Thursday, March 17, 2016

Vehicle Driver Dies In Clearwater Collision Involving Two School Buses

On December 17, 2015, a driver involved in a Clearwater crash[1] with a school bus at Missouri Avenue and Lotus Path died as a result of their injuries.  The crash happened around 7 a.m. as two school buses were heading south on Missouri.   The second bus stopped behind the first, and a 92-year-old man driving a Mini Cooper, ran into the back of the second bus.  The driver of the vehicle was taken to Morton Plant Hospital, where he later died. There were no students on the second bus.  The bus driver, who was not injured, had completed her high school run for the morning and was en route to pick up elementary school students.

Pinellas County School Bus Accidents

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 19,000 Americans are injured [2] in bus accidents in the United States every year. About 100 buses a year are involved in a fatal accident, often involving more than one fatality and many injuries. The US states of California, New York and Florida have the most bus accidents each year.  Further, school buses account for 39% of all bus fatalities. 

Injuries sustained in bus accidents are often more severe than those caused by other vehicular accidents. A lack of on board safety measures, such as seatbelts, can put riders at risk for serious injuries.  Florida only requires that public school buses have safety belts, but the law only applies to buses purchased brand new after December 30, 2001. Older school buses, or those used for private schools or church outings are exempt from the law.

Claims Against School Buses

Since school buses are typically operated by a school district, or by a company contracted to a school district, a claimant must go through several steps in order to pursue a claim. The doctrine of sovereign immunity normally prevents a person from suing a government agency, but governments make exceptions for certain types of claims. The Florida Tort Claims Act allows claims against government entities, including school districts, although it sets strict time limits and deadlines for filing claims, and it sets a cap on damages.  It is important to speak to a Clearwater school bus accident attorney to review these time limits and deadlines and determine how they apply to your case.

Florida School Bus Safety

The Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles sets forth a listing of school bus safety[3] rules for all Florida drivers:

          When approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and its stop arms extended, motorists are required to STOP in nearly every instance. 

                Be alert and watch for children at all times, but especially near schools, bus stops, school buses, and in school parking lots.

                Obey all traffic laws and speed limits, paying extra attention to the lower speed limits in school zones.

                Do not pass other vehicles in school zones or at crosswalks. Do not change lanes or make U-turns in school zones.

                Watch for and obey signals from school crossing guards.

                Do not text or use a cell phone while driving.

                Only drive or park in authorized areas to drop off or pick up children at school.

Contact a Clearwater Accident Attorney

In some accidents involving a school bus, the accident may be caused by the driver of another car.  If the bus driver is at fault for an accident, however, the case may become complicated.  Most school buses are operated by governmental entities such as school districts and public transportation agencies.  Unfortunately, filing a claim against a governmental body can be more complicated that filing a more typical insurance claim.  Claims against Florida’s municipalities are often subject to stricter guidelines, including shorter time limits for taking legal action, and can present complications for individuals who are not familiar with the intricacies of the claims process.

If you or a loved one were injured in a collision involving a bus, either as a passenger on board or as a third party, you may be entitled to compensation for damages.  It is important to speak to a Clearwater accident attorney as soon as possible. Please call our office at 727-451-6900 today for a free consultation.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 3375
(727) 451-6900