A school bus crash in Tennessee has sent a small town reeling with heartache. Families are grieving over the loss of a seven-year-old girl and the driver of a school bus carrying 22 children after it was struck head-on by a utility truck near Decatur, TN.

The crash occurred at the 7700 block of State Route 58 as the bus was transporting the children home after school. Authorities say the utility truck, which was operated by Service Electric Company, was traveling northbound on the two-lane highway. 

For reasons still being investigated, the utility truck driver drifted off the highway to the right, then overcorrected the vehicle, skidding before slamming into the oncoming school bus. The crash allowed no time for the bus driver to react.

Joe Fried of Fried Goldberg, who was lead counsel in the 2016 Chattanooga School Bus Crash lawsuit, expressed concern:

Joe Fried of Fried Goldberg was lead counsel in the 2016 school bus crash lawsuit in Chattanooga.
“In our experience, drivers don’t run off the roadway without there being more to the story. We are highly suspect that driver distraction, driver fatigue, or a combination of both played a role. It is very important for the investigation to include examination of cell phones and other electronic devices for evidence of driver distraction. There are important questions that need to be answered here.”

Several of the children were taken to local hospitals in surrounding counties, including five who were airlifted and one boy who is in critical condition. The utility driver truck is being treated for minor injuries.

In the hours following the devastating school bus crash, hundreds of volunteers rushed to donate blood, amid chilly temperatures, long lines and COVID cautions.

Negligence in Tennessee School Bus Crashes

The crash raises questions about driver negligence. Grievously, Tennessee has seen similar school bus accidents in recent years that were attributed to a driver’s careless actions. 

In 2014, two school buses collided in Knoxville when one driver heading westbound swerved across the median into the eastbound lane and struck the bus, knocking it onto its side. Two students and a teacher’s aide passed at the scene and 27 more were injured. The responsible driver, James Davenport, was texting a prostitute at the time of the crash.

A photo shows first responders to the 2016 Chattanooga school bus crash in Tennessee, which attorney Joe Fried was lead counsel in the lawsuit against the bus driver for negligent driving.

Photo: WKRN.com

Joe Fried of Fried Goldberg was lead counsel in the lawsuit over a tragic 2016 school bus crash in Chattanooga that claimed the lives of six children. The driver, 24-year-old Johnthony Walker, lost control and wrapped the bus around a tree. More were critically injured, while Walker was convicted on charges of speeding. Several had complained about his driving before the crash.

After serving four years in prison for the crash, he was later convicted on eight counts of statutory rape. Instances like this could be examples of potentially negligent hiring.

Drivers in both situations were charged for criminally negligent homicides.

While the driver in yesterday’s crash is not being held responsible thus far, local authorities will question the utility truck driver’s actions in coming weeks.

In the meantime, officials are asserting that it is “not an accident.”

Safety Belts on School Buses

The events also raise topics on school bus safety, including legislation that would require safety belts on newer buses.

Congressman Steve Cohen from Memphis (D) proposed the Bus Act of 2020, which was first introduced in the House this last June. The bill would require safety belts on all new school buses. Though parts of the bill made it through the House on the Highway Safety Act, it stalled at the senate.

Cohen cited financial reasons for why the bill hadn’t passed. 

“The main thing is money. Safety should not be conditioned on the money. If the schools have to pay a little more for the buses or pay more for the installation of the seatbelts for the safety of the child, they should do that.” – WKRN, News 2

Research has long supported the idea that school buses are among the safest commercial vehicles on the road due to enhanced regulations. However, the debate continues about whether safety belts should be mandated.

Liability in School Bus Accidents

As in the 2014 and 2016 school bus crashes in Tennessee, negligence is often a factor in many deadly bus accidents. The difference between commercial vehicle accidents versus car accidents is vast, and several parties may be held liable when children suffer or anyone is injured.

If a crash is determined preventable in any way, victims and their families may qualify for legal action through a civil lawsuit. Because multiple parties are involved and the damage is often extensive in these situations, they are also encouraged to consult with a qualified commercial vehicle accident lawyer.

A bus accident lawyer will work with investigators, expert witnesses, and authorities to fulfill the complex task of determining liability.

School Bus Accident Damages, Lawsuits

A closeup profile of a mother's laptop as she searches for a bus accident lawyer while her young daughter sleeps in the background.

School bus accidents are tragic, no matter how they occur. The commercial vehicle accident attorneys at Fried Goldberg are available to families who have been devastated by the recent school bus crash in Decatur.

Families who have lost a loved one or have a child who was injured either physically or emotionally after a school bus accident can seek damages for their losses. These may include but are not limited to medical costs, counseling, lifelong treatment, or even funeral expenses.

When considering a lawsuit, it is critical to consult with a law firm who is familiar and experienced in the area that you require representation. It’s also important to note that time limits apply for seeking damages. A qualified attorney will ensure all filing deadlines are met for you so that you can focus on your child and their needs.

Local School Bus Accident Lawyers

If your child was injured or tragically taken in the Decatur school bus crash, the bus accident lawyers at Fried Goldberg stand ready to help your family through this difficult time.

With over 100 years of combined experience specifically focused on commercial vehicle accidents, 95% of the cases we represent are families who have suffered in large vehicle collisions. This includes school bus accidents.

Fried Goldberg are dedicated road safety advocates with a track record to prove it. Founding partner Joe Fried draws upon his background as a highway patrol officer. We are widely recognized nationwide as authoritative figures in commercial vehicle litigation, and much of our time is devoted to educating fellow attorneys on truck accident law.

Our Atlanta based law firm represents injured accident victims across the nation. No matter where you are located, we are well-prepared to execute your case and accommodate your needs.

Please call us today at (877) 591-1802 for a free, private legal consultation at no obligation.

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