School Bus Driver Shows Up Drunk To DUI Hearing
In February 2022, a Flagler County school bus driver allegedly operated his bus and picked up children while heavily intoxicated. In mid-June 2022, the man appeared extremely intoxicated at the hearing where he was charged with multiple counts of child neglect. The judge had him taken into custody in order to “get him tested” for drugs and alcohol, but regardless of the criminal charges the man might face, it is also possible that the parents of any of the children on the bus might decide to file a civil suit.
Rare But Serious
School bus accidents are quite rare; statistics from USA Today estimate that they only make up approximately ½ of 1 percent of all accidents on the road. However, the number of fatalities they cause is disproportionate (about 8 percent of all traffic fatalities). There are several reasons for this nationwide, including many of the same factors that cause standard auto accidents. Among them, driver negligence is far and away the most common, from speeding to road rage to substance abuse.
Florida does have one factor in its laws which can help to minimize child injuries, and that is a comprehensive safety program for its school buses. For example, Florida and California are the only two states (as of this writing) which require two-point seatbelts on its school buses. However, behavior like the Flagler County driver’s still places children in an extremely dangerous position, regardless of the safety measures the state may take to safeguard them.
Filing A Civil Suit
Since the former bus driver has been criminally charged, one might think that civil suits against him would be barred so as to avoid double jeopardy. In reality, this is not the case; double jeopardy only occurs when two identical cases are filed against the same person, for the same offense. Civil and criminal court are two different systems, so double jeopardy does not attach. Civil lawsuits are about monetary damages in most cases; criminal court convictions result in jail time.
In a case where actual physical injury to a child occurred, parents could, at least in theory, file suit against the bus driver for his negligence. However, Florida does have a doctrine known as sovereign immunity in place, which means that governmental employees or agencies are immune from suit under certain circumstances. Depending on the situation of the individual employee, and the school board, seeking money damages may be complicated by this issue.
Contact A Tampa School Bus Accident Attorney
While it remains to be seen what consequences will await the bus driver, know that if your child is injured on the school bus, you do have the right to seek damages if you believe it was due to someone else’s negligence. If you have questions or concerns, a compassionate Tampa personal injury attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group may be able to help get them managed. Your child’s safety comes first. Contact our office today at (813) 831-9999 for a free consultation.