Bus accidents can cause serious personal injuries. When these behemoths, weighing up to 20 tons, make contact with another vehicle or a human being, the result can be disastrous. Last year Broward County bus drivers made mistakes that wrecked other people’s vehicles, left victims with lasting injuries and sparked lawsuits that cost taxpayers more than $1 million.
The Sun Sentinal reported that in the past six months, Broward County commissioners settled nine cases in which public transit buses rear-ended or smashed head-on into other drivers, struck a 61-year-old bicyclist in a bike lane, hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk at the beach, and in one case, ran over the arm of a woman with a walker who had fallen trying to get to the bus.
Tuesday, another bus driver’s mistake will be up for public review, potentially putting $75,000 from the county into the pocket of a driver seriously injured and rendered temporarily comatose in 2008 after a bus began a chain reaction of rear-end collisions.
Just two weeks ago, Broward commissioners agreed to pay money to settle three more claims that arose from bus driver errors in recent years:
A bus rear-ended a car. The car driver and a passenger suffered ruptured disks in their spines, aggravating existing back problems. Both were left permanently impaired, and one has persistent headaches. Their medical bills topped $50,000, but the county settled by giving them $40,000 total. The bus driver was disciplined.
A bus driver was disciplined for attempting a U-turn from a center lane and smashing into a vehicle. The victim of that crash was hurt in the leg, neck and back, is permanently impaired and ran up medical bills of about $76,563, according to the county. Broward taxpayers gave this person $25,000.
A head-on crash between a bus turning left in an intersection and an oncoming car seriously injured a passenger on the bus. That person got $50,000. The bus driver was disciplined.
Broward buses last year had 478 accidents – nine a week. One in four resulted from bus drivers’ mistakes and were deemed “preventable,” the department found.
The year before, there were more accidents, but the crashes blamed on driver mistakes were fewer than one in five.
Broward settled bus claims in 2010 with 142 people, paying out $1.3 million. In 2009, 167 people’s claims were settled for $1.2 million, documents from the county’s risk management officials show.
Though Palm Beach’s bus system is half the size of Broward’s, collision rates are calculated per mile driven, and can be used for comparison. In 2009, Palm Beach had .44 preventable crashes for every 100,000 bus miles driven; Broward had .6; and Miami-Dade, .91.
While it is true that buses are constantly on the road, the preventable crashes per miles driven is the key statistic. As a Miami Personal injury lawyer I have had many claims with Miami Dade County for Bus related Accidents. After deposing the Bus Drivers, I was truly amazed at the attitude that these drivers displayed. In fact, I am currently representing a cyclist that was struck by a County Bus, and despite onboard video of the accident, the bus driver denied any responsibility and accused the cyclist of wanting to get hit.
You can see the onboard video:
and judge for yourself.
Accidents involving county vehicles and buses fall under the sovereign immunity statute and the limitations contained therein. To that end, barring exceptional circumstances and injuries claims are limited at $100,000.00. As to driver discipline, it is unclear how often bus drivers are evaluated. As with anything else, until safety is emphasized, and at fault operators are disciplined or removed from their jobs, accidents will continue to rise.