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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Improving School Bus Safety Goes Beyond Seatbelts

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When your child rides to and from school on a school bus, you are entrusting the safety of your child to the person who drives that school bus. You are also entrusting the safety of your child to the school district who hires the bus driver, as well as the manufacturer of the school bus.

In March 2012, nine-year-old Aaron was killed when the school bus in which he was riding was T-boned by a large truck. The accident occurred when the bus driver turned into the path of a tractor trailer. When the truck struck the right rear side of the bus, the impact spun the bus 180 degrees clockwise and overturned the tractor-trailer, leaving it upside down with its wheels in the air. Aaron was wearing a seat belt, but the impact caused his school bus seat to separate from the floor during the crash. He died from his injuries. Sixteen other students on board were injured. Approximately 30 students were on the bus at the time.

Filing a lawsuit can be a complex process, as there are a number of entities who may be liable in a crash. An initial wrongful-death lawsuit was filed against the St. Lucie County School District, but two years later was amended to include four national manufacturers and a Jacksonville bus sales firm with allegations of product liability and negligence. The amended lawsuit alleged that manufacturing defects with school bus seat cushions and the manner in which they are fastened in place may cause seats to come loose in a crash and eject children from their seat belts.

The district argued they should not bear all of the fault because the speeding semi-truck driver and faulty school bus seats caused Aaron to suffer fatal injuries. A witness for the school district also said that the truck brakes did not meet minimum federal standards.

The family has settled out of court with some of the parties named in the suit, but the case against the St. Lucie County School District is still pending. The case is expected to go to the jury this month and is expected to take two weeks.

Many school districts choose not to upgrade their buses because of costs. Just like many auto manufacturers and other big business, they weigh the cost of the upgrade against the potential losses they will incur if there is an accident. Injuries and death should not be allowed simply because they are viewed as being cheaper than safety. When negligence occurs, our civil justice system helps victims secure justice. A lawsuit creates public notice of a serious problem and is a powerful incentive to encourage improvements in school bus safety.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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  1. Leon Hain says:
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    As recognized leader of the successful Australian campaign over many years for lap sash seat belts in our New Tourist, Charter and non urban School Buses, I am only able to report in general, I notify as previously liaised and exchanged details with the United States NHTSA that the safety package by our LAW requires 20g strength seat and floor anchorages, rollover and roof protection, emergency exits all sides and roof, secure seat backs at least one meter high from floor, etc. Such Australian Buses have since first supplied since 1995 have had no reported deaths, except some NOT wearing their belt on impact. As in cars, some will die or be mutilated in severe crashes despite all precautions. USA will require similar laws from January 2016 for large New buses, and have advised the USA NHTSA is still considering redesign and structure of School Buses..
    Lap only seat belts as in Europe are far less safe, and can create horrific head, spinal, & internal injuries. Leon Hain LifeMPS MACRS.
    Melbourne, Australia.