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| Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn

Just a day before their Thanksgiving break, a bus holding 35 children crashed into a tree in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Nov. 21, killing six elementary school children and leaving 24 others with injuries ranging from non-life threatening to serious.

Local police immediately placed the bus driver, John Walker, 24, under arrest. He has been charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving. 

Rescue workers had to spend hours freeing children from the mangled bus. Two bloodied students were put on stretchers in a neighbor’s front yard, and others walked away in the arms of their parents.


The bus was nearly torn in half and was wrapped around a tree off of Talley Road in southeast Chattanooga.

Police said that speed was very likely a factor in the deadly bus accident. There were no road conditions apparent that would have led to the bus driver losing control. The police also are investigating if alcohol was involved in the crash.

Our View

All of our personal injury and wrongful death attorneys in our Virginia office send our deep condolences to the families affected by this awful tragedy.

As bus accident attorneys who have handled many personal injury lawsuits involving school buses over the years, we know that school bus accidents are not as uncommon as one might think. In the US, there are 350 million bus passengers every year who travel a total of 28 million miles. And 24 million school children ride the bus to school each day, with 30,000 buses across the US that drive our roads each day.

One of the problems with school buses is that they can actually be more dangerous than cars in an accident. This is because buses do not have seat belts, and passengers can be violently thrown around the cabin during a crash. It would appear from the Tennessee bus accident that the driver was traveling at high speed; a bus being nearly torn in half by a collision with a tree could only occur at high speed. In that type of violent impact, serious injury and death was a near certainty with a school bus full of children.

School buses are owned by the school district as well as possibly the county or city, and lawsuits involving multiple entities are complicated. However, with experienced attorneys handling the lawsuit, large settlements are common in wrongful death actions, such as this $2.4 million wrongful death settlement we handled in 2006. 


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