Heymann & Fletcher

Drunk-driver accident blame shared by sober school bus driver

A New Jersey student was awarded $5 million in damages after being hit by a drunk driver, but the intoxicated driver was found to be only 25 percent responsible. A jury found that the other 75 percent of the responsibility belonged to the fully sober school bus driver who had been forcing the student to get off the bus over one quarter of a mile from her designated drop-off spot (her home). It was while the then 17-year-old high school junior was walking down the high-speed road that led to her home that she was hit and injured in the drunk-driving accident.

The school bus driver made the student get off the bus ahead of her designated stop over 40 times before she was hit by the drunk driver. He dropped her off at the unsafe location because it made his bus route shorter. The driver also got the injured student's fellow school bus passengers to bully her into getting off before her designated stop.

As a result of being placed in harm's way by the unapproved drop-off, the young woman sustained multiple severe injuries that cause her to suffer continuing pain. She also suffered traumatic brain injuries that have resulted in memory lapses. Medical testimony presented at the trial supported the jury's decision that the $5 million dollar award was a fair amount to help the injured woman on what may continue to be a long road to a complete recovery.

The New Jersey jury's decision placed the greater portion of the blame for the accident on the school bus driver based on the fact he violated the primary responsibility of anyone entrusted to work with children; that of ensuring their safety at all times. Although the school bus company's legal representation attempted to show that the drunk driver bore the greater responsibility for the accident, the jury disagreed and the school bus company's insurance carrier will be responsible for $3.75 million of the $5 million award plus attorney's fees and interest. The insurance carrier had only offered pre-trial settlement amounts of $80,000 and $125,000, but successful litigation on the part of the student's legal representation resulted in the much more realistic award being decided upon by the jury.

Source: stnonline.com, "New Jersey Contractor Must Pay $3.75M for Bus Driver's Negligence in Accident," Michelle Fisher, July 8, 2013

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