Statutes of Limitations and Clearwater Bus Accidents
Bus accidents can be the source of some of the most complex personal injury cases Dolman Law Group handles. The injuries to bus passengers, occupants of other vehicles, and pedestrians are often catastrophic. The medical treatment required to recover from a bus accident injury can be expensive, especially if you suffer a permanent disability.
If you or a family member were injured in a bus accident, healing should be your primary focus. It’s also important to be aware, however, that you only have a certain amount of time to bring a legal claim for damages against parties responsible for your injuries. This time limit is known as the “statute of limitations.” Here is an overview of how those time limits work in Florida bus accident cases.
Bus Accident Injuries Can Change Your Life
In a bus accident, the weight and speed of the bus can generate impacts so severe they often cause extensive damage and immediate fatalities. Private passenger vehicle occupants, bicyclists, and pedestrians who survive a bus crash must often cope with new life challenges and restrictions. Catastrophic injuries cause such profound disabilities, medical treatment is often ongoing and costly.
Initial emergency treatment costs can easily exceed the basic $10,000 PIP insurance benefits limit, assuming you carry it. Even if you have health insurance available to pay additional medical costs, you may still need to content with co-pays, deductibles, and costs health insurance isn’t meant to cover. Catastrophically injured victims lose income. If they return to gainful employment, it’s often with a diminished earning capacity.
When a bus accident changes your life in such drastic ways, the bus driver, bus company, and any other responsible parties should pay for the damages they cause. But only if the injured party files a legal claim within the time period set by the statute of limitations.
All Types of Buses Cause Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration tracks city, cross country, and local school bus accidents nationwide. Their most recent annual casualty statistics documented 35,000 people injured in 16,000 bus accidents. School children are particularly vulnerable while they’re walking to school, riding with their parents, or riding as school bus passengers.
A National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s 10-year study of School-Transportation-Related Crashes revealed that of the average 128 bus-related fatalities that occur nationwide each year, 35 percent of the victims were child pedestrians under age 13. Bus passengers sustain injuries as well but children struck by buses while riding in private passenger vehicles are twice as likely to die. It’s important to take steps to protect your right to collect damages before the statute of limitations runs. While a settlement or judgment in your favor won’t undo the damage a bus accident causes, it will offer a measure of justice and give you some of the income you need while you recover.
Understand Your Statute of Limitations for Bus Accidents
Statutes of limitations rarely come up in everyday conversations. When you or your loved one is injured, they become time-critical information you should know and understand. A statute of limitations is a specific calendar date by which you must file a lawsuit against the responsible parties for your bus injury. If you fail to act by the deadline, you’ll lose your right to make a claim.
Statutes of limitations vary depending on the state where your injury occurs. Florida Title VIII Chapter 95 explains state statutes of limitations and how they apply to Florida claims. When you’re injured in a bus accident in Florida, you typically have a four-year statute of limitations. The countdown begins on the day the bus crash occurs and ends four years later, usually, but it can also become more complicated.
Florida law recognizes that in certain situations an inflexible statute of limitations is restrictive and unfair. That’s why there are exceptions to the four-year rule.
Exception 1: Statute of Limitations for Injured Minors
If a minor is injured in a bus accident, the deadline for recovering damages extends beyond Florida’s four-year statute of limitations. Children don’t usually have the capacity to judge what’s in their best interest so someone else must assume that authority. Florida 95.051, When limitations tolled, addresses the people, scenarios, and contingencies that govern a minor’s right to bring suit for injuries. It also describes situations that “toll” the statute of limitations (that is, that stop the limitations clock running) for injured minors:
- Parents: Parents are natural guardians as defined by Florida 744.301. They usually have authority over their minor child’s claim disposition. Florida statutes give parents the right to … collect, receive, manage, and dispose of the proceeds of any settlement… When a child’s injury claim is worth $15,000 or less, the parents settle directly with an insurance company or responsible party. An executed minor’s release completes the settlement process and outlines the parents’ rights as natural guardian. These releases often contain an indemnity agreement requiring that parents indemnify the paying party for future claims that arise.
- Court-appointed guardian: Florida family courts appoint a guardian or a guardian ad litem when a minor child’s claim value exceeds $15,000 or the child is a ward of the state. A guardian acts on the child’s behalf on all injury and lawsuit-related matters. When a guardian recommends a settlement amount the court still has final approval.
- No parent or guardian: If the minor has no parents or if the parents are naturally or legally incapacitated or have interests opposing the minor’s interests, they cannot act on their child’s behalf. If the child doesn’t have a guardian or guardian ad litem representing him, the statute of limitations tolls for a maximum of seven years. An example of this is a minor who is injured by a bus at age 12. At 18, when he or she becomes an adult, they have one additional year to settle the claim before the statute runs.
Exception 2: Other Circumstances That Toll the Statute of Limitations
Florida 95.051 outlines several additional circumstances that stop the statute of limitations from running. Incapacitated adults and adults whom a court has designated as incapacitated follow the same statute of limitations guidelines as minor children. The statute also tolls during the time period where a defendant is out of the state or when a potential defendant uses a false name to avoid legal document service. When a potential defendant files for bankruptcy the pending court case tolls the statute until it’s resolved.
Contact Dolman Law Group in Clearwater After a Bus Accident
If you or your family member are recovering from bus-accident injuries, then you have come to understand how pain, disabilities, and stress complicate your life. You don’t want to worry about legal issues when you simply want to focus on healing. At Dolman Law Group’s Clearwater office, we believe that no injured person should miss out on recovering damages because of missing a statute of limitations. We urge anyone who has been injured in a bus accident to contact an experienced bus accident lawyer as soon as they can, to help prevent that from happening. Call our Clearwater office at (727) 451-6900 or complete our contact form to schedule your free consultation today.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765