On Friday morning, three Transylvania County children were struck and injured by an elderly driver. According to WLOS ABC News Channel 13, the incident happened at about 7:15 a.m., as the children were getting ready to board the school bus. The driver, 85-year-old Floyd Hipps, failed to stop or reduce his speed for the school bus. Children were crossing Greenville Highway, and the bus was completely stopped with the crossing arm out and red lights flashing at the time of the wreck.
Children from Bus 77 were headed to Brevard Middle School. The bus made a stop near the Connestee Falls subdivision to pickup about five kids when Mr. Hipps drove through. The 2013 Ford Explorer hit three of them and sent two to the ground. School bus officials did report that while the bus had onboard cameras, it did not have stopping arm cameras, so no footage of the incident was captured of the incident.
Two of the children had to be airlifted to Mission Hospital in Asheville, and the third child was taken by ambulance to Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard. Thankfully, none of the injuries were life-threatening. One child suffered a fractured femur, a second child suffered a concussion, and a third child suffered a fractured skull. The third child remains in serious condition at the hospital. The other two children have been released. Mr. Hipps was charged with felony failure to stop for a school bus and failure to reduce speed, but there's no word on why he didn't stop. The Highway Patrol spokesperson said that any time a child is hit a child is hit at a bus stop, the criminal charge becomes a felony. Hipps told Troopers that he did not see the children before the impact.
The Danger Zone
After this incident, it may or may not come as a surprise to Asheville parents that the most dangerous part of riding a school bus is loading and unloading. The 10 feet in front of, behind and beside a school bus is considered the "Danger Zone." The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) encourages parents to talk to their children about safe boarding and unloading practices. Not only are children at risk from other drivers, but they're also in an area where a bus driver may not see them. Children who have to cross the street to board the bus or unload from a bus should be instructed to stay well in front of the bus so that they can have direct eye contact with the bus driver. Children should also be told that they must still look in both directions prior to crossing the street, even if the bus' lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended.
Civil Liability Analysis
In addition to the criminal charges, Mr. Hipps also faces the potential for substantial civil liability from this incident. The purpose of the civil justice system is to compensate those who have suffered injury or harm as a result of someone else's careless or reckless conduct. The children who suffered injuries from this incident have the right to assert a personal injury claim against Mr. Hipps and his automobile insurance company. In a situation like this, the liability of Mr. Hipps seems clear, and the only real question would be the value of the childrens' personal injury claims. While the injuries in this case do not appear life-threatening, the injuries are certainly serious.
What Is My Case Worth?
The children in this case would have the right to recover for all of their medical expenses, including but not limited to ambulance, hospital, and rehabilitation costs. The right to recover for these expenses exists even if the children are covered by their parent's private health insurance. The children would also have the right to recover money damages for any permanent injuries and for the physical pain and mental suffering caused by the injuries. Mental suffering can include things like anxiety and post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). There is no set formula for deciding the value of such claims. Clients often want to know at the beginning of their case: "what is my claim worth?" At Davis Law Group, we always respond by saying that, "your case is worth what any 12 people off the street could agree on after hearing all of the evidence in your case." There is no way to say what any given case is truly worth immediately after the injury. The reality is that we have to wait and see how the client does during the medical treatment and then also how the client is doing after their injuries have healed and all of the medical care is completed.
Does The Minor Receive Money?
When a minor is injured as the result of another person's careless or reckless conduct, and the minor makes a claim and recovers money for their injuries, the money must go into either a trust account in the Clerk of Court's Office or into a Structured Settlement. A Structured Settlement is a form of an insurance annuity.
If the money is deposited with the Clerk's Office, then as soon as the minor turns 18 years of age, he or she can take all of the money from the settlement and do with it as they please. If the money is placed into a Structured Settlement, then the money will be disbursed to the claimant at certain intervals and amounts, depending on how the Structured Settlement is put together. Often, the parents of the minor decide that it would be better to place the money into a Structured Settlement so that the money can be disbursed in a way that is helpful to paying for a college education. Another huge benefit of a Structured Settlement is that the interest income earned prior to disbursement is tax free and not subject to capital gains taxes.
Elderly Driver Safety
Although very few details about the crash have been released, plenty of citizens are talking about elderly driver safety. As our friends and relatives continue to age, their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle may diminish. These are not easy conversations to have with a friend or loved one. But, if you're worried about an elderly driver, it may be time to have "the talk." The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) also provides a variety of materials to concerned family members and helpful tips for bringing up the conversation. The team at Davis Law Group, P.A. wishes speedy and full recoveries for all of the injured children involved.