Two charter buses carrying special needs students on a field trip to Orlando collided near Lakeland, sending 34 of the students to the hospital. It was a terrifying event for the students, their teachers, and their families, and it was hardly the only recent motor vehicle accident involving a bus in the Central Florida/Orlando area. The fact is, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), hundreds of Americans die every year in collisions involving buses.
Troublingly, young people are particularly at risk. In a May 2019 report, the FMSCA reported that “on average, from 2007 to 2017, intercity buses accounted for 13 percent, [whereas] school buses and transit buses accounted for 40 percent and 35 percent, respectively, of all buses involved in fatal crashes.”
No family should have to shoulder the tragedy of losing a loved one in a bus accident. If the worst happens, however, bus accident victims and their families need strong, experienced legal guidance to help them recover the compensation they may be entitled to under Florida law.
If a bus accident has disrupted your and your family’s lives with serious injuries or a tragic loss, contact the skilled team at the Law Offices of Jerry Jenkins today to learn how Attorney Jenkins and his staff can help.
About Attorney Jerry Jenkins
Since 2013, Attorney Jerry Jenkins has represented Orlando-area personal injury victims and families who have tragically lost a loved one in seeking the compensation they need to put their lives back on track after a serious accident.
Jerry is a tough, aggressive trial lawyer who has the courage and integrity to stand up for injured Floridians and their families when someone else’s carelessness leaves them bruised, battered, or grieving. As a U.S. Army veteran and former prosecutor, Jerry has spent his career on the front lines of seeking justice. He brings that commitment to every personal injury matter he handles. If you become a client, you can rest assured that Jerry has your back.
The Horror of Orlando-Area Bus Accidents
No one steps aboard a bus expecting the ride to end in catastrophe. But the risk is real. As a hub for regional tourism, Orlando’s city streets, highways, and massive parking lots teem with buses of all shapes and sizes, from crowded shuttle buses bringing excited families to the front gates at Disney World, to charter buses ferrying students on a long-distance trip to any of our area attractions, like the ones that crashed near Lakeland.
Although more and more buses these days come equipped with seat belts, few passengers use them. What’s more, many buses take to Orlando-area roads and parking lots with passengers who do not have access to any kind of safety restraint. In an accident—even one that happens at “low” speeds—passengers get thrown around the interior of a bus and can sustain serious injuries. If, God forbid, a bus should tip or roll, those same passengers can end up thrown from windows or pinned under twisted metal.
Some passengers die in these accidents, as the FMCSA statistics referenced above document. But that doesn’t mean those who survive get off easy. Far from it. Survivors of Orlando-area bus accidents can still sustain severe, life-altering injuries, including:
- Spinal cord injuries, resulting in permanent paralysis that changes the victim’s life forever and costs millions of dollars over a lifetime to treat and manage;
- Traumatic brain injuries that can leave victims in a coma, or struggling with a wide range of motor and cognitive disabilities that make it impossible to return to work or school;
- Crushed limbs and traumatic amputations, in which victims lose a limb because it is so severely injured in an accident, forcing them to face life with a new and permanent challenge; and
- Orthopedic and soft tissue injuries, including damaged discs, severe joint dislocations, and muscle/tendon/ligament tears that can lead to long-term disability or chronic pain, which comes with its own set of significant challenges.
This is just a sampling of the trauma victims of Orlando-area bus accidents can face in the weeks, months, and even years after an accident. If you or a loved one was harmed in a bus accident, we encourage you to speak with Attorney Jerry Jenkins as soon as possible to learn about your rights to seek compensation for your injuries.
What’s Involved in Seeking Compensation After a Bus Accident
Many Americans understand that if someone else’s careless or reckless actions cause another person injury or the tragic loss of that person’s life, then that reckless person will have legal liability to pay damages to the injured person or their family. Fewer Americans appreciate, however, how complex the legal process is when it comes to seeking those damages after they were injured, and that this process requires the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.
In Florida, for example, no-fault insurance laws require anyone who registers a car to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage. Ordinarily, PIP coverage pays for a certain portion of the policyholder’s injuries and lost wages after a motor vehicle accident. Generally speaking, that same coverage will pay benefits if the policyholder or their family member gets injured as a passenger in a bus accident. But PIP coverage tends to be limited, and there are many people riding buses in the Orlando area who do not have PIP insurance (mostly because they’re from out-of-state). So, it’s not always easy to figure out who pays for what injuries when a bus crashes, and whether accident victims have the right to recover damages beyond what PIP coverage pays.
Figuring out who has liability in a bus accident is where an experienced, determined bus accident attorney can help. After a bus accident, accident victims and their families need a lawyer by their sides who knows the ropes of investigating how the accident happened and who has legal liability. In a bus accident, the liable parties might include:
- The bus driver, if they made a poor decision that led to a crash;
- The bus operator/owner, if (for example) they failed to maintain the bus, hired a driver they knew had a poor driving record, or failed to train the driver to safely operate the bus;
- Other motorists, if their careless or reckless actions, rather than the bus driver’s, caused the accident;
- Vehicle and parts manufacturers, if one of the vehicles in the accident failed to operate as designed under normal operating conditions because of a defect;
- Municipal governments, if a preventable, unsafe condition on a road led to the accident.
In all cases, a bus accident attorney’s job isn’t just to identify who may have legal liability for their client’s injuries, but also who among those people has the financial resources, either through insurance or assets, to pay the necessary damages. After all, a large damages award isn’t worth much if no one can actually pay it.
How much should the accident victim’s damages be? This depends on a wide variety of factors, including the circumstances of the bus accident, the severity of the injuries or losses, the chances and timeline for making a full recovery, the victim’s age and general state of health, and their life circumstances, among other considerations.
In every Orlando bus accident matter, an experienced bus accident attorney will conduct a detailed analysis of the amount they believe a client can legally justify seeking in damages, so that when the time comes to make a “demand” on the parties with legal liability, there will be evidence to back it up. Typically, the amount of damages will reflect a combination of the following elements:
- Past medical costs and reasonably foreseeable future medical costs necessary to achieve and maintain maximum recovery, whatever that might be for the particular victim;
- Lost wages and any reasonably predictable lost future income, either because of a need to take additional time off of work to heal or because the victim will never be able to return to work in the same capacity or at all;
- Costs the injured bus accident victim has incurred paying others to perform basic life tasks like cleaning, grocery delivery, etc. that they cannot perform themselves because of their injuries;
- The bus accident victim’s pain and suffering resulting from the accident and over the course of their recovery;
- Loss of enjoyment of life or loss of companionship resulting from the injury’s impact on the victim’s and their family’s lives;
- In cases in which a bus accident causes a tragic death, the costs of a funeral and burial.
As you might imagine from the list above, damages can vary widely from case to case, and it’s not always easy to predict what those damages might be, at least not right away. In cases involving significant injuries and complex recoveries, Attorney Jerry Jenkins may consult with medical and financial planning experts to help him estimate the appropriate amount of damages for his clients to demand.
Negotiating (Mostly With Insurance Companies)
Insurance coverage plays a role in most Orlando bus accident matters (and in most motor vehicle accidents generally). Motorists and bus companies usually carry insurance to cover passengers and other motorists an accident. When an experienced Orlando bus accident attorney like Jerry has determined who has legal liability, whether that person has insurance, and the amount of damages they owe to his client, the attorney will typically enter into negotiations with that insurance company to achieve a fair settlement.
Bus accident victims sometimes wonder if they should just try to handle these negotiations themselves. Jerry advises most people against that approach. For starters, most accident victims and their families do not have the experience or know-how to gather the necessary information and figure out exactly how much the other parties owe them in damages, which are essential pieces of information in any successful negotiation with an insurance company.
Also, insurance companies hire experienced adjusters whose job is to minimize the amount of money the insurer pays on behalf of its policyholders. These adjusters use tricks and tactics to limit their liability. Most people who only rarely deal with insurance companies don’t know how to protect themselves from these strategies. But an experienced bus accident lawyer does.
During his career, Jerry has become convinced that people virtually always benefit from having a lawyer handle their insurance negotiations for them rather than trying to go it alone. And he advises that accident victims should never, ever accept a settlement from an insurance company without speaking with an attorney first. Settlements involve giving up valuable rights. Don’t compound your tragedy by settling for less than you deserve.
Going to Trial to Stand Up for Victims’ Rights
When negotiations with insurance companies don’t succeed (usually because the insurance company won’t be reasonable), a skilled Orlando bus accident attorney like Jerry Jenkins will be ready to take his client’s case to court, if that’s what it takes to achieve a just and fair outcome. Jerry never pressures his clients to go to trial—that’s always the client’s decision. But he does give his clients his best assessment of the risks and rewards of going to court, and if they decide to take that step, he brings his passion for seeking justice to every second he spends before a judge and jury.
Unlike some personal injury attorneys, Jerry has no fear of the courtroom. He’s spent more hours arguing cases in court than he can count, the courtroom is like a second home for him. And that’s the kind of comfort level you want your lawyer to have when your rights to compensation are on the line.
Making Sure Our Clients Get Paid
When an insurance company agrees to settle a bus accident matter, and when a jury awards a bus accident victim damages, the lawyer’s job isn’t done until the client actually receives the money. Attorney Jerry Jenkins pursues the damages until they’re in the bank. Victims of Orlando-area bus accidents deserve nothing less.
Call Jerry Jenkins, Your Orlando Bus Accident Attorney
No one should face the trauma of a bus accident alone, and no one should worry they lack the financial resources to recover from injuries and losses they suffered in a bus accident. If an Orlando-area bus accident has turned your life upside down, contact The Law Offices of Jerry Jenkins today or call him at (407) 287-6757 to schedule a free consultation to learn about your rights.