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Swerving School Bus Driver Fortunate Not to Be Facing Civil Claims

The arrest of a Utah school bus driver for Driving Under the Influence on an interstate highway in Draper potentially could have raised many questions beyond whether the State of Utah will successfully prosecute her for the criminal charges that have been levied. Lycia Martinez, 39, is suspected of having taken prescription anti-anxiety/muscle-relaxer pills, which were found in her purse, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Blaine Robbins said.  Other motorists on the highway at time called 911 about how the school bus, driven by Martinez failed to stay within its lane and almost collided with other vehicles.

Now she will face criminal prosecution for DUI and possibly other criminal counts pertaining to her erratic driving and disciplinary action by the school district for violating their policy. The Davis School District requires a bus driver to notify supervisors if they have taken any prescription medicine. Fortunately, she did not cause any accident and no one sustained any physical injuries during the time she was operating the bus in such a fashion.

For those reasons, it is unlikely that that any of the school kids or other motorists on the highway at the time would have the basis for any personal injury action against either her personally of the school district that employs her. If she had, in fact, collided with any other vehicles, the drivers and/or passengers of such cars or trucks may have had personal injury claims against Martinez, the school district or both. Whereas police officers in many jurisdictions enjoy qualified immunity from such personal injury civil actions when they cause an accident on the highways or roads, bus drivers in most states do not garner that kind of insulation from civil liability.

In many jurisdictions, the families of children on the bus may consider the viability of claims against either the driver or her employer for negligent infliction of mental or emotional distress. These types of claims can be difficult to prove. Many states require a claimant prove some sort of "physical impact" before a negligent infliction claim can be considered. Furthermore, those making the claim would need to show that the affected children exhibit cognizable signs of psychological trauma after any such incident occurred.     

The lawyers at Giddens & Gatton Law, PC represent injured individuals in personal injury suits in New Mexico, including those caused by motor vehicle accidents. Giddens & Gatton Law, PC is located at 10400 Academy Road N.E., Suite 350 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Call the office at (505) 633-6298 to set up an appointment or visit the firm's website at for more information.

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