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Cheerleader Hospitalized Weeks After Alleged Hit-and-Run as She Stepped Off Bus Following Competition

The family of Chiara Jones, 18, has filed a notice of claim after the high school senior was critically injured in the Feb. 4 incident

<p>Courtesy of the Jones family</p> Chiara Jones

Courtesy of the Jones family

Chiara Jones

The family of a New Jersey student-cheerleader who remains hospitalized with critical injuries after being struck by an alleged hit-and-run driver as she got off a school bus last month is taking legal action against the Newark Board of Education and others, alleging negligence in the incident.

The family of Chiara Jones, 18, says the Arts High School senior was returning to her school from a cheerleading competition held in Toms River, N.J., when she was struck while crossing the street in Newark around 10:15 p.m. on Feb. 4, according to a Lynch Law Firm press release shared with PEOPLE.

The suspected driver, identified by authorities as 33-year-old Mia’Jah Burton, allegedly did not stop and fled the scene, Essex County Prosecutor Ted Stephens III said, according to WKXWCBS News, and NBC News. She was arrested March 1 on charges of leaving the scene of an accident with serious bodily injuries, assault by auto, hindering apprehension, and filing a false police report, WKXW reports, citing prosecutors. She’s currently being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility. It’s unclear if she has entered a plea or retained an attorney to speak on her behalf.

After Jones got off the bus, the Lynch Law Firm alleges the school bus driver failed to turn on the red flashing lights and extend the stop arm, an indication that approaching vehicles should come to a complete stop.

“A vehicle drove behind the bus, crossed over that double yellow line, because the bus was blocking one lane. Chiara, I assume, wouldn't think to look left, because traffic should only be coming from the right. She walks out into that lane, and as soon as she gets into that lane, she's struck by a car,” attorney James S. Lynch, of Lynch Law Firm, alleges to PEOPLE.

He further claims, “I don't think this accident would have happened if the bus driver had engaged those safety lights. Additionally, we believe it's school protocol to have a chaperone with the kids or students who are supposed to get out and make sure traffic's clear before the children or the students cross the street. That wasn't done.

“The parking of school buses in that area is also problematic,” Lynch alleges. “I mean, she's parked. They're double parked. There's no area to pull in and park more safely so students can cross and be safe.”

Jones remains in critical condition at University Hospital in Newark. Lynch tells PEOPLE that she’s being treated for a traumatic brain injury and isn’t walking or speaking. While Jones has made some progress, Lynch says she faces a long road to recovery ahead.

<p>Courtesy of the Jones family</p> Chiara Jones

Courtesy of the Jones family

Chiara Jones

“This is an absolutely senseless tragedy of a young woman with such a bright and successful future ahead,” Lynch said in the press release. “It’s unfathomable that one minute, Chiara was beaming with pride alongside her teammates after winning a big cheerleading competition, to moments later entering the battle for her life.”

The Notice of Claim, which is dated March 21, seeks to recover $150 million in alleged damages related to medical bills, life care costs, suffering and enormous losses to Jones’ family, according to the notice. (A notice of claim is not a lawsuit, but rather the first step in notifying a governmental entity that someone intends to make a claim against it.)

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In addition to the accused hit-and-run driver and school bus driver, the PEOPLE-reviewed civil filing names the Newark Board of Education, the Newark School District, Arts High School, the County of Essex, the State of New Jersey, and Best Choice Transportation.

Nancy J. Deering, the Acting Director of Communications for the Newark Board of Education, told PEOPLE Wednesday that the district "does not comment on pending litigation.”

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