School bus accidents are on the rise in Florida, according to a study conducted by the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), which found a double-digit rise in accidents between 2012 and 2015. As many as 2,698 automobile accidents in 2015 directly involved a school bus in the state of Florida, with the highest concentration of crashes occurring in South and Central Florida. These crashes resulted in 1,225 reported injuries; three crashes resulted in over 40 injuries each. 19 counties in Florida experienced an increase in school bus crashes. While 13 showed an increase of less than 50%, Collier County’s crashes spiked by 200%.
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School Bus Requirements
Despite the previous numbers, school buses still tend to be the safest mode of transportation for children to get to school. On average, while 134 people die annually in the United States as a result of a school bus crash, only 9% of fatalities are passengers who were riding the bus. Between 2010 and 2013, less than half of 1% of the reported fatal accidents involved a school bus-related vehicle. Florida law requires all school buses to meet, at a minimum, the following six safety requirements: – Heavier duty braking system; – Fire retardant seating; – Fuel system integrity; – Additional emergency exits; – Two-point seat belts; and – Dual stop signal arms and front bumper-mounted crossing arms; Seatbelts are a controversial topic, as Florida is one of only a few states requiring seatbelts on all school buses bought after January 1, 2001. Moreover, Florida mandates a two-point lap belt and gives priority to buses transporting elementary-aged school children.
How School Bus Accidents Differ
School buses are often owned and operated by the school district, or a private transportation company. If the school bus involved in the crash is owned or operated by a government entity, a personal injury case involving a crash is governed by a different set of rules than if the accident had occurred with a privately owned or operated bus. Claims filed against the state, including its agencies and subdivisions, are governed by Florida Statutes section 768.28. Under this law, the state waives its right to sovereign immunity and agrees to be sued for certain torts listed in the act. The law imposes certain limitations for someone seeking compensation. They include:
- Government employees cannot be held personally liable for harm but, instead, all claims must be filed against the government body or agency that employs them. The exception is if the harm was caused intentionally
- Damages are limited to $200,000 in cases against Florida’s government, or $300,000 total if the claim is against multiple state entities
- Neither punitive damages nor interest that accrued before the judgment was made can be awarded
- The state has the right to appeal any resolution of the case; and
- Actions against state universities must be brought in the county where the university’s campus is located
If the university has a “substantial presence” in the county where the harm occurred, then the case may be filed in that county. Some named defendants in a school bus crash may include:
- The school bus driver
- The school district
- The private school, charter, or other owner operator organization
- The bus manufacturer; the bus part manufacturer
- A driver of another passenger vehicle; or
- The government entity responsible for the design, construction, or maintenance of the roadway where the crash occurred
19 counties in Florida experienced an increase in school bus crashes.
Florida Personal Injury Lawyers
Accidents can be terrifying, especially if they involve your child while riding on a school bus. If your loved one has been injured in a Florida bus accident as a result of another’s negligence, or injured in any other type of accident, contact a skilled Florida personal injury attorney right away. The lawyers at Bogin, Munns & Munns have been representing clients across Central Florida for more than 35 years. Contact us today for your free personal injury consultation.
NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and you should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. You should consult with a duly licensed attorney regarding your Florida legal matter, as every situation is unique. Please know that merely reading this article, subscribing to this blog, or otherwise contacting Bogin, Munns & Munns does not establish an attorney-client relationship with our firm. Should you seek legal representation from Bogin, Munns & Munns, any such representation must first be agreed to by the firm and confirmed in a written agreement.