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One person is dead and 16 others are injured after a driver apparently ran a red light and smashed into a school bus laden with middle school students.

The bus was en route to Bailey Middle School when a 70-year-old driver in a Ford Taurus went through a stoplight and rammed the bus. The car’s front end was almost completely demolished and the bus careened through a fence and into an empty lot before toppling onto its side. The passenger car driver died. Furthermore, witnesses said that the bus driver was relatively new, as there is a high turnover among school bus drivers.

None of the names were released.

First Party Liability

Upon initial examination, it seems clear that the white car driver is entirely responsible for all damages because of the negligence per se (negligence “as such”) doctrine. The elements of this rule are:

  • The tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated a traffic law,
  • Said violation substantially caused the wreck, and
  • The victims are among the people that the law is designed to protect.

In most cases, if all three elements are present, the tortfeasor is fully liable as a matter of law.

There can be little or no dispute as to the first and third elements. By almost all accounts, the white car driver went through the intersection on red. Furthermore, the injured victims were mostly passengers in a motor vehicle, and traffic laws are in place to protect everyone on the road.

However, the second element may not be present, because bus drivers, Uber drivers, and other commercial operators have a higher duty of care in Nevada. This common carrier duty applies at intersections. When the light turns green, noncommercial drivers may pull forward. But because they have a higher duty of care, commercial drivers must arguably look both ways and ensure that the intersection is clear before they pull forward.

Based on the facts available, it appears that the bus driver may have breached the duty of care. The driver was inexperienced, at least on this particular route, and may not have known that the intersection was dangerous. Furthermore, the force of the collision indicates that the white car was operating at a high rate of speed, which further supports the supposition that the bus driver did not see the oncoming car, or more probably, did not look at all.

If both drivers were partially at fault, the judge normally asks the jury to divide responsibility on a percentage basis. Nevada is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar, so in order for the victim to recover a proportional measure of damages, the tortfeasor must be at least 51 percent at fault for the crash.

Third Party Liability

When a commercial driver is involved in causing a car crash, the respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) rule normally comes into play. Employers are responsible for the negligent actions or inactions of their employees if:

  • Control: The employer must control the worker in terms of hours worked, terms of service, compensation, and so on, so even independent contractors are “employees” in this context.
  • Course and Scope: As a general rule, if the employee is doing anything that advances the employer’s interests, no matter how slight, the employee is within the course and scope of employment.

Special rules apply in negligence cases if the tortfeasor was a government worker, such as a school bus driver.

Contact an Assertive Attorney

Intersection collision cases usually involve complex liability issues. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas, contact Naqvi Injury Law. Home and hospital visits are available.