Articles Posted in Bus Accidents

Before any case can be heard by a judge or a jury, the plaintiff must serve notice of the pending lawsuit to each and every one of the parties named as a defendant. A plaintiff’s failure to properly serve a party may result in a significant delay and may even cause an otherwise meritorious lawsuit to be prematurely dismissed.

In Virginia, there are several requirements that a plaintiff must ensure are met when effectuating service on a defendant. For example, the service must be addressed to the individual named in the lawsuit, or if an organization is named, to a person legally authorized to accept service. Additionally, service must be made by first-class mail, and the packet sent to the defendant must include certain additional information in order to be considered complete. In personal injury cases in which service becomes an issue, it is often because the defendant claims that the wrong person was served. This is especially true when the case is filed against a public or government entity. A recent case shows how important proper service is in personal injury lawsuits.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in an accident with a school bus. The plaintiff claimed that the school bus driver was negligent in causing the accident and filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver as well as the school district that employed him. The plaintiff hired a process server, who went to the school district building, asked where service was accepted, and delivered service to the assistant to the Human Resources Director. The plaintiff did not attempt to personally serve the school bus driver.

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Earlier this month, a California appellate court issued a written opinion in a case involving a plaintiff who was injured as she boarded a casino shuttle bus. While the woman’s injuries were caused by a fall precipitated by other passengers, the court determined that the casino had a duty to ensure the safe boarding of the shuttle. In so holding, the court reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss the woman’s case.

Huang v. The Bicycle Casino:  The Facts

The Bicycle Casino operates a shuttle to pick up gamers who do not have other transportation to get to the casino. The shuttle operated throughout Los Angeles and traveled on a fixed path with several stops along the way. Since the shuttle ran just once an hour, some of the more popular stops would have many people waiting for the shuttle. The shuttle could hold only about 45 people.

The casino would occasionally bring along a second employee, along with the driver, to ensure that passengers would board in an orderly fashion. However, on the day in question, the driver was alone. As the driver approached the stop where Huang was waiting, the crowd of people surged toward the shuttle.

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The Supreme Court of the State of Delaware recently affirmed a lower court’s decision that allowed a school bus passenger to make a claim against the insurance covering the school bus after the plaintiff was hit by another vehicle while crossing the street to board the bus. The lower court ruling was opposed by the insurance company, which argued that the school bus was not directly involved in the accident, and the plaintiff’s injuries should not be covered.

Plaintiff Is Injured After Vehicle Fails to Stop for School Bus

The plaintiff in the case of Buckley v. State Farm was a girl who had intended to ride the bus to school when she was hit by another vehicle and injured. Before the crash, the school bus driver operated the equipment signaling other drivers to yield to crossing children and signaled the plaintiff to cross the street. As the plaintiff was crossing the street to board the bus, a driver failed to yield and struck the plaintiff, causing injuries. Although the school bus driver was not alleged to have been at fault for the accident, the plaintiff made a claim against the bus’ insurance coverage to compensate her for the injuries she sustained.

The Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Protection Claim Is Denied

The plaintiff made a claim against the defendant, who provided insurance coverage for the school bus under the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage on the bus. Personal Injury Protection coverage is designed to cover any passengers of the insured vehicle, as well as any other person injured in an accident involving the covered vehicle, other than an occupant of another vehicle. State Farm denied the plaintiff’s initial claim, responding that her injuries were not caused by an accident involving the school bus for which they were providing insurance.

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Earlier this month, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued an opinion in a personal injury case brought against a local government, alleging that the negligence of a government employee resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. In the case, Moreno v. City of Gering, the government admitted that its employee was at fault in the accident, but it contested the amount of damages sought by the plaintiff. Thus, the case proceeded to trial on the damages issue only.

The Facts

The plaintiff was injured after she was ejected from a bus. Apparently, the woman was riding in a county bus when a volunteer fire-fighter negligently struck the bus. After a trial in front of a judge, the plaintiff was awarded about $575,000. Some of the damages award was designated to cover the cost of a surgery the plaintiff underwent after the accident.

Government Immunity Can Be Waived

Government immunity acts to protect state and local governments from liability in some situations. However, even if a government is entitled to immunity, that government will not necessarily assert its immunity to prevent the plaintiff’s recovery. In some cases, as was the case above, the government recognizes that an employee’s negligence resulted in harm to a member of the public, and the government wants to make things right.

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The Supreme Court of the State of North Carolina recently released an interesting decision that reversed a lower state appellate court ruling that had allowed a personal injury claim based on an accident with a school bus to proceed against school administrators. The plaintiff in the case of Irving v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education was injured while she was driving a car that was struck by a bus transporting student athletes and staff to a football game. Although the plaintiff’s claim has been rejected on jurisdictional grounds, she may still be entitled to relief through a separate action.

The Plaintiff Is Injured in an Accident with a School Bus Driven by a School Employee and Makes a Claim for Damages

In October 2007, the plaintiff’s car was struck by a school activity bus that was transporting student athletes and staff to a football game. The bus was being driven by an employee of the board of education, the defendant in this case. Rather than filing an accident lawsuit in state court, the plaintiff attempted to follow the procedures to sue a school district over a bus driver’s negligence, and she filed a claim against the defendant with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. The plaintiff made an administrative claim with the Industrial Commission because North Carolina law requires claims against allegedly negligent public school bus drivers to be pursued in this manner.

The School Board Argues the Bus Was a “School Activity Bus,” not a “Public School Bus”

When the case reached the Industrial Commission, the defendant argued there was no jurisdiction for the Commission to hear the claim. The defendant contended that the state law distinguishes between negligence claims involving “public school buses” (which must be filed before the commission) and claims involving “school activity buses” (which may be filed in state court). The district court and state supreme court agreed with the defendant, finding that the Industrial Commission was only the proper venue for claims involving public school buses that take students to and from school during regular school hours. Although the plaintiff will not obtain relief through her action filed with the Industrial Commission, she may be able to refile the claim in district court.

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