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How Insurance Coverages Can Work: The Front Street Church Bus Accident Examined

Rear view of bus driving in the city A recent church bus accident in Tennessee left 8 families without loved ones – all because one tire blew out.

Many more members of Front Street Baptist Church in Salisbury, NC, were left in critical condition and many suffered devastating injuries.

Our hearts go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy.

No amount of money can ever replace what they’ve lost, but the fact is that we pay hundreds (maybe even thousands) of dollars in insurance costs every year so that when accidents do happen, we aren’t financially ruined as well.

In this post, we’ll attempt to illustrate how insurance coverage can work in NC by examining the accident.

Summary of the Front Street Baptist Church Bus Accident

According to news reports, members of Front Street’s “Young at Heart” senior group were traveling on I-40 East in the church’s bus from a jubilee in Gatlinburg, TN, when one of the bus’s tires blew out – causing the bus to veer across the median and into oncoming traffic.

The church-owned bus then hit an SUV with two passengers in it and a tractor-trailer, carrying paper towels, which immediately caught fire.

5 passengers on the bus and the driver were killed, as well as the driver of the tractor-trailer and one passenger in the SUV. 14 others were injured.

The accident is still being investigated, but according to Tennessee Highway Patrol in an interview with WBTV, it appears the bus driver lost control after the tire malfunctioned. They further added that it would be extremely hard to maintain control in those circumstances.

Our Analysis

We’ve looked at how insurance coverages could play out in this scenario, but before we begin, please note that:


DISCLAIMER 1) – This accident will require a great deal of additional investigating and these are just our assumptions and generalizations, based on the information made available through news reports. This information should not be used as a substitute for advice from a qualified attorney.

DISCLAIMER 2) – Although victims listed could receive the same “coverages” that does not necessarily mean they will. Each victim’s case is unique and will likely be evaluated and handled based on their individual circumstances.

DISCLAIMER 3) – In our experience, in a complex accident, insurance companies may be apt to deny coverage, but that does not mean they’re not responsible. A NC personal injury attorney may be able to help.

Let’s begin:

  1. The bus passengers
    Since the passengers were likely not at fault for the accident, they should receive payment for their medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and possibly other losses. For the passengers that died, their families may be awarded a wrongful death claim to cover funeral costs and other losses. The liability insurance company the church used to insure the bus (assuming the church had a policy in place – most do) could pay many of these bills. However, the investigation is unclear over whether or not the driver was properly licensed to operate the vehicle. If that’s found to be the case, the liability insurance company covering the bus could try to refuse to pay for the damages. The driver, someone in charge of maintaining the vehicle and overseeing its use or even the tire manufacturer/seller may all be investigated and their insurance companies may also be held responsible, depending on the facts. Bills after an accident can add up quickly and the passengers may be able to use Medical Payments Coverage and Underinsured Motorist Coverage on their own policies as well. If any of the passengers live with a blood relative that also has insurance, those policies may be additional coverage also.
  2. The SUV passengers
    The SUV passengers will likely have all the same coverages available to them as the bus passengers – since they were also victims. However, the SUV passengers may also be able to draw coverage from the SUV driver’s liability insurance policy, since his/her policy is designed to protect the passengers in his/her vehicle.
  3. The SUV driver
    Although it may seem strange, the SUV driver’s coverages will likely be very similar to that of the bus passengers – with all the liability insurance relating to the bus possibly covering his losses and his own insurance company possibly supplementing where needed with MedPay and Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Also, assuming the SUV driver was the owner of the vehicle he/she was driving, he/she may also be paid for the property damage to the SUV.
  4. The tractor-trailer driver
    Since the tractor-trailer driver was likely working, his family may receive death benefits from his company’s workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ Compensation in North Carolina allows for the families of workers who have died on the job to receive up to 500 weeks of benefits (typically two-thirds of the deceased’s average weekly earnings), up to $10,000 in funeral expenses, and reimbursement for medical expenses incurred prior to death. A minor child or disabled spouse may be entitled to receive benefits beyond the 500 weeks. However, news reports say that the truck driver was from New Orleans, and assuming his company is located there, his workers’ compensation benefits will likely be different from those in North Carolina. Workers’ compensation is a “no fault” type of coverage – meaning it typically doesn’t matter who is at fault for the accident. But since this accident does not appear to be the trucker’s fault, his family may also be able to file what is known as a “third-party claim” for liability insurances that cover the actions of the bus.
  5. The  bus driver
    Many times, in situations like these, the bus driver is a volunteer, and therefore workers’ compensation insurance, would not apply. Since his injuries were fatal, as were his wife’s, his next-of-kin would likely receive whatever coverage is determined for him. There are many factors involved in this particular case and a NC bus accident attorney would have to thoroughly investigate this case. As a whole, this accident is extremely complex, in terms of legal fault. Troopers have told the media that, although they’re investigating now, the official report may take up to six months to be released. In our experience, that means victims could be waiting a long time for money they may need to cover necessary medical costs, etc. An experienced attorney may be able to help.

NC Car Accident and Workers’ Comp Lawyers

Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrific accident. We see the devastating results of car accidents every day, but it never gets easier to hear about the loved ones our clients lose.

If you need a car accident or workers compensation lawyer in NC, or you just have questions about the legal process and insurance, contact us online please give us a call at 1-866-900-7078.

We’re happy to help – even if you decide to seek legal representation somewhere else.