I blogged earlier today about the Savannah NY school bus collision with a snowplow. From the news reports I had at that time, I did not know any facts about the case, other than that there had been a collision. More recent news reports indicate that the school slammed into the rear of Town of Savannah snowplow. The school children with the most seriously injuries were all sitting in the front seat on the right side of the bus. Two students were trapped in the bus for about half an hour. The bus driver was also trapped. Sixteen children were taken to nearby hospitals. All the students were in 5th or 6th grade.
Apparently, the bus had just dropped off some students at Clyde Elementary School and then proceeded down Route 31 to drop off the rest at Savannah Elementary School. At some point, the bus slammed into the rear of the snowplow, which was, in fact, engaged in plowing activities. News reports say the crash happened near the top of a hill, with snowy fields nearby. Investigators speculate glare from the sun on the snow may have affected the bus driver’s ability to see the plow.
Under New York motor vehicle liability law, however, a driver who rear-ends another vehicle is almost always held legally liable for the collision. Drivers have a duty to see what is there to be seen, and if they have difficulty seeing because of glare or other factors, they should stop, pull over, or proceed slowly with extreme caution. Rare is the case where a rear-ending vehicle’s driver escapes liability in court. Therefore, it seems likely here that the bus driver was at fault, which makes the school district employer liable to all the injured children. The school district’s insurance should cover this unfortunate accident. But, as I mentioned in my previous blog, the children are required, under New York law, to serve upon the school district a “notice of claim” within 90 days of the accident.
As the father of a 6th grader myself, I can imagine the horrible time the parents are going through. And it must be awful to have to start thinking about getting a lawyer at this time. But the fact of the matter is, there is not a lot of time to waste. An investigation should be done immediately before the conditions change too much, and the notice of claim should be prepared and then served within the 90 days. The children, especially the most seriously injured, may have to live with their injuries for a long time, or maybe even for life. They may not only be entitled to compensation; they may need it as well.
Parents: Hug your kids!
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Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.