New Fort Worth Case: Supreme Court Caps Recovery for Death Caused By City Bus.
I filed a lawsuit last week against a school district whose loaded school bus driver crashed into my client’s vehicle.
The Texas Supreme Court just revisited the maximum damages that an injured person or the family of the deceased can receive in these cases.
The Texas Tort Claims Act places a $100,000 cap on the maximum damages if a local governmental vehicle (like a city or school bus) is involved.
The Supreme Court refused to raise that limit, even though different facts and statutes could have changed the results.
What happened in this case?
A Fort Worth woman was crossing the street downtown in 2010 when she was fatally struck by a Fort Worth Transportation Authority bus.
It was driven by a woman who worked for two independent contractors, not the local government agency.
How To Recover Damages After Government Employee Causes A Crash.
Special laws apply if you are involved in a collision caused by a state worker like a school bus driver.
I just obtained an offer for the total amount available under state law for my client. He was driving this 18-wheeler last summer when a school bus driver loaded with children failed to yield at a stop sign and caused this crash. My client had to have surgery to his shoulder and ankle. I have also made his workers compensation carrier agree to substantially cut its reimbursement lien.
But suing state agencies and their employees can be difficult, if not impossible, since our state legislature has imposed strict limitations on liability, damages amounts, and legal procedures.
Here’s how this legal process differs from most injury cases.
UPDATED 4/13/17: Police found two entire marijuana cigarettes and five that had been partially smoked ones in the truck and an affidavit was filed stating that the truck driver admitted he took clonazepam and Lexapro and Ambien (generic forms) earlier that day.
UPDATED 4/3/17: Truck driver admits to texting while driving at 65 MPH for over 20 minutes. The church bus was a retrofitted Ford 350 van.
3/31/17: A New Braunfels church is devastated over the loss of 13 of its members in a horrifying head-on collision Wednesday afternoon. The choir members were travelling home from a retreat west of San Antonio when a huge Duelly pickup truck collided head-on into their van.
The impact tragically killed all but one of the van passengers. The survivor remains hospitalized in critical condition. They were seniors ranging in age to 87 years old. The driver of the pickup, a 20-year-old man, is in stable condition.
Before the wreck, callers had alerted police that the truck was swerving all over the road and was about to crash into other vehicles. Deputies were on their way to try to stop the catastrophe. Continue reading
It was just revealed by NBC5 that the Dallas school district has settled 680 personal injury claims and paid $2.3 million in settlements over the past few years.
Most are fortunately small injuries, so the recoveries are just a few thousand dollars each. But sometimes the injuries were substantial — and the settlements were not proportionately large.
The Phillips family, whose daughter suffered a ruptured spleen when a bus collided with the family’s car, told the reporter how the money did not cover their damages.
Due to laws governing the maximum amounts that can be paid by state, county, city, and branches of local governments like the school district here, the total amounts are limited.
How do those caps affect injury claims against governmental branches and units?
Early Sunday morning, the most recent mass casualty casino bus crash occurred in southern California. A shocking 13 people died and dozens more suffered catastrophic injuries in the horrific collision.
The bus driver who slammed into the back of the stopped 18 wheeler was going so fast that the bus ripped a gaping hole in the back of the semi and came to a stop 15 feet inside its trailer.
Investigators have already determined that the tread on multiple tires were worn down so low that they were far below federal safety standards.
“The vehicle was out of compliance with Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance inspection criteria, and it could have been placed out of service,” an NTSB board member reported yesterday.
In addition, since the driver never applied his brakes, driver fatigue was another cause of the deadly collision, all too common in these early morning bus and other commercial vehicle collisions.
This was an accident just waiting to happen. The bus was old. It was manufactured 50 years ago in 1966. The bus company driving it only operated this one bus. However it was not allowed to be on the road No one had apparently inspected the bus or its tires recently. Further, the driver was obviously unqualified.
As if that weren’t bad enough news, you can bet that the company has inadequate liability insurance. The minimum required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is $5 million. This will not be enough to pay the damage claims of the families of the 12 passengers (not counting the driver) who died and the many others who were seriously injured.
Why do so many bus collisions like this happen? According to the FMCSA, an estimated 3,290 crash each year. That’s incredible.
Why are insurance limits so low?
And more importantly, how can we stop these crashes from happening over and over again?
The Dallas County School District announced yesterday that is has fired or suspended several hundred bus drivers for violating basic traffic laws. The people paid to safely get children to and from school had racked up 480 traffic citations for failing to stop for red lights or stopped buses just in the last two years.
That’s a startling 10 percent of all Dallas school bus drivers.
Running a red light is inexcusable for any driver, but for a bus driver, it’s outrageous.
Tax Dollars Paid the Traffic Tickets
Not only did the Dallas school bus drivers put children and other motorists at risk and allow these reckless drivers to continue driving for years, but the school district paid $80,000.00 for their traffic tickets. Dallas County citizens got stuck paying these traffic tickets with money that could have used for schoolbooks, lunches or teachers’ salaries. The district didn’t even bother to ask the drivers to reimburse the city or reprimand them for their recklessness.
However if you or I drive around a bus with the stop arm extended we can get hit with a $300 – $1,000 fine. School bus drivers, who should know better than anyone the dangers to children, paid zero.
In response to the investigation, two high-level managers were fired for failing to properly oversee the bus drivers. The Dallas School District also announced a new once-and-done rule in which any bus driver caught passing a bus that has its stop arm extended faces immediate dismissal. Bus drivers will also have to pay back the fines. Finally. Continue reading
Ten local children had an eventful second week of school. They were headed home on Wednesday when their bus collided with a pickup truck on I-35 near downtown Fort Worth. The pickup rolled over and came to rest on its roof. Miraculously, nobody was injured.
There are plenty of other bus collisions that have happened in our area recently.
- Two weeks ago, a car hit a school bus packed with middle school students in Denton and it caught on fire. Eight of the 45 kids suffered injuries.
- Last spring, a Fort Worth school bus carrying 32 students collided with a passenger vehicle near Loop 820 and I-20 and several children were injured.
- Two weeks later, seven Alvarado students and the bus driver were injured when a tractor-trailer plowed into the bus.
- Just a few days later, two bus crashes occurred in Fort Worth on the same day. A Honda ran into a school bus and two hours later an SUV ran into a different bus carrying 17 middle and high school students and caused several injuries.
And my law firm is currently representing two people seriously injured in bus-related collisions. In the first case, a man driving an 18 wheeler was hit by a loaded school bus that darted out in front of his truck. In the second, a little girl was walking across the road to catch her bus when a speeding truck failed to stop and hit her.
This is ridiculous. School buses are huge and bright yellow, and everyone can see them. And when they stop, a long arm extends out to the side and lights flash to inform other vehicles to also stop. If their obvious appearance isn’t enough, the law is very clear.
Drivers are prohibited from passing a stopped school bus with its stop sign and lights activated. Violating this law can result in a $1,000 traffic ticket. Continue reading
Get used to school zones and slow buses
A lot of changes happen on the first day of school …. for children and drivers alike.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve lived by the same school for years, you might easily forget about school zones and slow buses during the blissful summer months when those driving issues don’t exist.
The first few weeks of school can be a shock to the system. Last week, you were driving at 35 or 40 MPH down the street. This week, you have to slow down to 20 MPH.
But just as your children have to get their minds into gear, so do we drivers. Continue reading
Two recent crashes in Texas show that they are.
1. On Saturday a bus driving to a casino near Laredo rolled over and catastrophically killed eight elderly passengers and injured 44 others. Just last year, the tiny bus company was twice ordered to take one of its buses — in its fleet of two — off the road. Louisiana inspectors found 15 safety violations involving vehicle maintenance, driver records and hours reporting.
Were these violations ever corrected? Was the same bus involved? These answers have not been released but seem obvious.
2.And just two weeks ago, a Dallas jury awarded $10.9 million to the families of two victims killed in another crash.
In April 2013, after stopping in Bedford to pick up passengers, the bus headed up the Bush Turnpike. In Irving, the driver lost control of the bus, hit barrels in the right lane, swerved across two lanes of traffic and hit a concrete barrier to the left, flipping the bus over. The senseless collision killed two people and seriously injured 40 others.
In addition to the size of the verdict, the case is unusual because the defendant is the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma that chartered the bus to drive seniors to its Oklahoma casino. However the casino operator was not driving it.