You can sue the school district for damages that you or your child sustained in a school bus accident. Because this is a tort claim against a government unit, there are unique rules and challenges with which you’ll have to contend.
There are also very strict deadlines on when you are permitted to take legal action. If you or your child has recently been involved in a school bus accident, you’ll want to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to get started on your bus accident claim.
Suing the School District for Damages
In most types of situations, the government enjoys protection from injury claims because of sovereign immunity laws. However, the Tort Claims Act provides several exceptions to immunity and motor vehicle accident-related injuries is one of them.
Pennsylvania Code § 8542 provides that the government can be held liable for injuries that occurred in automotive accidents, including school bus accidents, so long as the following is true.
- The victim would have been able to recover damages under common law, i.e., if the wreck had been caused by a non-government employee driver and the victim could have recovered damages in a usual civil suit.
- The accident was caused by the school district’s or bus driver’s negligence. (Examples of neglect include driver fatigue, speeding, and inadequate training.)
Challenges with Lawsuits against the Government
There are several challenging aspects of filing a claim against the school district that are distinct from filing a suit against a private party or company. First, there are specific procedural rules you’ll need to follow when taking legal action that are different from traditional civil cases. For example, you’ll need to file a notice of claim against the government prior to filing a suit to preserve your case.
Secondly, there are also very strict time limits for filing against a school or city bus. You’ll have to file the notice of claim with the school district within six months after the accident, and you’ll need to file your suit with the courts within two years from the date of the crash. Overstepping the time limit bars your rights to pursue restitution.
Lastly, there is a significant damage cap on government torts. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has placed a $500,000 damage cap on any injury claims made against the government. Many injury victims believe the cap is unfair and unconstitutional. One woman who lost her leg in a Pennsylvania school bus accident filed suit and won but because of the damage cap, her $14 million settlement was slashed to $500,000. Advocates of banning the cap are filing motions with the Supreme Court.