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Potential Liability Issues for Three Children Injured in Oklahoma Bus Accident

Posted on January 21, 2020

What should have been a routine morning on the way to school turned tragic for three students who were injured in a school bus accident on January 14, 2020.

Oklahoma’s KFOR News 4 reported on the incident, stating that the crash occurred when the bus driver collided with the front of a construction truck. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) is assisting local officials in the investigation into the causes and contributing factors, but fortunately no one else was hurt. The three children suffered minor injuries and were transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Any motor vehicle crash can lead to significant losses for victims, which is why Oklahoma law provides them with rights to recover compensation from a negligent driver. However, liability issues are unique as they apply to children who are hurt in school bus accidents. One of the first considerations is who has standing to bring a claim, since a person under 18 years old does not enjoy the same legal capacity as an adult. For this reason, the law allows the parent or guardian to act on behalf of the minor when seeking monetary damages.

Charles Bryan Alred, founding partner and school bus accident lawyer at Charles Bryan Alred, PC in Tulsa, OK, offered an explanation of the process. “The parent or guardian basically steps into the shoes of the child to file a claim with the responsible motorist’s insurance company. That individual – through his or her attorney – can deal with the insurance adjuster and work to negotiate a settlement. But it’s not possible to fully resolve the matter without court approval, which occurs through a legal proceeding known as a ‘friendly’ suit. The term comes from the fact that the lawsuit doesn’t involve a dispute; everyone agrees. You’re just asking the judge to agree to execution of the settlement agreement.”

In Oklahoma, the stages of the friendly suit in a school bus accident work as follows:

The parties file necessary documents to initiate the proceeding;
The court will issue a hearing;
All interested parties, along with their respective lawyers, will appear and testify; and,
The judge will review the testimony regarding the details of the settlement agreement.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will enter an order approving the settlement agreement on behalf of the child. There will also be instructions to parents that the funds must be deposited in a bank account, and not touched until the child turns 18 years old.