A personal injury lawyer says school bus operators in the northwest could be sued if a bus had an accident on a poorly maintained road.

Troy Lehman told CBC News the provincial government and municipalities are legally obligated to keep their roads as safe as possible in winter conditions.

Troy Lehman

Personal injury lawyer Troy Lehman specializes in lawsuits against municipalities and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (Supplied)

"If there's a student that's injured seriously, the student could sue both the Ministry and the bus driver or the bus company," said Lehman, whose firm Oatley, Vigmond specializes in lawsuits related to road maintenance across the province.

"And both the ministry and the bus company could be found to be liable."

Iron Range Bus Lines, which operates school buses in the region, recently refused to use Highway 502 between Dryden and Fort Frances because the road was icy and rutted.

'It just is not safe'

"There's a lot of steep hills, a lot of rock cuts, a lot of deep ravines [on that road]," said Iron Range manager Camie Gray.

"When you have a busload of children and you're coming down a hill ... it just is not safe."

Troy Lehman said the Ministry of Transportation is required to take reasonable steps to clear snow and reduce ice hazards on highways, but he said staffing issues do come up.

"We had a case that went to trial where the patroller who was to be on the roadway failed to get on the road for over two hours after his shift started," said Lehman.

He said the province and municipalities must prioritize which roads are cleared first, based partly on how much traffic travels on the route.