Conroe ISD bus crash leaves injured 1st-grader's parents with the bills because of a Texas law

Lileana Pearson Image
Wednesday, September 6, 2023

CONROE, Texas (KTRK) -- A loophole in a Texas State law has a Conroe family facing thousands of dollars in medical bills after their daughter broke her leg in a school bus crash.

The wreck happened on May 3 on FM 1485 on the mile-long trip from the child's home on Whispering Pine Drive to Hope Elementary School.

The Law family said their first-grade daughter Gayla was the only child on her school bus when, according to a Texas Department of Transportation investigation, a driver pulled out of his driveway and caused a three-car accident, including that school bus.

"Of course, I'm panicking and like, what in the world!" Gayla's mother, Ardis Law, said.

Joshua and Ardis Law said their daughter was taken to the hospital, where they were told she had a broken leg and crushed growth plate. That reality also came with hefty medical bills.

"We are sitting roughly, probably, at least $8,000 owed," Joshua Law said.

"That is a burden on our family that I feel other people should be aware of," Ardis Law said.

The Laws called the school to figure out insurance. That's when they learned the driver who caused the crash was uninsured, and a Texas loophole had Conroe ISD off the hook.

Conroe ISD said in a statement, "Under Texas law, school districts are only liable for auto accidents caused by the District's negligent use or operation of a school district vehicle. Accordingly, it would violate Texas law to pay injury claims if the District's actions were not the cause of the injuries and would also be considered a gift of public funds. Because of this, school districts cannot purchase uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage."

ABC13 read that response to the Laws, who said if that's the case, something needs to change.

"Absolutely not a good response. I think that that is a very in-the-box and close-minded response," Ardis Law said.

The couple said schools should carry uninsured motorist coverage.

"Schools really need to start paying attention to where they are placing the money because I think insurance on a child on a school bus is a little bit more important than putting new turf on a football field," she said.

They want uninsured drivers to face more enforcement of the law. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, 2.6 million registered drivers are not carrying insurance.

According to Texas law, if someone is caught without it, they face a ticket and a couple hundred dollars in fees.

The Laws don't think uninsured drivers should be ticketed and allowed to drive away in their uninsured vehicles.

"It's not right. It's not right because we are abiding by the law, and we are carrying the insurance that everyone should be carrying," Joshua Law said.

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