Jun 2013

Court Rules in Favor of Injured Victim After Bus Accident

In 2006, a bus accident occurred when the driver of a Providence school bus drove her vehicle into a sinkhole.  Fortunately, no children were injured in the accident but the school bus driver suffered serious harm as a result of the injuries that she sustained. According to WPRI, the bus driver filed a lawsuit against the city to recover compensation for her injuries and was awarded $65,000 by the jury who believed that the city’s negligence had contributed to her losses. 

The city, however, appealed the jury award granted to the bus driver. The city argued that it should have been able to provide more information to the jury about the fact that the bus driver obtained workers’ compensation benefits. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed and this May the court said that the bus driver was entitled to the money that the jury awarded. Our Providence car accident lawyers know that suing the city can be very difficult and that many legal issues were raised by this case that were resolved in favor of the injured victim.

Bus Accident Verdict Protects the Rights of Injured Victim

Sinkholes have become a major cause for concern in Rhode Island and throughout the United States since they create great risk of injury. In this accident case, for example, the sinkhole was created during an April rainstorm. The driver of the bus was hurt when a patch placed on the road during construction work failed. The front wheels of her bus went into the sinkhole, causing a wreck that left her seriously hurt.

It was the city’s responsibility to make sure that the sinkhole on public property was repaired in a safe way and to ensure that the roads were safe to travel on. By failing to make sure that the sinkhole had been safely repaired and that the patch during construction was sound, the city created circumstances where an accident was very likely to occur. Their negligent failure to keep the roads safe was a direct cause of harm to the bus driver and the city thus had to pay for what they had done.

Suing the city is more complicated than taking legal action against any other private individual because there are special “sovereign-immunity” rules that protect government employees and agencies. Still, a negligent government entity can be held accountable and in this case, the lawsuit went forward and the jury found for the injured bus driver and ordered the city to compensate her.

This wasn’t the end of the case, though, because defendants who are found liable and ordered to pay damages can appeal the decision if they believe that something went wrong in how the laws were applied. In this particular case, the city argued that it should have been able to ask more questions of the bus driver about the fact that she had received workers’ compensation benefits from her injury. She got those benefits because the bus accident happened while she was performing her job.

However, workers’ compensation benefits don’t prevent an injured victim from filing a lawsuit when a third party was to blame for the crash. This is because of a rule called the Collateral Source rule that prevents evidence about insurance from affecting a person’s right to compensation.  The bus driver was thus able to keep the money she was awarded.

The case illustrates a few very important points. First, if the city or government creates a danger, you can sue and win. Second, your workers’ comp benefits or other insurance benefits won’t reduce the amount of money that you are entitled to receive if you are hurt and sue the third party who was responsible for injuring you.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact an experienced lawyer at 508-677-4900. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl serves clients in Providence, R.I., Foxborough and Fall River, Mass.

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