Articles Posted in Bus Accidents

In a recent appeals case, the District Court of Appeals of the State of Florida Third District produced an opinion for an appeal involving sovereign immunity for Miami-Dade County in a vicarious suit alleging that a bus driver acted in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of rights or safety. The plaintiff, Michael Polanco, sued a bus driver, and her employer, Miami-Dade County following an incident where he was hit by a bus. Polanco was riding as a passenger on a Miami-Dade County bus. When the bus pulled over at a scheduled stop, there was a heated exchange between Polanco and the bus driver. Thereafter, Polanco exited and crossed in front of the bus. The bus driver then pulled away from the bus stop, and in doing so struck Polanco. The exchange between the bus driver and Polanco is captured on video, though the actual point at which the bus makes contact with Polanco is not.

Polanco sued the bus driver, as well as her employer, Miami-Dade County. At trial, the County answered, asserting it was sovereignly immune from suit and filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting its employee struck the passenger intentionally and that such conduct exhibited a wanton and willful disregard of human rights and safety, thus rendering the County sovereignly immune from liability. In response, Polanco presented evidence that he “walked essentially into the blind spot of the bus” when he was hit, and therefore the bus driver would not have been able to see Polanco when she pulled out of the bus stop. Subsequently, the trial court denied Miami-Dade’s motion, and they shortly appealed the decision.

On appeal, Miami-Dade argued to the appellate court that the trial court was mistaken in its ruling, stating that there was no genuine dispute as to whether the bus driver acted in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of Polanco’s rights or safety. The appeals court disagreed with Miami-Dade, affirming the trial court decision. The appellate decision stated that they affirmed the trial court’s order denying the County’s motion for summary judgment and that the lower court decision correctly concluded that there remains a genuine dispute as to whether the bus driver acted in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of Polanco’s rights or safety.

School bus-related crashes killed 108 people nationwide in 2021, up 50% compared to the pandemic-related low number of 54 deaths in 2020, according to National Safety Council (NSC) tabulations of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A school bus-related crash is defined by NHTSA as any crash in which a vehicle, regardless of body design, used as a school bus is directly or indirectly involved. This includes incidents involving school children getting in or out of a vehicle.

From 2012 to 2021, about 70% of the deaths in school bus-related crashes were occupants of vehicles other than the school bus, and 16% were pedestrians. About 5% were school bus passengers, 5% were school bus drivers, and 3% were pedal cyclists. Of the people injured in school bus-related crashes from 2012 to 2021, about 30% were school bus passengers, 9% were school bus drivers, and 53% were occupants of other vehicles. The remainder were pedestrians, pedal cyclists, and other or unknown.

Florida is no exception to the bus crash trends, with some of the most common causes of bus accidents being fatigue, distraction, speeding, and aggressive overtaking. In certain Florida accident cases, punitive damage awards can increase the victim’s compensation significantly. Punitive damages require special permission from the court in addition to evidence that the defendant was grossly negligent or acted with intention or wanton disregard for the safety of others. In Florida, punitive damages are capped at triple the amount of the compensatory damages, resulting in extremely large awards when they are allowed. A recent local news article discussed a serious Florida school bus accident.

Driving or riding on motorcycles is a relatively risky activity, and the numbers bear that out, both in Florida and throughout the nation. In 2020, there were an estimated 620,077 registered motorcyclists in Florida. Motorcycles are inherently riskier than cars as they don’t have airbags or metal frames and are smaller than other vehicles. Between 2018 and 2020, the number of fatal motorcycle accidents in Florida increased slightly as did the rate of fatal injuries. Taking relevant and common sense safety seriously is vital if you ride or drive a motorcycle. Such steps include having all motorcycle riders wear their helmets and protective gear. While it might be tempting to forego such steps, either because the riders are driving a short distance or moving at slow speeds, doing so could have a significant impact on a victim’s recovery in the event of an accident.

Given the substantial risk of fatal motorcycle accidents in Florida, riders should be aware that in Florida, pure comparative negligence in auto accidents can have a significant impact on a victim’s recovery. A skillful plaintiffs’ attorney can use pure comparative negligence to advocate for a larger recovery for a victim and navigate past strong legal defenses. A recent local news article discussed a recent fatal Florida motorcycle accident.

According to the local news article, the accident occurred around 2:30 p.m. on Highway 98 and Avenue Due Fontaine Bleau in Mary Esther on Wednesday, January 25. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the motorcyclist was traveling west on Highway 98 when an Okaloosa County school bus was facing south on Avenue Due Fontaine Bleau at a stop sign. The crash occurred when a school bus entered the intersection, crossing into the path of the motorcycle. The motorcycle then collided with the left side of the school bus. The Florida Highway Patrol stated that there were five children on the bus at the time of the crash. The 28-year-old motorcyclist is dead, and two children were injured during the crash.

Florida Statutes section 768.13 governs Florida’s “Good Samaritan Act,” which provides protection from liability to those acting in good faith while rendering emergency care in an emergency situation. The Good Samaritan Act stems from a public policy view that encourages bystanders to aid in emergencies without the fear of liability. However, the law only applies to those acting in good faith and exercising due care.

While Florida law does not require individuals to help victims, those that undertake that duty must do so with the care of a reasonable person. The law imposes liability in certain circumstances, such as when: the actor’s failure to exercise due care exacerbates the risk of harm to another person, or the other person suffered an injury due to their reasonable reliance on the actor. It is important to note that the Act does not apply in cases where a victim objects to assistance or compensates the volunteer for their help. Moreover, there are exceptions to the general standard in cases involving a health care provider or law enforcement.

Good Samaritans play a significant role in many Florida accidents; however, these volunteers assume a level of risk in undertaking assistance. For instance, a Florida Good Samaritan recently suffered fatal injuries on 1-75. According to reports, a 19-year-old Toyota driver who failed to stay in the center lane set off a series of deadly events. The 19-year-old overturned after slamming into the back of a semi-truck. The semi-truck pulled over to the shoulder, and another sedan slowed down to pull over when a fourth car rear-ended that vehicle. The 28-year old Good Samaritan pulled over to assist the drivers when a series of events ended with a car slamming into the volunteer, killing him upon impact.

A Florida District Court issued an opinion addressing whether a School Board is liable for injuries a child suffered while walking to her bus stop. The case arose when a car hit the child while crossing the road to reach her school bus stop. In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the School Board (School) filed a motion for summary judgment asserting sovereign immunity. The trial court denied the motion, and the School appealed.

Sovereign or governmental immunity is a legal concept that protects federal and state governments from certain civil lawsuits. Under Florida law, individuals may commence a tort claim against the government if their employee’s actions caused the plaintiff’s damages. However, the statute only allows these cases in certain situations and imposes strict notice requirements and provides limitations to the damages one can recover against the government.

Typically, governmental entities may be liable if they create a “known, dangerous condition” that may not be readily apparent, and they have knowledge of the presence of individuals likely to suffer injuries. In those cases, the governmental entity has a duty to warn those who might suffer injuries or avert the danger. However, Florida courts have explained that the duty only applies in cases where the condition is “so serious and so inconspicuous” that it essentially amounts to a trap.

Tour companies frequently utilize buses, trolleys, and bikes to attract customers to their guided tours. While tour buses and trolleys are a great way to see interesting sights and attractions throughout South Florida, they are often more susceptible to accidents and serious injuries. Florida tour buses often make frequent stops to show passengers specific sites. These stops can cause other drivers to make sudden stops or try to pass the tour bus. Moreover, many tour buses and trolleys do not have safety belts or require their passengers to use them. This can lead to more severe injuries and even death. Those who suffer injuries after riding on a Florida tour bus or trolley should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

In some cases, tour bus accidents are unavoidable; however, they usually involve some element of negligence. After an accident, the company, the driver, or another entity may be liable to the injury victims. The law does not impose liability on a tour bus company for the mere fact that a passenger suffered injuries. Instead, recovering compensation requires the victim to prove that the company failed to take sufficient steps to protect their customers.

Courts will look to whether the tour bus company took reasonable measures to ensure the safety of their passengers. This includes evaluating whether the company inspected the vehicle, made repairs, trained their drivers, and followed traffic rules. Companies that shirk their responsibility may be held liable for any accidents and ensuing injuries.

Public buses provide the public with a necessary form of convenient transportation throughout many cities in Florida. While buses must undergo safety inspections and drivers must complete safety training, these vehicles are often involved in serious accidents. Filing a lawsuit against a city bus in Florida can present challenges to injury victims and their families. The state maintains specific laws that apply to lawsuits against public and governmental entities. An experienced Florida personal injury attorney can help accident survivors and their family members understand their rights to financial recovery.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) compiles statistics regarding the rate of bus accidents in the state. According to their most recent reports, every year, nearly 63,000 accidents involve buses. Approximately 13% of fatal bus accidents involve intercity buses, 40% involve school buses, and 35% involve transit buses. For instance, local news sources reported that a Volusia County, Florida County employee suffered fatal injuries in an accident between a Voltran bus and a County pickup truck. Officials explained that the victim was driving a county vehicle when he hit the bus. The Highway Patrol stated that a preliminary investigation revealed that the bus was preparing to let passengers off the bus moments before the collision. In addition to the County driver, 14 of the 15 passengers aboard the bus were taken to local hospitals for injuries.

FMSCA reports that the leading causes of bus accidents involve:

In some Florida personal injury cases, either or both parties will rely on the testimony of an expert witness to help prove their case. Typically, expert witnesses are not needed. However, if the issues involved in a case are complex and beyond the common understanding of the jurors, then an expert witness may help the jury resolve these issues.

Florida law requires that parties disclose the names of the experts they will be calling. Additionally, the law requires that a party provides an overview of the witness’ expected testimony. A recent opinion released by a state appellate court discusses the ramifications if proper notice of expert witness testimony is not given.

According to the written opinion, the plaintiff was incarcerated at a county jail when he was injured in a bus accident. The plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against the county. The county initially did not plan on calling an expert witness. However, during pre-trial discovery, it was revealed that the plaintiff was involved in two other vehicle accidents and that he planned on calling an expert witness at trial. One of the accidents occurred after this bus accident but before the case went to trial, complicating the question of what caused the plaintiff’s damages. In light of the new information, the county then named an expert witness, who would testify solely to impeach the plaintiff’s medical expert.

Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion highlighting the importance of complying with all of the procedural requirements in a South Florida personal injury lawsuit. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff did effectuate proper service on the government defendant and rejected the defendant’s appeal. However, the case should serve as a warning to would-be plaintiffs that even a single misstep may result in the dismissal of an otherwise meritorious case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in an accident with a school bus. Believing the accident to be the fault of the school bus driver, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the bus as well as the school district that employed the driver. The plaintiff claimed that the school bus driver was negligent in operating the bus and that the school district was negligent in hiring the driver.

As is required under state law, the plaintiff set out to serve the defendants. The plaintiff hired a process-server, who went to the school district’s main building and inquired where he could deliver the service documents. The front-desk attendant directed the process-server to the HR department. Once at the HR department, the process-server met with the receptionist to the Deputy Superintendent. The receptionist called her superior, who instructed her to accept the service and said that she would come by later to pick it up. The process-server left the documents with the receptionist.

Continue Reading ›

In a recent case, one state’s supreme court considered whether a high school bus driver could be held strictly liable after she suddenly lost consciousness while behind the wheel. The driver was taking students back from a high school band competition when she experienced a sudden and unforeseeable loss of consciousness, causing the bus to roll over. Several passengers were injured and filed a lawsuit against the driver. After filing the lawsuit, the passengers argued that they were entitled to summary judgment in their favor and that the insurance company was liable for their injuries under strict liability.A state law required drivers to have motor vehicle liability insurance policies to “cover damages or injury resulting from a covered driver of a motor vehicle” who suddenly and unforeseeably becomes incapacitated. The passengers argued that the state law meant that they were not required to prove negligence when someone suddenly loses consciousness, and that the insurance company was strictly liable in those cases. The insurance company argued that the statute only meant that insurance had to be provided for those circumstances.

Continue Reading ›

Contact Information