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Kentucky Child Struck and Killed by School Bus

Our motor vehicle accident lawyers report on the tragic death of a child who was struck and killed by a school bus.

A Kentucky family recently suffered a tragic loss when their 10-year-old son was struck and killed by a Whitley County Public School bus. The boy, Jonathan A. Chatham, was a cancer survivor.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Chatham was hit at his regular bus stop on Ky. 779 as he returned home from North Whitley Elementary on March 23. A Kentucky state trooper said the boy cleared the bus when he got off, but went into the ditch line and came back under the wheels.

The Whitley County school system issued a statement saying that the child had exited the bus, walked up the bank on the side of the road, and then re-entered the path of the bus again as it was moving forward, according to a LEX18 news report.

His family apparently questions that account. According to a social media comment posted on the LEX18 report by the boy’s grandmother, Barbara McMahan, Chatham’s father was waiting at the bus stop and observed the bus doors close and the bus pull out before the boy had fully cleared the bus. McMahan said she did not believe that the child threw himself under the bus.

The state police are heading an investigation to determine whether other factors may have contributed to the collision and the driver was placed on paid suspension while the investigation is completed.  No charges have been filed against the bus driver, and no drug or alcohol use is suspected so far.

When the facts are in dispute, an experienced Kentucky personal injury attorney can conduct an independent investigation on the family’s behalf, interview witnesses, and work with accident reconstruction experts to determine the cause of an accident.

Although school bus crashes are statistically rare, the consequences of an accident are high, particularly when it comes to pedestrians.

The most recent federal data shows that since 2003, 119 school-age pedestrians under the age of 19 have died in school bus-related accidents. In 65 percent of those collisions, the deaths resulted after being struck by a school bus. Around 35 percent of those killed were children between the ages of 8 and 13, just like Chatham.

Overall, 1,353 people have died in school-transportation-related crashes in the U.S. in the last 12 years – an average of 135 people per year.

Sadly, Kentucky has had far too many school bus crashes in recent weeks. Just days after Chatham’s accident, a Toyota Tundra collided with a school bus carrying 20 children in Jefferson County. Seven students and the bus driver complained of minor injuries, according to WHAS 11.

In February, another accident involving a Jefferson County school bus, tractor trailer, and police car sent 20 children to the hospital for evaluation. The accident occurred when a tractor trailer truck struck a Jefferson County Public Schools bus on February 15 at an intersection. All the students were later released from the hospital.

Like any other vehicle crash, there could be a variety of factors that led to the Whitley County bus accident. Investigators must consider whether the collision involved driver error, pedestrian error, mechanical failures, or signs of negligence when it comes to maintenance or repairs to the 1999 International bus.

In some case, a combination of contributing factors may mean more than one entity is liable for a crash.

However, school bus crashes are legally complicated. It is true that school officials, employees, and other administrators are entrusted to care for youngsters who are under their supervision. However, Kentucky law allows for governmental immunity to all state and school officials, which means that they cannot be sued. That doesn’t mean that a family is barred from making a claim in a personal injury or wrongful death claim, but it does make the legal waters a bit more challenging to navigate. It is essential to contact an experienced attorney if your child has been injured in a school bus accident.