Just two weeks ago, we covered how sovereign immunity can complicate bus accidents. That post focused on a minor car accident involving a passenger vehicle and a bus run by St. Joseph Transit.
A new bus crash brings those lessons back into the limelight.
School Bus Crashes, Hurts 17
A school bus was taking an entire classroom of children on a field trip when it crashed and flipped on its side in Emporia, Kansas, 100 miles southwest of Kansas City, Missouri.
36 children were on the bus at the time. 17 were transported to local hospitals, though none of them had severe injuries.
Initial reports suggest that weather was a significant factor in the crash. It was snowing at the time the bus left the road, and the highway was described as “slushy.”
Sovereign Immunity in Bus Accidents, Again
When a bus accident happens while the driver is on the job, the driver’s employer will be held liable for the driver’s conduct. When the driver’s employer is a state or local government or a government agency, things get complicated because that liability would mean the compensation gets paid from government funds. This would mean that the people who ultimately pay the victims are taxpayers.
This is so problematic that the law recognizes the general rule of sovereign immunity, which prevents people from suing the government except in certain circumstances.
In Missouri, under the Missouri Tort Claims Act, one of those circumstances is a motor vehicle accident. However, the Missouri Tort Claims Act also limits the amount of compensation that victims can recover. Under Missouri Statute 537.610, individual victims can only receive up to $300,000, and damages from a single incident are capped at $2 million.
Therefore, had this bus accident happened in Missouri, rather than in Kansas, only $2 million could be awarded to the victims and all 17 of the hurt children would have to share it, no matter how badly they were hurt.
A Wide Disparity Between States
This particular accident did happen in Kansas, though, and that makes a huge difference because Kansas’ version of the Tort Claims Act is much less generous for victims.
Under Kansas Statute 75-6105, the total amount of compensation that can be paid by the government for a single incident is capped at a mere $500,000. That is one-quarter what Missouri allows, and is likely to get exhausted well before all of the victims are fully compensated whenever there are more than a couple of them.
Car Accident Lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph
The personal injury attorneys at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph strive to legally represent victims of car accidents, truck accidents, and other motor vehicle crashes, even if it was caused by a government employee.
If you or a loved one has been hurt, call them at (816) 875-9373 or contact them online.