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Recent Settlement of Bus Accident Evidencing Special Challenges When Suing a Public Entity

Although buses statistically provide one of the safest forms of transportation, the carnage and extent of injury can be devastating when Florida bus accidents occur.  Because passengers in Miami-Dade County embark on tens of thousands of trips covering hundreds of thousands of miles annually, serious bus accidents are predictable.  When bus drivers fail to exercise caution and remain attentive, or public entities and transit companies do not exercise care in screening, training, and supervising drivers, the risk posed to passengers increases dramatically.  While bus companies are considered common carriers who owe passengers a heightened duty of care, injured passengers seeking financial compensation from municipalities and other government entities that run bus lines face special challenges.  In this blog, our Miami bus accident attorneys review a recent settlement of a bus accident claim that focuses attention on these obstacles.

An article in the Sun Sentinel reported on the tragic story of a boy who suffered permanent debilitating injuries after being dragged by a bus.  The boy and his mom were approaching the bus when she fell, so she told her son to run to catch the bus.  A passenger on the bus informed the bus driver about “runners” approaching the vehicle.  While the teen was able to reach the bus before it pulled away from the curb, the driver closed the door on the boy’s arm.  The driver then pulled the vehicle away from the curb and dragged the boy for approximately seven seconds.  The teen fell and was then partially run over by the massive vehicle.  He suffered a traumatic brain injury and remained in a coma for more than a month.  The teen also was unable to return to school for 1.5 years.  The lingering effects of the bus accident included neuropsychological deficits in memory and processing speed, physical impairments, compromised motor dexterity, neurocognitive disorder, central auditory processing disorder, and adjustment disorder with depression.

The teen and his parents faced a daunting situation because Florida law capped damages in a personal injury claim against a local government entity at $300,000.  Because of the protection provided by sovereign immunity, the liability of the county was capped at $300,000.  When an injured party seeks damages in excess of this amount, he or she must seek action by the Florida Legislature in the form of a claims bill.  At the time the legislature approved the claims bill in this case, the young man’s medical bills were already more than double the $300,000 cap ($640,000).  The Florida Legislature reportedly elected not to oppose the claims bill in the amount of $850,000 which would likely not even cover future medical payments or compensate for any other damages like pain and suffering, diminished earning capacity, and other forms of loss.

The cap on damages imposed by Florida law constitutes only one of the special hurdles to be negotiated by personal injury victims injured by the negligence of a local government entity or its employees.  Under s. 769.28, F.S., any party alleging the negligence of a state employee, agent, or volunteer caused personal injury, bodily injury, property damage, or wrongful death must provide notice of a claim in writing to the agency and the DFS within 3 years of the occurrence.  The claimant cannot file a lawsuit prior to allowing six months for the government to investigate the claim.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

Although the young man in this case did not receive fair compensation for the full extent of his injuries, many people who pursue a claims bill to obtain damages over the $300,000 cap never even have their claim heard.  Our Miami personal injury lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano will tenaciously pursue the fullest financial compensation.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.


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