School Bus Driver in Fatal New Jersey Crash Had License Suspended 14 Times – What Can You Do To Protect Your Child During School Field Trips?

By Greg Kohn

As New Jersey mass transit accident attorneys, we see the devastation a mass transit accident causes for the families involved. Our entire legal team was saddened to hear of the tragic and deadly school bus crash in Mount Olive, N.J. in May of this year.

According to a news story from the New York Times in May 2018, a school bus driver who had his driver’s license suspended 14 times was behind the wheel of a school bus when it crashed. The 77-year old school bus driver had a commercial driver’s license endorsed by the state to operate a school bus, even though his record clearly showed he lost his license 14 times over the 43-year driving record. A spokeswoman for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission said that the bus driver had five accidents on his record but could not offer any further information.

The school bus was transporting 44 passengers from the fifth-grade class of East Brook Middle School on a school field trip from Paramus to Waterloo Village when it crashed. The school bus collided with a dump truck before overturning in the median on Interstate 80. A 10-year old student, and a 51-year old teacher, were killed in the accident. The remaining passengers were injured and transported to local hospitals for treatment.

Proposed New Law Seeks to Reduce Tragedies Like This In the Future

N.J. Congressman Josh Gottheimer proposed new legislation referred to as “Miranda’s  Law” in honor of the 10-year old student who died in the May school bus crash. The law will make it much easier for government agencies to share information regarding the driving record for school bus drivers. The system would alert the school district that employs the driver when the driver is involved in any traffic violation or accident more serious than a parking ticket. Proponents of the bill claim that it will save lives.

How Can You Protect Your Child on a School Field Trip?

Each school should have a written policy for safety procedures during field trips. You need to request a complete copy of the procedures and review those procedures carefully. If you believe an issue is not addressed correctly, you should schedule a meeting with the school’s principal and school board. Also, ask whether the bus your child will be riding on for the trip is equipped with seat belts. If the bus does not have seat belts, you may want to consider volunteering as a chaperone and driving your vehicle for the trip depending on the circumstances. You should also inquire about the bus driver to ensure that the driver has a valid driver’s license with a bus endorsement and ask when school officials last reviewed the driver’s driving record.

Websites like The Bump, Scholastic, and Live About also have information about safety tips for school field trips.

New Jersey Mass Transit Lawyer — Liability for School Field Trip Accidents

Before you sign that permission slip for your child to attend a field trip, you need to read the fine print and discuss your legal rights with a New Jersey mass transit lawyer. School districts attempt to limit liability for accidents that occur during a school field trip by having parents sign a permission slip. These permission slips are actually liability waivers the school system is using to create a contract to protect the school from lawsuits.

However, a signed liability waiver or permission slip does not absolve the school or other parties from all liability for an accident. If your child was injured during a school field trip, contact our team at Nagel Rice, LLP today immediately to discuss your options for filing an injury claim or wrongful death action on behalf of your child.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.