In what has been a strange and alarming string of events, the Dallas ISD private busing story has reached a conclusion today. Dallas ISD prohibits the use of 12-15 passenger vans to transport school children to and from school due to the questionable legality of their use and the risk of death and serious bodily injury in crashes. This set of events began as a bizarre surprise to Dallas parents; but finally has reached its proper conclusion, surprisingly, with pressure from parents, the local media and local personal injury attorneys. (See, we’re not all bad.)
Parents in Dallas ISD were shocked to see private vans and SUVs appearing instead of buses to transport children. The Dallas ISD, facing budget issues, contracted out the busing responsibility to a private transportation company. It utilized large passenger vans, regular vans and sport utility vehicles to transport the children. One can imagine the company selected these smaller vehicles because they cost less than traditional school buses. These private vehicles bore little or no identification that they were contracted through the school. It was strangers showing up in a bus offering to take the children to school. You can imagine how parents felt about that.
Dallas ISD passenger van rollover crashes
After parents began to voice their concerns and the media began running with the story, the DISD upheld its decision and asserted the vehicles were safe and there was no reason for alarm. Aside from the bizarre idea of an unmarked van showing up to take your kids, the WFAA investigation uncovered information suggesting the safety credentials offered by the private company did not match reality. Most problematic was the use of 12-15 passenger vans to transport the Dallas students. These passenger vans have a high risk of rollover and roof collapse in car wrecks.
The federal government has banned their sale and use to public school districts. It is questionable whether it was legal for DISD to contract out busing with the same vehicles it cannot use. After substantial media and public pressure, the DISD conceded to the issues involving these high-risk passenger vans and announced today that they would ban them for student busing. A clear win for students and their families.
Passenger van crash rollover risk
Large passenger vans have a higher rollover risk in a crash than many other types of passenger cars. Passenger vans have a higher rollover risk not only in collisions with other cars, but a higher risk of single vehicle crashes that results in a rollover. Studies estimate passenger vans become more dangerous the more people they carry. The rollover risk increases approximately 10% for each occupant. A passenger van with ten or more people has three times the rollover rate of a van carrying fewer than five.
Passenger vans are dangerous vehicles for their occupants even when driven with care. They often have poor handling and a combination of heavy weight and a high center of gravity leads to a high rollover risk. Add to that, most large passenger vans are commercial vehicles often in constant use. More consistent wear and tear means these vans require more frequent inspection, service and repair.
If the auto owners fail to properly maintain their vans, the risk of a rollover or other auto accident increases significantly.
Can I sue for a passenger van rollover accident?
If you suffer injuries in a passenger van rollover accident, you can pursue an insurance claim or even a lawsuit for your injuries and losses. Passenger vans operated by transportation companies likely have auto liability insurance to pay on the claim. The insurance coverage may be quite high; however, a fully occupied van may include several people with significant injuries including:
- Head injuries and traumatic brain injuries
- Broken bones and fractures
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck injuries
- Lower back injuries
- Knee, shoulder, hip and other joint injuries
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Wrongful death
Often, the first step in a passenger van rollover injury claim is to start with the insurance company. Your personal injury attorney may be able to settle your claim for fair compensation without filing a lawsuit. If a reasonable settlement is not possible, then a lawsuit in Texas courts may be necessary. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney will give you a powerful tool to stand up against the insurance company and business that caused your injuries.
Claims against Texas school districts for student injuries
Students injuries at school or in a school vehicle must deal with the unique issues involving Texas immunity. Under Texas law, the state has sovereign immunity from lawsuits. It is a general rule of law that Texas cannot be sued for negligent acts, unless the state agrees to waive immunity. School districts, as government entities, enjoy this immunity from lawsuits for student injuries.
Texas waivers of immunity are found in the Texas Tort Claims Act. School districts are generally immune from claims for student injuries with one important exception.
The Texas Tort Claims Act waives immunity for school districts if the student injury involved the district’s use of motor vehicles. Under this waiver, the school district can be held accountable for students injured in a passenger van rollover or other car accident. Texas and its political subdivisions fight aggressively to avoid the waiver and retain immunity for a student’s injuries. Unfortunately, state courts often find reasons to agree with the school district.
If your child suffers an injury due to a school vehicle or contracted vehicle for the school district, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately. The state and school district will fight hard to avoid taking care of your child and you need an experienced advocate to fight for compensation. Your child may have serious injuries and substantial medical bills as a result of the school district’s negligence.