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Conroe Accident Demonstrates that Texas School Busses Do Not Protect Your Children

ABC news recently reported on a school bus crash that occurred on 1485 in Conroe, Texas, on May 3rd this year. A young girl was the sole passenger on the bus when an uninsured driver pulled out and caused a three-car accident that involved the bus. The girl’s leg was broken as a result of the wreck. When the family reached out to the School District, they were shocked to learn that the school district does not carry uninsured motorist coverage for the kids. They were told that it would violate state law to provide it.

Is there Really a Law Prohibiting School Districts from Purchasing UM/UIM Coverage?

There is no specific law addressing whether a school district may or may not purchase uninsured motorist coverage to protect children on a school bus. However, the law they are referring to is actually the Texas Constitution. Under Article 3, Section 51, of the Texas Constitution: “The Legislature shall have no power to make any grant or authorize the making of any grant of public moneys to any individual, association of individuals, municipal or other corporations whatsoever.” The purpose behind this law is to prohibit the use of public (tax) dollars for making a gift to any individual.

How is Protecting Children on a School Bus a Gift?

In 1975 the question was posed to the Texas Attorney General whether a school district could buy uninsured motorist coverage. The Texas Attorney General wrote in an opinion that neither personal injury protection nor uninsured motorist coverage could be purchased in this scenario. According to the Texas Attorney General, because uninsured motorist insurance benefits non-employees (children) and other drivers who fail to carry insurance, it is considered a gift. As such, the Texas Constitution prohibits it. In light of this opinion, it would essentially be considered a misappropriation of public funds to purchase uninsured motorist insurance and the Texas Attorney General would be required to prosecute anyone purchasing such a policy.

How Do You Change the Law?

If there is one thing we all know it is that laws can be changed. But it is rarely a simple process. To make matters worse, this is not just a simple law that the Texas Legislature can vote to change. This is part of the Texas Constitution. In order to change the Texas Constitution, and member of the Texas Legislature may introduce a resolution proposing the amendment. Once proposed, two-thirds of the members must approve it which means that you need at least 21 Senators and 100 Representatives to vote for it. But that’s not all, once approved, it must go to the Texas voters and be approved by a majority vote.

Why Would It Be Opposed?

It may seem like protecting children would be a no brainer. However, keep in mind, insurance is not free. It also isn’t cheap when you are insuring a bus full of children. It is not cheap when it is every bus full of children in the entire State. All that money comes from taxpayers—those with kids and those who do not have kids who ride the school bus.
In the United States, approximately 54% of all school kids ride a school bus. But not everyone has school-age kids. Thus, simply having taxpayer dollars pay for the insurance would be shifting a lot of the burden to insure children to people to whom it does not benefit—which goes back to the heart of the original problem of it being a gift of public funds to a private person. Plus, it would mean people have to vote to have their taxes raised—which is never a popular thing in Texas.

How Much Could They Carry if it Were Changed?

For a private citizen, the sky is the limit on how much uninsured motorist coverage you buy. The only restriction is that you buy at least the same amount of liability insurance. However, it is different for governmental entities. Governmental entities are protected on the liability side by sovereign immunity. The most a school district can be held liable for a single accident is $300,000.00 ($100,000.00 per person). Furthermore, insurance companies do not insure risks that do not exist. So, the most liability insurance they could buy without another major change would be $300,000 placing the same cap on UM coverage.

300,000 is Not Enough Insurance for a Bus Accident

While $100,000 per person and $300,000 per event seems like a lot, in a major accident involving the school bus this will still leave many without enough coverage. Houston personal injury lawyer, Paul Cannon, said “when a bus rolls over on its side in a wreck, it is rare that the damages will be less than $300,000 to all of the occupants combined.” But again, insuring over and above the legal liability limit so that UM could match would again run afoul of the Texas Constitution prohibition on gifts. So, to really fix the problem, you would need two Constitutional Amendments to pass and for the voters to vote to raise their taxes to pay for it.


As a parent, you simply cannot rely on the school that buses your child to school to protect them in the event of an accident. The safest thing to do if you are going to use Texas buses is talk to your insurer to see if theyre is a way to get your own UM coverage through a parent’s policy and make sure you have sufficient health insurance to cover your child so at least there will be something to provide for medical expenses. If the child is seriously crippled or disfigured and needs a scar revision (considered cosmetic by health insurance), then the State of Texas says you are just out of luck. Your best betis to not use public school buses in Texas unless you have no other choice.

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