Eleven people, mostly middle school students, were seriously injured in a Southwest Valley school bus crash.
A dozen ambulances arrived at the intersection of South Fort Apache Road and West Post Road to deal with the mass casualties. There were thirty-eight people on board the bus, which was en route to nearby Faiss Middle School. Fault is uncertain at this point, but according to witnesses on the school bus, the school bus collided with an SUV even though the bus driver slammed on the brakes. “It looked like we were in the middle of a tornado,” 11-year-old Delaney Lindboe said of the resulting dust cloud.
Earlier in May 2017, a rollover crash involving a Northeast Valley school bus and another vehicle killed one person and injured sixteen.
First Party Liability in School Bus Crashes
School bus drivers, taxi drivers, delivery truck drivers, and other purely commercial carriers are all common carriers in Nevada, which means they have a higher duty of care.
Based on the facts available in the above story, it appears that either the school bus or the SUV ignored a traffic control device. If both drivers had a duty of reasonable care, liability would probably be a matter of who had the right-of-way. But if a commercial driver is involved, the question may be irrelevant. Whereas green means go for non commercial drivers, green means look both ways before entering the intersection for commercial drivers. So, regardless of who had the light, the school bus driver was arguably at fault.
Third Party Liability
The respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) doctrine usually applies if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was a commercial operator. There are three prongs:
- Employee: Even if the tortfeasor was technically an owner-operator, independent contractor, or unpaid volunteer, the tortfeasor was probably an employee for purposes of negligence law, because “employ” is a matter of control.
- Scope of Employment: Even if the bus driver deviated from the normal route, the bus driver was acting within the scope of employment for negligence purposes, because “scope of employment” is a matter of benefitting the employer.
- Foreseeability: It is clearly foreseeable that a bus might be involved in a traffic accident on a busy weekday morning.
Other employer liability theories include negligent supervision and negligent hiring.
If the school district used a private contractor to operate its school buses, then victims may pursue claims as normal. But if the school district operated the busses directly, special procedural rules may apply.
Victims are entitled to compensation for their economic damages, including lost wages and medical bills, as well as their noneconomic damages, including emotional distress and loss of enjoyment in life. In addition to these compensatory damages, punitive damages may be available as well.
Since Nevada is a modified joint and several liability state, the judge usually divides damages between the tortfeasor and employer on a percentage basis.
Reach Out to an Aggressive Attorney
Large vehicle collisions nearly always involve very serious injuries and complicated liability questions. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas, contact Naqvi Injury Law. Home and hospital visits are available.