The Kentucky State Police and Butler County Sheriff’s office are investigating a deadly bus crash that occurred Monday afternoon near the intersection of Provo Road and Kentucky Highway 70 on Rochester Road. The police say five-year-old Jaden Hawkins was struck as he was crossing the street just after getting off the bus. Butler County Coroner Marty Jones says the boy was pronounced dead at the scene about 15 minutes later. According to news reports, the bus stop was a scheduled stop regularly used by Jaden. Butler County Schools released a statement around 6 PM which explains that the bus driver involved in this incident, Janine Dockery of Morgantown, has been employed with the school district for 18 years. The School District is cooperating with the police and the bus has been confiscated for investigation.
If it is determined that the bus driver was not operating the vehicle with reasonable care in the circumstances, he or she may be liable under a theory of negligence for the child’s death and the damages caused. A bus driver that transports students owes a duty of care to make sure that the students do not get injured. Common carriers, such as bus drivers, are held to a higher standard of care than those operating normal motor vehicles. Given KSP’s indication that the boy was struck during a scheduled unloading, it is possible that the driver breached the standard of care owed to the child. Additionally, if the investigation reveals any negligence by the Butler County School District, the school district could also be liable for the child’s death.
If the bus driver is found to be at-fault for causing the collision that resulted in the death of Jaden Hawkins, it is possible that the boy’s relatives may have grounds to bring a wrongful death claim against the driver in addition to a negligence claim. Wrongful death is a cause of action which enables a personal representative, such as a parent, to file a lawsuit against the party that negligently or intentionally caused their child’s death. Potentially recoverable damages can include funeral and administrative expenses, loss of services, loss of consortium and loss of power to earn. The statute also dictates how such damages, if awarded, are to be disbursed amongst the surviving family members.