A Palm Beach County woman was awarded $480,000 by a jury after she suffered serious injuries in a fall that resulted when a bus driver accelerated the vehicle before everyone was seated.
Plaintiff attorneys told The Sun Sentinel the county should train its drivers to refrain from moving the vehicle until all passengers are safely in their seats.
Although conceding bus drivers are constantly pressed for time, the safety of passengers can’t be sacrificed just so the driver can be punctual. Everyone deserves a chance to get to their destination safely.
Plaintiff reportedly suffered a serious back injury and a slash on her knee when she slipped on the floor – wet from rain – and fell into the metal seat behind her.
Jurors initially awarded plaintiff total damages of $870,00. However, the bus service was deemed to be only 55 percent liable for the fall. Plaintiff was deemed comparatively negligent by the remaining 45 percent. The state does not prohibit plaintiffs who are comparatively negligent from collecting damages, though the law does reduce the payout amount by the degree to which plaintiff is responsible (in this case, 45 percent).
Regardless, sovereign immunity law in Florida caps government damages at $200,000, so that is the most the agency will pay.
A representative for the county said that while the agency is evaluating its training and driver practices, the driver was not disciplined and, as of yet, there is no policy alteration as a result of this case.
At the time of plaintiff’s injury, she did not have any health insurance. The sales clerk is expected to require surgery as a result of her injury. The fall occurred in February 2015 at a bus stop near the intersection of Jog Road and Forest Hill Boulevard in Greenacres.
The issue of bus safety has been raised in South Florida before, particularly as it relates to how the the local transit authority handles drivers with a poor record. Although some drivers go years without ever having a bus accident, there are some that repeatedly raise red flags – and stay on the job.
The Sun Sentinel reported earlier this year on a Broward County Transit bus drive who throughout his tenure, beginning in 1994, had racked up 16 accidents and received 25 written warnings and had served a month of unpaid suspensions. His disciplinary issues started when he’d been on the job for just a week, and continued for decades – including a 2013, four-car pileup on the interstate that left a women injured and resulted in a $75,000 settlement. The 62-year-old driver isn’t slated to retire until 2020.
In Broward County, at least, driver collisions are forgiven on a rolling two-year period. Drivers aren’t terminated unless they cause five “preventable” collisions in the course of that two-year time frame.
Of the accidents that were deemed not his fault:
- He was stopped at a red light, with the sun in his eyes. He locked the break and closed his eyes and the bus rolled forward into another vehicle.
- He hit the gas when a light turned green, slamming into the car in front of him and causing four passengers being hospitalized.
- He drove his bus out past a railroad track arm because he could not see past it. A train was coming. The arm came down onto the bus and snapped.
These are just a few examples of the problems the bus authorities have had in South Florida in recent years. If you are injured in a Palm Beach bus accident, we can help you recover damages.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Jury awards $478K to woman injured in Palm Tran bus fall,Oct. 17, 2016, By Skylar Swisher, The Sun Sentinel
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