Day care centers have a duty to provide supervision to the children enrolled in the program. As part of this supervision, child care providers should make sure that all exits and areas are secure and that no children wander away from the facility. It is well known that children are curious and lack good safety awareness. As such, at times, a child will wander away from the facility. This, in turn, may lead to serious personal injuries or even the death of the child. This raises the issue as to whether the day care center is liable when a child wanders away from the facility. From a practical standpoint, it may be difficult to pursue a civil case or claim when there was no physical harm caused to the child during the wandering away incident or event.
St. Johns County, there was a serious school bus accident that injured a number of children including one child who was airlifted and three children who were transported to Baptist South Medical Center located in Jacksonville, Florida. This particular accident was reported as a single vehicle accident. According to Action News and other media outlets, the driver, Joseph David Sanks, 69, of St. Augustine, was issued a citation for careless driving. As Mr. Sanks was driving the yellow school bus on Interstate 95 near International Golf Parkway – he veered off the side of the road and into some trees. There were no other vehicles damaged or reported involved with the crash. Investigators from the Florida Highway Patrol interviewed witnesses and later issues a citation for Careless Driving to the school bus driver. Does this mean that this is an open and shut case? Not necessarily. The Florida Highway Patrol does not control the outcome of the injury claims or potential civil cases that may arise from this accident. Furthermore, while the school bus driver was charged with careless driving, he can contest the charges and request a hearing in traffic court with or without the benefit of legal representation. Unless there was a mechanical failure or some other good explanation for the school bus driver crashing into a group of trees, it is highly unlikely that the school bus driver will prevail in traffic court. Of course, the traffic court judge or hearing officer may decide to cut the school bus driver a break and withhold adjudication on the citation. It should be noted that the disposition of the traffic court hearing does not control the course of the potential civil cases or claims. See Driver Charged in St. Johns County Florida School Bus Accident on Interstate 95.
Because of the complexities of Florida’s legal system especially as it pertains to liability, damages, and the intricate procedures by which a case or claim must be filed against a sovereign entity (government entity) like a school distrct, it is important for the parents of the injured children to retain the services of a qualified and experienced Florida Child Injury Lawyer for advice, guidance, and legal representation.
There may be several sources for the payment of medical bills and damages associated with a school bus accident including the following:
Medical Payment. The school district may have insurance in the form of Medical Payment coverage that may provide $1,000 or more in benefits to an injured child.
Personal Injury Protection. In most automobile accident cases, a child can get his or her bills paid through a parent’s automobile insurance policy even through the parent’s vehicle was not involved in the crash. However, there are certain exceptions in most policies for public conveyances. As such, PIP may not apply in the situation of a school bus accident.
Health Insurance. While it may seem a bit unfair, the health insurance of the child may end up paying the medical bills if there is no other immediate funding source available.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage of Parent. Again, this may seem unfair but there may be an ability to collect compensation for medical bills and other damages under a parent’s Uninsured Motorist insurance policy even though the parent’s vehicle was not involved in the crash.
Liability Insurance of the School Bus. If there was liability insurance in place for the school bus, there may be coverage for medical bills and related damages. For most liability insurance or bodily injury insurance policies, a one time payment to settle the case is the typical resolution. In other words, the insurance company will not pay bills as they accure or as they are submitted. Resolution or settlement under the portion of the insurance policy identified as bodily injury or liability insurance will typically be limited to a one-time payment.
Sovereign Immunity Caps. In the State of Florida, most cases or claims against a government entiy are limited to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident. A claim can be pursued in excess of these amounts but it requires a special bill or law to be passed before the Florida Legislature. During the past several years, very few claims bills have been presented that have passed even though the victims were very deserving.
The complexities of the above and other issues should prompt the parent of an injured child to at least consult with a Florida Child Injury Lawyer to determine the respective rights of the child and the respective obligation of the school, school bus driver, school district, and / or other entities.
The book titled – When the Wheels Stop Spinning – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Parents Need to Know After the Accident – has chapters on Automobile Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Pedestrian Accidents, School Bus Related Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at When the Wheels Stop Spinning.
In St. Johns County, Florida and the other 66 counties in the State of Florida, children are transported to and from schools in school buses and vans. When there is a crash or accident, children are often injured and require medical care and attention. Some injuries even require the transport by fire rescue and at times by an emergency air lift. When a child suffers personal injuries, parents are faced with the challenges of medical bills, missed school, personal injuries, permanent injuries, and a whole host of other problems. When faced with these issues, it is often helpful to have the guidance, counsel, and legal representation by a qualified Florida Child Injury Lawyer. Some laws and insurance regulations make perfect sense while others do not. Certainly, school districts, schools, and insurance companies are well represented by a panel of attorneys. Because of this, parents should act quickly to get an advocate in place to give a voice for the injured child. Back to the question at hand, who is responsible for the personal injuries suffered by a child when there is a school bus accident or crash?
School District. If the school bus is owned, operated, or retained by a public school district, then the school district could be held liable for the personal injuries and damages IF it can be proved that the bus driver was negligent AND / OR there was negligence involved with the maintenance of the bus that was a contributing cause of the crash.
Private School Bus Company. If the school district contracts out to a private school bus company, the private school bus company may be liable if there was negligent driving OR negligent maintenance that was a contributing cause of the crash. The private school bus company, if hired by a public school district, may be able to avail itself of some of the protections of the school distrct as a public entity. As such, further evaluation and analysis are warranted under these circumstances. If a private school retains the private school bus company, no such protections are afforded the private school bus company.
School Bus Insurance. Many public school districts are self insured. Many are insured through an insurance fund or company. While the school bus insurance is not a party to the case or action per se, it can be a funding source for medical bills, personal injuries, and related damages.
At-Fault Driver (Other Than School Bus Driver). If the crash is caused by the negligence of another driver, then a case or claim can be pursued against the at-fault driver.
At-Fault Owner (Other Than School Bus). If the crash is caused by the negligent driving of a vehicle that is owned by another person, then the owner of the vehicle under Florida Law and the Dangerous Instrumentality Law can also be held liable or responsible for the personal injuries and related damages.
Insurance Company for the At-Fault Driver. Again, an insurance company is not necessary a party or responsible entity except for the payment of medical bills, personal injuries and related damages.
Insurance Company for the At-Fault Owner. This may be another payment source if the At-Fault Driver and the At-Fault Owner have different insurance policies.
Insurance Company for Parents of the Injured Child. There also may be insurance coverage afforded the injured child under a parent’s insurance policy even though the child at the time of the crash was occupying a school bus and even though the parent’s vehicle at nothing to do with the crash.
In St. Johns County, Florida, a recent crash was reported in which 1 child was airlifted from the crash scene and 4 children were transported from the crash scene. In the initial news reports, there was no detail as to the cause of the crash or responsiblity for the crash. There was graphic photograph showing a significantly damages school bus and a group of trees. The impact looked quite severe. A typical morning for the children on this school bus turned quite tragic in the form of this terrible school bus crash. See Children Injured in School Bus Crash in St. Johns County Florida.
The book – When the Wheels Stop Spinning – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Parents Need to Know After the Accident – has information for dealing with the challenges of a school bus accident and other crashes. You can get this book for free at When the Wheels Stop Spinning.
In Florida and other states, school bus stop areas are busy during the morning and afternoon areas. Some school bus stops are well marked with signage, flashing lights, and crosswalks while other bus stops are not as well set up or equippped. If a driver knows of a school bus stop by signage, lights, and / or by a general knowledge of the area, it is important for drivers to slow down and be on the watch for children at the school bus stop area or walking to or walking away from the school bus stop area.
Unfortunately and tragically, children continue to suffer injuries and even die as a result of pedestrian / automobile accident incidents in and around school bus stop areas. Florida has adopted a number of legal concepts that may apply to personal injuries suffered by a child pedestrian in or near school bus stop areas. A child under the age of 6 years old cannot be held negligent for his or her own actions as a matter of law. For children 6 years of age and older, the conduct of the child is evaluated / considered based on the age and maturity of the child as well as the facts and circumstances surrounding the pedestrian / automobile accidents. In addition, Florida has comparative fault when evaluating the liability or responsibility for pedestrian and automobile accidents. In other words, there may be negligence on behalf of the child 6 or older which does not prevent the right to pursue a cause of action for injuries or death to the child. For instance, if is determined that a child is 25 % at fault for an accident, then the child and / or the family of the child would be entitled to recover 75 % of the damages associated with the injuries / death. The negligence of the child pedestrian is not a bar to recovery in the State of Florida.
A tragedy was recently reported in Palm Coast (Flagler County), Florida. New 4 Jax and other media outlets reported that Kymora Christian, a 7 year old girl, died while walking to her Palm Coast school bus stop for Wadsworth Elementary School. It was reported that there was no crosswalk in the area. In Flagler County and other Florida counties, some school bus stops have crosswalks and some do not. This makes it even more important for drivers in and near the school bus stop area to slow down especially during drop off and pick up times. The Florida Highway Patrol responded to the scene of the accident that involved a SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle). Since a death resulted from a vehicular accident in the State of Florida, a full investigation as to speed, preventability, and other factors will be conducted and reported by the Florida Highway Patrol. You can read more about this tragic incident at Florida Highway Patrol – 7 Year Old Girl Killed at School Bus Stop – Flagler County – Palm Coast, Florida.
Dealing with the aftermath of an injury or death of a child is always challenging for the parents. There are a number of pressures and stresses to deal with. The book titled – When a Parent’s World Goes From Full to Empty – The Wrongful Death of a Child – What You Need to Know About The Florida Wrongful Death Act – covers a wide variety of topics and issues that arise when a child dies as a result of the negligence or fault of a person, business, school, day care center, or government entity. You can get this book for free at From Full to Empty. Another good resource is the book – When the Wheels Stop Spinning – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Parents Need to Know After the Accident. This book has chapters on Automobile Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Pedestrian Accidents, Hit and Run Accidents, Wrongful Death, and other topics. You can get this book for free at When the Wheels Stop Spinning.