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Dozens Injured After Truck Collides with School Bus in Milwaukee, Investigators Look into Potential Causes

By: Allan M. Siegel

At least 20 victims were injured in Milwaukee Wednesday morning when a school bus full of students was violently rear-ended by a commercial truck. According to reports from the Wisconsin State Patrol, the wreck occurred shortly after 10:00 am on Wednesday, May 23 on Interstate 39.

The school bus involved in the collision was from HOPE Christian School: Semper, and at the time of the crash, had been carrying 33 passengers, including 27 students and 6 adults. Authorities also state that the bus was stopped on the shoulder of the Interstate when it was struck by the tractor-trailer.

Of the 20 victims injured in the crash, 4 suffered serious injuries. Two victims were also transported by helicopter from the scene to a local hospital.

While the investigation is still in its early stages, preliminary information indicates the school bus was traveling north on the Interstate before the driver pulled over onto the shoulder near an Exit due to a mechanical issue. The bus was then struck at high speed by the tractor-trailer.

Additionally, authorities stated they had received reports that the truck had been driving erratically prior to the crash. Although they issued an “attempt to locate” call, the crash happened before law enforcement was able to find and stop the driver. Representatives from the trucking company which owned the rig, said the driver had only been on the road for an hour before the collision.

Trucking Accidents & Investigations

Witness statements, reports, and preliminary crash scene investigations have provided a fair amount of information to local law enforcement to work with. However, it may be some time before any definitive determination is made about what caused the wreck and whether or not it could have been prevented. That’s because commercial truck accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, including driver fatigue, mechanical error, or even driver impairment by drugs and alcohol, as cited by authorities in a press conference discussing the need for a full investigation.

With so many potential causes, post-accident investigations become critical to helping victims and families who may be entitled to financial compensation for their damages. By looking into all of these factors, investigators can follow up on leads, rule out suspected causes, and reach final determinations that can aid victims in holding the appropriate party liable. For example:

  • Driver fatigue / error – Although the driver in this incident was reportedly on the road for only an hour prior to the crash, looking into who that driver was, what they were during before and during the crash, and questioning them after the crash will be vital to determining whether or not driver error or fatigue played a role. This is especially true given reports that the truck was being driven erratically, and because many rear-end accidents are caused by driver error and negligence. Fatigue can also not be ruled out until investigators look further into the company and its records, including any E-logs that may have logged the driver’s time on duty. Even then, investigators will likely look beyond company records to rule out possibilities that the driver may have already exceeded weekly Hours-of-Service rules, or may have been awake for an extended period of time prior to starting their shift or getting behind the wheel (which was the case in the high profile Walmart truck accident that seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed one victim).
  • Mechanical Error – As stated by police, investigators will also look into the possibility of mechanical errors, which may account for the erratic driving. Delving into this possibility is important for victims, as it may reveal that a defective product caused the wreck, and open the door to claims against a product manufacturer, rather than the truck driver or trucking company.
  • Drug or Alcohol Impairment – Investigators will also test the truck driver to determine whether or not he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, another possible explanation for the erratic driving. Because trucking companies have obligations to abide by safety regulations specifically for drug and alcohol testing and when hiring drivers who won’t pose unreasonable risks on the road (such as drivers with a history of substance abuse), positive test results could implicate the trucking company as a liable party.

Our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. expresses our sincere condolences to all families affected by this serious crash, and are hopeful investigations will provide the insight which can guide them in any personal injury claims they may choose to pursue. When representing our clients, we make sure to be a part of these investigations, and conduct independent evaluations of our own, because they have significant influence over the direction and substance of their cases.

If you or someone you love has been hurt in a truck accident anywhere in Washington, DC, Virginia, or Maryland, our attorneys have the insight and resources to help you immediately. Call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online to discuss a potential case.