Tortfeasor And Victim Settle Major Brain Injury Case
Broward County Commissioners agreed to pay $850,000 to resolve a claim that one of its bus drivers pulled away from a stop while a teeneger’s hand was lodged in the door; after being dragged for several blocks, the bus ran over the young man, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and other serious wounds.
The 18-year-old man was 14 when the accident occurred. According to some accounts, the victim and his mother arrived at a bus stop to get a ride to a local middle school just as the bus was pulling away. The victim then ran to the bus and put his hand between the sliding doors. Although several passengers claimed they alerted the driver, the bus kept moving, and the victim fell off about seven seconds later. County officials disputed this version, claiming that the young man simply ran alongside the bus and subsequently fell. They point to a state prosecutor’s investigation which concluded that the young man’s hand was not in the door.
The victim was in a medically-induced coma for about a month, missed a year and a half of school, and still suffers from “neurocognitive disorder, adjustment disorder with depression, central auditory processing disorder, neuropsychological impairment in processing speed and memory, motor dexterity impairment, and various physical limitations,” according to court documents.
Duty in Bus Crash Cases
Bus drivers and other commercial operators are common carriers in Florida, so they have a very high duty of care, especially to the passengers they carry. Common carriers must be more careful when they drive and also do their utmost to ensure their passengers’ safety. This enhanced duty begins when the passengers board the conveyance, continues throughout the trip, and ends only after the passengers are safely dropped off at their destinations.
To recover compensation for their injuries, victims must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), that the defendant breached the duty of care, and that breach caused damages. If these injuries were “serious” as defined in the Florida Insurance Code, victims are entitled to compensation for their economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as emotional distress and other noneconomic damages. Special procedures may apply if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was a public transit operator or other government employee.
According to the respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) doctrine, employers are usually liable for damages when their employees carelessly injure someone else. Liability attaches if:
- Employee: Employers are only legally responsible for their employees. However, this term is very broadly defined and includes not only regular nine-to-five workers, but also independent contractors, volunteer drivers, and anyone else that the employer control to a substantial degree.
- Course and Scope: Similarly, employees are probably acting within the course and scope of employment even if they are not performing their assigned tasks. If the employee’s efforts benefit the employer in any way, which could be something as simple as driving a vehicle with the company logo, this theory normally applies.
Other employer liability theories include negligent entrustment and negligent hiring; the former does not require the “employee” prong and the later does not require the “course and scope” prong.
Partner with Aggressive Attorneys
The tortfeasor (negligent driver) may not be the only party responsible for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.