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School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation, but with around 700,000 children taking buses to school in California, accidents do happen. Bus drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and people in other vehicles can all be seriously injured in a school bus accident. Common injuries in these accidents include whiplash, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, and injuries to the spine. All of these can leave the victim with ongoing pain and medical expenses. 

Because school bus accidents tend to involve multiple parties and bus drivers don’t own the vehicles they’re operating, figuring out who is liable can be especially complicated. Getting the compensation you need to recover from your injuries can depend on identifying the responsible party or parties and proving liability. An accident attorney can guide you through the process of determining responsibility so you can pursue compensation.

Who Could Be Responsible for a School Bus Accident in California?

There are many variables in every school bus accident that can affect who is legally responsible. Any of these parties, or a combination of several, can be responsible and owe damages after an accident. 

Bus Driver 

In many accident cases, the school bus driver is at least partially responsible. A school bus is a type of common carrier, which is a transportation service that’s available to the general public. California law requires common carriers to use the utmost care and diligence to keep passengers safe. This means bus drivers are held to a higher standard when it comes to safe driving. 

There are a number of ways a school bus driver could fail to follow these standards. Driving while distracted, drowsy, or under the influence increases the risk to passengers and means the driver is probably responsible if an accident occurs. If a bus driver acted irresponsibly, proving that they were legally responsible may be easier due to the stricter expectations for common carriers. 

California’s vehicle code also has specific requirements for the safety protocols school bus drivers need to follow at stops. For example, when the bus is stopped to load or unload students, the driver needs to turn on the red lights and red stop sign arm. In some cases, the driver needs to get off the bus and escort students who need to cross the road with a handheld stop sign. Failing to take one of these required steps can mean the driver is legally held responsible for the accident. 

School District 

School districts usually own the buses used to transport their students, which means the district may be legally liable for a school bus accident. If the bus driver was responsible, you may be able to sue the district as the driver’s employer. There are also other circumstances where the school district could be more directly responsible for an accident. For example, if the district did not provide appropriate training for its school bus drivers and this lack of training led to the accident, the district could be held responsible. 

Maintenance Company 

Many school districts outsource bus maintenance to a separate company. If this maintenance company does not notice a problem that it should have or does not address an issue that the school district asked it to fix, the company could be held responsible for the accident. 


If a part in the school bus was manufactured incorrectly and this defect led to an accident, such as faulty brakes preventing a safe stop, the manufacturer could be liable. 

Other Drivers 

The school bus isn’t always the cause of an accident. If another driver caused the accident because of illegal or negligent behavior, they could be legally responsible. For example, a driver is likely responsible if they ran a red light and caused a collision or passed a stopped school bus and hit a pedestrian.

How Is Liability Determined?

School bus accident claims are generally based on negligence. This means that you and your attorney need to prove that someone involved caused your injuries because they did not take the same precautions a reasonable person would. Depending on the situation, you may need to consider evidence like eyewitness testimony, maintenance records, or traffic camera footage. 

In some cases, multiple parties can be responsible for an accident. For example, if another driver changed lanes without signaling and the bus driver was distracted and took longer than they should have to react, both parties may be partially responsible. Your attorney can help you determine the best way to approach this type of situation. 

Talk to a California School Bus Accident Lawyer Today

Determining who is responsible for a school bus accident can be complicated, and establishing exactly what happened can be difficult as well. Bus drivers are responsible for their passengers’ safety, but proving that they were driving irresponsibly can be difficult. If multiple parties are liable, the process can become even more overwhelming. 

Regardless of the details, a personal injury lawyer can determine who is responsible for a school bus accident, collect the relevant evidence, and negotiate with insurers or take your case to court as needed. Call Kash Legal at 888-527-4128 or fill out our contact form here to start the process!

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