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Distracted driver at fault for crash with Illinois school bus?

Distracted driving is a significant cause of accidents around the country and here in Illinois. For example, in the seconds that a distracted driver sends a text message or answers a cell phone, the traffic situation can change dramatically. When being distracted is accompanied by a mechanical difficulty, such as failing brakes, a wreck is certainly possible.

Recently, the driver of a garbage truck here in Illinois was involved in a crash that he says was due to the malfunction of his brakes. When he noticed that the traffic ahead of him was stopped, he attempted to avoid colliding with the vehicles in front of him by swerving into another lane. As the truck continued to move forward, he struck the bus. The bus belonged to a daycare center, and 11 children were rushed to the hospital -- one was sent on via helicopter to another hospital -- after suffering a variety of injuries. Two adults in the bus were also injured, as was the garbage truck driver.

The 29-year-old truck driver was cited for improperly using a lane, speeding and for the brakes not working on the vehicle. No other information was immediately available concerning the formal charges. Illinois authorities are continuing to investigate.

While this investigation moves forward, a determination will need to be made as to whether the brakes on the truck did, in fact, fail. This could be significant not only to the police investigation, but also to any civil claims filed by the injured victims and/or their families under Illinois law. Personal injury claims seeking restitution for the damages they incurred in connection with the accident may be filed against the driver and his employer.

His employer could face liability claims under the legal theory of respondeat superior, whereby an employer is responsible for the actions of an employee during the regular course of employment. Moreover, if the vehicle was improperly maintained, additional parties could potentially face liability claims. This may have been the case of a distracted driver, but the fact that the brakes allegedly failed appears to have added to this tragedy.

Source: news.wsiu.org, "11 Children Injured in Morning Accident on Route-13", Jennifer Fuller and Jeff Williams, May 2, 2014

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