early August means it’s time for kids to gear up for another school year. While children may be most worried about the new clothes and which teacher they’ll have this year, parents are busy worrying about getting their kids to school safely and the risks of child injuries in Tennessee.

According to the Nation Safety Council (NSC), about 25 million students around the United States will be climbing aboard big, yellow buses this month and heading back to school. Unfortunately, this is also a time where we see a number of injuries and deaths because of school bus-related accidents. As a matter of fact, school bus-related accidents took the lives of 134 people in 2005 alone. During that year, another 11,000 were injured. Of the people injured in these accidents from 2000 to 2004, roughly 46 percent were school bus passengers, about 8 percent were school bus drivers and another 41 percent were occupants of other vehicles. The rest of the injuries were sustained by pedestrians, bicyclists and other persons.

Our Knoxville personal injury attorneys would like to wish all the kids a happy and successful year back at school and we’d like to talk to the parents about important safety tips that can help to keep your child safe this school year.

If your child is walking to school:

-Make sure they walk with a group of kids and always with a responsible adult.

-Be sure that they stay on the sidewalk, if available.

-If there’s not sidewalk, remind them to always walk facing traffic.

-Require them to always cross the street at a street corner or at an intersection. It’s the safest!

-Make sure they check both ways before stepping off the curb and crossing the street.

-Walk. Don’t run across the street. Running makes your child more likely to fall in the street.

If your child rides a school bus, make sure they:

-Stand at least three giant steps, or 6 feet, away from the curb.

-Make sure they cross the street at least 5 giant steps, or 10 feet, in front of a school bus.

-Make sure the bus driver can see them and they can see the bus driver.

-Alert them of the dangers of walking behind the bus.

-Tell your child to never put their head, hands or arms out of the bus window.

-Shhh! Ask them to keep an indoor voice while riding the bus.

-Make sure they keep the bus aisles clear.

-Keep them away from the wheels of the bus at all times.

While parents should be concerned with their student’s focus on their studies, you should also be concerned with their safety both getting to school and while they’re at school. Equip your child with the knowledge of safety before sending them off to school this year.
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The arrest of a Knox County school bus driver on a drunk driving charge is a stark reminder of the obligation of our school systems to ensure the safety and welfare of students who rely on buses for transportation to and from school.

Knoxville accident lawyers know that the start of the school year is a particularly dangerous time for school bus accidents, as parents, teachers and drivers become accustomed to bus routes and bus safety. But there is no excuse for permitting an intoxicated driver to operate a school bus. Both the school district and the contracted busing company should be asked some tough questions in the wake of this incident.

Traditionally, school buses are a relatively safe mode of transportation, with an average of just 19 fatalities reported nationwide each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. About half of those cases involve pedestrian accidents as a child is boarding or deboarding a school bus.

However, drunk driving is the leading cause of death on the nation’s roads, accounting for about one-third of all fatal auto accidents. In 2008, a total of 11,773 motorists were killed in alcohol-related crashes, of the 37,423 fatal accidents reported on the nation’s roads.

Additionally, Tennessee car accidents involving school buses can cause serious or fatal injuries to motorists, similar to those caused by tractor-trailer accidents or crashes with other large commercial vehicles.

Volunteer TV reports that the 63-year-old driver was driving the bus to pick up her first child, at about 6:30 a.m., when she rear-ended a truck at a red light on the I-40 East Bound exit ramp on Cedar Bluff Road. She was driving for Hensley Bus Lines; the bus was used for Cedar Bluff Elementary School and special education students at Hardin Valley Academy.

Police say she had a mix of alcohol and drugs in her system and was transported to the hospital so that a blood sample could be taken. She reportedly came close to striking another vehicle at least twice and ran up over a curb before rear-ending the box truck.
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