The father of a kindergartener killed in a horrific school bus accident has been granted a victory by the Louisiana Supreme Court: The right to continue his wrongful death case against the school district and its employee driver.
In Miller v. Thibeaux, the child’s biological father and mother – who never married – filed separate lawsuits in 2011 seeking wrongful death and survivor compensation. The school district settled the litigation with the child’s mother for the district’s full policy amount of $500,000, in exchange for dismissal of her lawsuit.
Plaintiff father then amended his petition to claim the school’s insurer failed to deal with him fairly by settling its full policy limits on the child’s mother, to the exclusion of his claims.
According to court records, the child was boarding the school bus, his mother looking on, when his arm got caught in the doorway. The driver, with 23 years of experience, did not realize what had happened. The child screamed for help, but his mother could not reach him fast enough. He was dragged for 80 feet before his arm was freed, at which time he fell underneath the bus wheels and was crushed.
He was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he later died.
Defendants in the case countered father plaintiff’s claims were barred because he failed to comply with the procedural formalities necessary to prove he legally was allowed to bring action as the child’s father. This was despite the father producing the child’s birth certificate with his name on it, as well as child support records. Ultimately, the Louisiana Supreme Court agreed the father had met procedural requirements and could continue with his claim.
Generally, our Fort Myers injury lawyers know such a scenario would not occur in Florida because of our state’s wrongful death statutes. The Florida Wrongful Death Act allows certain parties to stake a claim – including spouses, parents of minor children, children, other dependents and heirs – but only one wrongful death lawsuit can be filed. The person who is entitled to file is the representative of the decedent’s estate, and then any damages recovered go to the estate and are then equitably distributed, based on claimant’s relationship to decedent.
Louisiana law allows for differing procedures.
Occasionally, disputes do arise as to who should be named as the estate representative and who has the right to pursue action.
This is why it’s important to seek counsel from an experienced litigator, one who has practiced in Florida for years and is familiar with state and local statutes, as well as obligations under federal law.
School bus accidents resulting in injury are relatively rare, but they do occur. Your child deserves adequate compensation when a school bus accident results in injury.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that from 2003 to 2012, there were 1,222 fatal school-transportation-related crashes in the U.S. resulting in 1,353 deaths. That’s an average of 135 deaths every single year – a small percentage of the 30,000 traffic deaths that occur annually, but significant nonetheless.
Of those who died, 65 percent were struck by the bus and 30 percent by other vehicles.
Occupants of school buses accounted for 8 percent of those killed, while non-occupants – such as pedestrians and bicyclists – accounted for 21 percent. Most were occupants of other vehicles.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Miller v. Thibeaux, Jan. 28, 2015, Louisiana Supreme Court
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