Victims of ND school bus/train accident sue for more compensation

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The families of victims in a deadly collision between a school bus and a train nearly a year ago in North Dakota are in line to share $500,000 in compensation. But those families are suing in an effort to receive more, the Grand Forks Herald reports.

The accident occurred Jan. 5 in the small town of Larimore, North Dakota, when a school bus carrying children home from school was hit by a train, killing the driver of the bus and a 17-year-old passenger. The other 12 students on board were injured, some of them seriously.

Investigators determined the bus driver was at fault, finding he didn't stop at the railroad crossing as he should have. The bus driver, Max Danner, was a Larimore school employee, so the district is expected to be held liable for the crash.

A North Dakota state law limits damages a school district or other public entity has to pay out for injuries resulting from a single accident -- no matter how many victims there are, the Herald notes.

Lawyers representing the families filed a claim in federal court last week arguing the $500,000 limit in this case is unconstitutional.

Even the school district acknowledges the $500,000 is "insufficient" to cover all the claims expected to be made by the victims, some of whom were seriously injured and have substantial medical bills.

Insurance companies will also want to be reimbursed for the payouts they have already made.

The attorney argues the cap violates the families' right to due process and denies them equal protection under the law.

He also notes the Larimore School District's insurance will cover up to $2 million in damages, and he asked the judge to order the carrier to set aside that amount for the bus crash claims, the Herald reports.

In response to the accident, North Dakota legislators unanimously passed a bill in March that raised the ceiling on the damage amount to $1 million, but it's not retroactive and doesn't apply to the bus accident.

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