News sources say several people were injured when a Clyde-Savannah school bus, packed with 22 elementary school children, and a snowplow collided on Route 31 near Hogsback Road in the Town of Savannah, New York at about 7:50 this morning. A woman, apparently the bus driver, and an 11-year-old boy, were airlifted from the scene to Upstate (SUNY) Hospital in Syracuse. The woman is apparently in critical condition. Eight ambulances and two helicopters reported to the scene.
Our hopes to a speedy recovery to all victims. As the father of 5 children, I can feel the worry, pain and anguish of the parents! And as a lawyer, I have already started to think about this unfortunate accident from a legal perspective. Here are some complications that I see, from my perspective as a Central New York and Syracuse car and bus accident lawyer, in this school bus accident case:
In New York, if the snowplow driver was on the job removing snow or salting for a municipal employer, such as the County, and was “actually engaged in work on a highway”, under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1103(b) the injured victims can only prevail in court if the snowplow driver was driving in such a careless manner that it amounts to “reckless disregard” to the public. But as to any claim against the school bus driver, a mere “negligence” standard applies. Therefore, for the injured children to get liability compensation for their injuries, they are going to have to show that either the bus driver was “negligent” and/or that the plow driver was “reckless”, unless the snowplow driver was not working for a municipality, or was not actually engaged in plow work at the time, in which case the injured victims will have to show only that both or either the plow driver or the school bus driver were “negligent”. Complicated? You bet.
By the way, the injured will all be automatically entitled, regardless of whether anyone is found negligent or reckless, to $50,000 in medical benefits and lost wages (if there are any) combined under the no-fault insurance policy. But beyond that, to bring a claim for additional compensation, such as more medical treatment, or compensation for pain and suffering, the rules discussed above will apply.
Complicated enough for you? Well, there’s more. Before the victims can file any lawsuit against a municipality (such as a county, town, school district), they have to serve upon them a “notice of claim” within 90 days of the accident. So these injured children, and the school bus driver too, if she is going to bring a claim, have only 90 days to get this done! Time is short. If they don’t do it in time, their lawyer can always ask the court to forgive the lateness, but they should not risk that unless they have to.
Word of caution to all the victims of this terrible bus/snowplow crash: Get to a qualified New York personal injury lawyer, especially one with experience handling car and bus crash cases, as soon as possible.
Read also this past blog post regarding New York bus accident cases.
Feel free to email me about this case or call me:
Email me at: email@example.com
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.