Police in Wayne County, North Carolina (NC), on December 14, 2014, told news reporters they intended to file charges against the driver of an activity bus transporting New Bern High School band members home from a state championship football game with causing an accident that claimed the life of an SUV driver. No children aboard the bus suffered injuries from the collision on Highway 70 near Goldsboro, and the bus operator also survived the crash unscathed. According to television station WITN, however, the man behind the while of the smaller vehicle died on impact with the bus.
The bus was changing directions close to where the larger highway splits with NC 581. Investigators said the bus driver failed to yield to oncoming traffic, and that the man in the SUV could not stop in time to avoid the deadly crash. With the accident occurring at around 3 am, it is unknown if poor visibility or fatigue contributed to causing the wreck.
U-turns create hazards on every type of road, but the maneuver is particularly dangerous on highways and interstates. The time and distance needed to turn east to west, as the New Bern bus driver was trying to do, are considerable. The way would have needed to be clear for perhaps miles and several minutes for the turnaround to be completed safely and successfully. Neither of those conditions seems to have existed.
If the completed investigation shows the bus driver to have full responsibility for causing the crash that killed the SUV driver, the victim's family members could have strong grounds for pursuing a wrongful claim. Securing a just insurance settlement or court award may prove difficult, however. If the bus driver was employed by the school district, a complicated series of laws related to civil service and sovereign immunity could frustrate the pursuit of justice. At the same time, bus drivers who operate as independent contractors or as employees of charter/livery companies often have multiple forms of insurance issued by several different insurers. Navigating that private claims process can take years.
When the grief and shock from the sudden loss of their loved ones allows, the deceased SUV driver's family should consider seeking a free consultation with a North Carolina attorney who has experience holding school districts and their employees accountable for causing fatal injuries.