Georgia Governor Signs into Law a Fixed School Bus Safety Statute

Today in Atlanta, the Governor of Georgia signed a bill fixing last year’s school bus passing law, according to a report by WSB-TV. A full reading of the text of Senate Bill 25 can be found on the Georgia General Assembly’s website.

The bill amends O.C.G.A. § 40‑6-163, which last year written in a manner that made it no longer a violation to pass a school bus (when loading or unloading children) from the opposite direction of travel when on a road divided by a center center turn lane.

That has been fixed as the problematic language has been deleted from the statute. Now, it is against the law again in Georgia to pass a school bus from the opposite direction when it is loading or unloading children on all roads except in the situation where it occurs “with separate roadways that are separated by a grass median, unpaved area, or physical barrier need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on the separate roadway or upon a controlled access highway when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone which is a part of or adjacent to such highway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway." O.C.G.A. § 40‑6-163(b) (2019).

This law went effect immediately, so as of earlier this morning, February 15, 2019, safety measures in the law appear to be restored in Georgia. Hopefully, this fixed law will prevent tragic wrongful deaths and injuries for Georgia’s children.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a Georgia automobile or pedestrian wreck, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Charter Bus from Gwinnett Headed to Masters Wrecks, Overturns

Driver alleged to have been DUI

According to the Gwinnett Daily Post, a charter bus from Gwinnett County crashed and overturned today on its way to the Masters in Augusta, Georgia. The story reports that there were 18 passengers on board and several were taken to the hospital. Fortunately, it appears the injuries were not life threatening. The driver of the bus was alleged to have been a DUI driver at the time of the incident. As a Gwinnett County personal injury and wrongful death attorney who handles cases throughout the State of Georgia, this sad incident brings up several legal issues regarding the rights of the injured.

Federal Law Requires Minimum Insurance for a Bus with this Number of Passengers

Knowing that the bus was one which carried 16 or more passengers, under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subtitle B, Chapter III, Subchapter B, Subpart C, § 387.303 the owner/operator was required to maintain a minimum of $5,000,000 in insurance liability coverage. Hopefully, none of the non-life threatening injuries were catastrophic.

If even one person received a catastrophic injury such as paralysis, if the company had bare minimum coverage that one claim could take up all the liability coverage available. For this reason, it is very important for anyone injured in such an accident to seek an attorney immediately to assert his or her claim before policy limits are potentially exhausted.

Additionally, evidence can be collected and preserved the sooner an attorney gets to work on the case. Motor carriers and their insurance companies get to work immediately to reduce their exposure. Spoliation letters to preserve evidence and the right to inspect evidence are important tools for a plaintiff's lawyer.

Punitive Damages at Issue with DUI Allegation under Georgia Law

Another part of this case is that the driver of the bus was charged with DUI. As this blog post is based on the news report linked in the first sentence of the post I must stress that the DUI charge is an allegation only and everyone charged with a crime s presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, should a personal injury lawyer have facts to prove this allegation, punitive damages will be at issue in the case. 

Under Georgia law, when a defendant was negligent while "under the influence of alcohol, drugs other than lawfully prescribed drugs administered in accordance with prescription, or any intentionally consumed glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to that degree that his or her judgment is substantially impaired," punitive damages with no cap or limit can be sought. See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f). In other words, if a DUI is proven the plaintiffs are not limited to $250,000 in punitive damages as is the case with many other tort cases in Georgia. 

Let's all hope these passengers recover to good health. 

If you or a loved one have been injured in a bus wreck, DUI wreck, truck wreck, or any other type of auto accident, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Metro Atlanta School Bus Driver Saves Students

A school bus driver in Douglas County, Georgia, heroically saved students in a fiery crash yesterday according to a report in the AJC. The report indicates that the school bus was struck by a truck which ran a red light, struck the school bus, and caught on fire while students were still on the bus. The bus driver helped to evacuate students, saving them from potentially life-threatening injuries.

Georgia has specific laws aimed at protecting students riding school buses found in Title 40, Chapter 6, Article 8 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. Most of the laws in the article apply to safety procedures school bus drivers must follow. The main code section applicable to drivers of other vehicles is O.C.G.A. § 40-6-163 which makes it unlawful to pass a school bus that is loading or unloading passengers.

Thankfully, it appears that no students were seriously injured yesterday, though collisions with school buses can result in serious injuries or death. School buses in Georgia typically do not have seat belts to protect children and the laws of Georgia do not require seat belts in school buses. Recently, Fulton County became on of the first counties to purchase buses with seat belts according to another report by the AJC. That report notes that the National Transportation and Safety Board has determined that seat belts in school buses reduce injuries and save lives. 

If your child has been injured in a school bus accident and you would like to speak with a Georgia personal injury lawyer please contact Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation today.

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Georgia school bus safety.

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. Based in Gwinnett County, he handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. Call him for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585.

Today marks the final day of National School Bus Safety Week for 2017. We should all be fully aware of Georgia laws protecting our children who ride the bus to and from school. Title 40, Article 8 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated specifically addresses school buses.

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-163 sets forth the law applicable to drivers of motor vehicles when meeting or overtaking school buses. The first two subsections provide:

“(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, the driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus stopped on the highway shall stop before reaching such school bus when there are in operation on the school bus the visual signals as specified in Code Sections 40-8-111 and 40-8-115, and such driver shall not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer actuated.

(b) The driver of a vehicle upon a highway with separate roadways need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on a different roadway, or upon a controlled-access highway when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone which is a part of or adjacent to such highway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway.”

The sum and substance of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-163 is that drivers of motor vehicles must stop prior to reaching a school bus regardless of whether approaching from the front or rear with the few limited exceptions detailed in the statute. Those exceptions are (1) when there are separate roadways (when there is a raised or defined median where cars cannot cross) and (2) when on a controlled-access highway (such as interstates or other major highways with exit and entrance ramps) when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone that is part of or adjacent to the roadway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross. This may be somewhat confusing, but the law is actually very clear:  even on the major thoroughfares we have all around Atlanta such as those that have two lanes going in each direction with a center turn lane in the middle, cars going in both directions must stop for a school bus (even if you are on the far opposite side of the road basically four or five full lanes away!). Center turn lanes are not medians no matter how big a road is and all vehicles must stop.

A violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-163 can be enforced by the State of Georgia through a criminal or a civil penalty, and it can also be the basis for showing negligence on the part of the violator should a child be injured or killed. The law puts six points on the license of any violator who is convicted criminally, which is the highest level points assessment used by the Georgia Department of Driver Services.

O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-160, 40-6-161, 40-6-162, 40-6-164, and 40-6-165 all set forth laws applicable to the drivers of school buses. Violations of these sections can result in criminal penalties for the bus driver, but also can be the basis for a civil claim or can help to support a negligence claim in the event a child is hurt or killed based on the actions of the bus driver. Please talk to your children about safety waiting for, loading, disembarking, and crossing in front of school buses. School bus injuries are preventable if bus drivers and all other drivers on the roadway follow the law, but parents and educators should also teach children safe habits relating to school buses.

If your child has been injured in an accident related to a school bus, contact attorney Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation today.

The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.