In 1985, Chris Schroder was driving to a conference and was struck by a speeding school bus driven by a 16-year-old. He sustained moderate injuries and his brand new car was totaled while his passenger sustained serious injuries. Because the school bus had no insurance, Chris was only able to recover a small amount of money through worker’s compensation.
Almost 30 years have passed but this could still happen to any one of us. School districts in Georgia are not required to carry any insurance on their school buses for the protection of the public. While there is a statute that authorizes the purchase of such insurance, the decision whether to purchase insurance and how much coverage to maintain on school buses, if any, is left to each individual school district.
While school buses are required to carry “policies of insurance” on their school buses to cover injuries to bus passengers, the General Assembly has not imposed any minimum limits of coverage. As a result, many school districts carry as little as coverage as possible. That means if a school bus runs over and kills a child as they are crossing in front of the bus, there may be only $5,000 of coverage.
In a recent Georgia case, a negligent Cobb County school bus driver drove through a red light, struck another motorist and killed the driver. While the school district did not carry a formal policy of insurance, it was “self-insured” up to $100,000 -- a paltry amount for the value of the woman’s life. At the time, Cobb County School District had more than 800 buses on the roads that travelled more than 11 million miles annually. Just this week, two people were taken to the hospital after a collision with a school bus, again in Cobb County. These accidents will continue to occur and the public is entitled to be protected against these eventualities.
National School Bus Safety Week is Oct. 21-25, sponsored by National Association for Pupil Transportation. While the focus of the week is the safety of the children riding the school buses, it is also a good time to make us all aware that we could suffer injuries from a school bus and potentially receive little or no compensation for our injuries or damage to our cars. The General Assembly should adopt legislation requiring the thousands of school buses on Georgia’s roads to carry insurance for the protection of the public and should require specific limits to protect the young students on board.
— Dave Krugler, Cash, Krugler and Fredericks