South Carolina School Bus Fires: A Lawyer's Perspective On Why Child Safety Is Being Sacrificed

I now know far more about school buses than I ever thought I would. From their manufacturers, to their operators, to their lengths of service, to why they catch on fire - the vehicles on which districts place our children are a portrait of callousness at its worst. Lawmakers talk about costs, corporations discuss profits, and meanwhile families of burned children ask about safety. As a lawyer who represents those families, I ask the same questions. The answers are startling. If you are reading this article, it means you are probably familiar with the news stories that have addressed the history of bus fires in South Carolina. What the news agencies do not fully discuss, however, is why the bus manufacturers and districts continue to put children on these ticking time-bombs.

Manufacturing & Design Defects on Buses

We are currently handling a case where the bus manufacturer (Daimler) chose to run a radiator hose inside the bus, right next to the children's legs. The problem, beyond the obvious danger that exists if the hose sprung a leak, is that Daimler knew this same design had burned other children when the latches that secured the hose to the floorboard came loose, resulting in children being sprayed with steam so hot it melts the flesh. Daimler claimed to have fixed the problem by switching from plastic to metal components. Suffice to say, that minor alteration did not solve the problem, and another child has been needlessly burned.

In addition to design defects, school buses throughout South Carolina are also prone to fire due to worn out wiring, oil leaks, and overheated rear engines. All of these dangers could be eliminated through repair, maintenance, and simply taking dangerous buses out of use. Sadly, Daimler continues to push these old buses, refuses to admit the full scale of their problems, and to my knowledge, has never apologized - publicly or privately - to any child their defective buses have harmed.

Why SC School Districts Continue Placing Children On Buses They Know Could Catch Fire

The old saying about "Follow the money," is certainly true here. And the awful truth is that it costs districts (and the insurance companies behind them) less to fix the problem than it does to pay out claims. How could that be? Well, it is because in South Carolina, no matter how terrible or costly the injury, the most the district would ever have to pay one child/family is $300,000. Moreover, no matter how many children were burned in a bus fire, the district would never have to pay more than $600,000 collectively to all the kids/families. When the districts, and our legislators, weigh the cost of new buses versus these caps on their financial exposure, they continue to choose risk over safety and cost-savings over children.

Answers and Guidance for Families After a Bus Fire

I did not become an attorney based on some hope that I could make money off injured kids. Nor is that my goal today. My law firm's mission, as well as our core values, have always centered on safety. For better or worse, the most effective way of reducing and eliminating danger in our community has been to hold the wrongdoers financially accountable. Money is their language, and the only way we have found to get them to change, is to pay. Additionally, I believe in putting "safety in the settlement." In other words, requiring not only that the defendants provide money, but also that they change their practices so that more people are not harmed in the future.

With that said, long before discussions of settlement or trial, come answers to your questions. Whether it is how to identify all the defendants responsible for your child's burns, how to handle the medical bills, or what can be done to ensure your child does not fall behind on schoolwork, I am here to provide guidance and clarity.  I always tell grown ups that I want them to focus on being great parents; to help their children get back as close as possible to life as normal. Meanwhile, let me deal with the legal, insurance, and engineering issues that are involved in school bus cases.

I have helped obtain justice for children across South Carolina ever since I started this firm, and am here to serve you as well. Unlike our state's school buses, there is zero risk or cost involved in getting in touch with me. Feel free to call, send an email, or use the live chat feature to get in touch with us immediately.

Simply put, school bus fires can no longer be considered an accident. They are preventable, and I want to continue doing my part to hold those who cause them responsible in an effort to finally bring about a change in South Carolina.

Kenneth Berger
Columbia South Carolina attorney dedicated to securing justice by helping the truly injured
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