In the State of Florida, millions of students are transported via school bus on a daily basis. The typical school bus is yellow or orange in color and clearly visible to all other drivers on the roadway. When there is a school bus on the roadway, other drivers should pay due care and drive safely. Of course, this is simple common sense; however, it is important to stress the importance of driving carefully when driving near school buses. Our most precious “cargo” is on board in the form of school aged students. At times, there are crashes involving two or more school buses who are following each other on a school outing or during a transportation run. When school buses collide, the force can be quite intense and personal injuries can and do result from these crashes. There is no immunity per se from liability for school districts for the negligence of a school bus driver. This should not be confused with the legal term – “Sovereign Immunity”. When a person reads the term “Sovereign Immunity”, one may get the idea that a claim or case cannot under any circumstances be pursued against a government entity. The truth of the matter is that a case or claim can be pursued against a government entity like a school district when there is a school bus crash that is the fault of a school bus driver. “Sovereign Immunity” only means that there are certain notices and procedures to follow when pursuing a case or claim against a government entity. For instance, there is a required formal – technical 6 month notice that is required to be given to the school district. Furthermore, there are limitations as to the amount of compensation that can be recovered and there are restrictions or limitations on the attorney fees that can be charged by a Florida Child Injury Lawyer representing the injured child.
During the holiday season and all other times of year, it is important for parents, schools, and day care centers to be aware of the dangers that some toys cause to children. If a child is injured by the use, play, or contact with a toy, the owner of the home, day care center, or school may be held liable if there was an issue with the supervision of the child, if the toy at issue was known to be dangerous, or if the toy was inappropriate for the age and maturity of the child.
Federal safety standards are put in place in an effort to reduce the risk of injuries to children from toys. Even with these standards in place, it is estimated that every three minutes a child is injured by a toy and makes a trip to the emergency room. This equates to approximately 250,000 children going to the emergency room in 2013 alone. In addition, the U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission estimated roughly nine children died in 2013 from toy related injuries.
With internet shopping becoming more prevalent, more and more parents are purchasing toys online. A problem with online shopping is that parents are unable to physically view the toys for safety issues and are often unable to read all of the warnings printed on the package. Without the ability to physically see the toy to locate unknown dangers or to read all warnings, parents may be purchasing toys that are not fit for the age and maturity of their child. A lack of knowledge regarding the safety of a toy can lead to serious injuries to children.
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:
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.
During the summer and other times of the year, camps, schools, daycare centers, and other organizations transport children on field trips. Some field trips are close by like a local pool for waterpark. Other field trips may be as far as Disney World, Busch Gardens, or Universal Studios. While transporting and supervising children on field trips, it is important that the child care providers follow policies procedures, rules and regulations. It is also important that child care providers use their common sense for the health, safety, and welfare of the children during field trip related activities.
In Florida and other States, children are often walking to and from schools and bus stops in the morning hours and the afternoon hours. Because of the presence of children as pedestrians, it is important that all drivers exercise due caution and slow down during these time periods. Otherwise, child pedestrians are put at risk for serious personal injuries and in some instances the wrongful death of a child. A number of years ago, I received a call regarding a school bus incident involving the tragic death of a child pedestrian. It is a telephone call and moment of time that I will never forget. In handling that and other cases, it has been one of my mission a child safety advocate and child injury lawyer to remind drivers every chance I get about the importance of safe, slow and attentive driving during the time periods that child pedestrians are near roadways at their designated bus stops.
It was recently reported by News 4 Jax other news and media outlets that two teenagers were hit by a pick up truck while the children were waling towards their designated bus stop near County Road 214 in Keystone Heights (Clay County) Florida. It was reported that the teen girl suffered minor injuries while the teen boy suffered life threaning injuries and was airlifted to Shands – UF Health located in Gainesville, Florida. You can read more about this story at Child Pedestrians Walking to the Bus Stop Injured in Clay County, Florida.
When a child suffers personal injuries as a pedestrian, there are a number of insurance and legal issues that arise for the parents to deal with. The book titled – When the Wheels Stop Spinning – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Parents Need to Know After the Accident. This book has chapters on Pedestrian Injuries, Medical Bills and Insurance and other topics. You can get this book for free at When the Wheels Stop Spinning.
Throughout the State of Florida, there are playgrounds in virtually every school, day care center and neighborhood. Playgrounds are great places for children to interact with other children, get some exercise and activity, and use their imaginations. On most days playgrounds are areas or sites of the great enjoyment for children. At times, children are injured on playgrounds. Some injuries are unforeseeable and unavoidable. While other personal injuries are preventable with better maintenance and supervision of the playground area. When a school, day care center, or after school program has play time or recess time, it is important that the staff at the facility or school provide proper supervision on the playground. To the extent that there are state or local regulations regarding staff ratios and playground equipment, those regulations should be followed. Otherwise, common sense and safety measures should be taken for all playgrounds including those at schools, day care centers, parks, community centers, and homes.
Prior to permitting children to play in the playground area, the playground equipment and ground should be surveyed and inspected to make sure that there is no glass or other debris that could cause harm to a child. Furthermore, property owners and / or school officials should make sure that all equipment is in good order. As to the number of children playing at any given time, state regulations, local regulations, manufacturer recommendations, and/or reasonable safety conditions for the area should be followed. Furthermore, there should be a zero tolerance policy as the bullying acts on the playground. One act of bullying that is not addressed often times leads to another act of bullying. When bullying acts are ignored or tolerated, it is only a matter time before child is injured on a playground or other areas.
The book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know – has chapters on School Injuries, Playground Injuries, Day Care Center Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury. Another helpful resource for parents is the book titled – Florida Day Care Center Injuries – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – Building Blocks of Knowledge for Parents. This book has chapters on Day Care Center Regulations, Indoor Facilities, Outdoor Facilities, Emergency Procedures, Records Keeping, and other topics. You can get this book for free at Florida Day Care Center Injuries.