School-bus compartment door flies open, causing crash that injures 23 students

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question ” Is a tractor-trailer accident the same as an automobile accident?”


A storage compartment door on a Gaston County school bus opened suddenly on Wednesday, causing the school bus to overturn and injuring some 23 middle-school aged students.

School Bus Charlotte Accident Lawyer North Carolina Injury AttorneyState troopers who responded to the scene told WSOC that they did not think the bus was travelling the posted 45-mile-per-hour speed limit at the time of the crash. As of Thursday, the school-bus driver had not been cited, and troopers were mum on whether any charges were expected.

A student interviewed by WSOC said “he heard a loud squeaking noise coming from the bus right before the accident happened.”

One student said the last thing he remembered was a lot of people tumbling over him.

The driver of the school bus said she tried to close the storage compartment door and started to run off the road. The driver overcorrected, causing the school bus to flip on its side. Eleven students were taken to CaroMont Regional Health Center in Gastonia; four were taken to Carolinas Medical Center in Kings Mountain, and another eight were taken to local hospitals by their parents.

Many lawsuits filed after school-bus accidents allege that the school bus was not “crashworthy”—or in other words, the design of the school bus or some feature of the school bus resulted in the vehicle failing to protect its passengers in a crash. So-called “crashworthiness” claims are recognized in North Carolina.

Many injury claims brought in the wake of school-bus crashes focus on seatbelts. Most states do not require school buses to be equipped with seat or lap belts. Large school buses in North Carolina are exempt from the North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Law and are not required to be equipped with seatbelts.

Other common sources of claims brought as a result of injuries sustained in school bus crashes include the alleged failure of or a defect in “such components as exterior mirrors, the front service door, the location of driver controls, crossing control arms, bumpers, handrails, seat padding and window retention,” says Thomas McMahon, executive editor for School Bus Fleet.

Paul Marcela, vice president and general counsel for Blue Bird Corp., said that at one time or another “just about everything on a school bus has been the subject of a claim.”

Common targets of school-bus related lawsuits include the driver of the bus and the bus’s manufacturer. Targets may also include the manufacturers of bus components, if one or more of the components failed, leading to the accident.

In the Gaston County case, officials and—potentially—litigants and their lawyers will focus on the storage compartment door that opened while the bus was in transit. Whether the door’s sudden opening was caused by a human error associated with the proper shutting and securing of the door, or whether some defect in the door itself caused it to fly open, will likely be the focus of inquiries regarding liability for the accident.

If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.



About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAWMatthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






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Image courtesy of Bernd Moehle



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