Debra Pfaff was driving a 2002 Ford Excursion on South Florida Avenue when she struck the rear end of a Citrus Connection city bus on April 11, 2017. The accident happened in front of the IHOP restaurant by south Lakeland. Pfaff was not wearing a seatbelt and was taken to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center with significant injuries. A passenger in Pfaff’s vehicle was also injured. Lakeland Police indicated that no one on the city bus was hurt. Pfaff was charged with careless driving as a result of the accident.
A Word On Legal Liability
In Florida, there is a presumption of negligence in rear-end collision cases. The presumption works like this-when there is a rear-end collision, the law presumes that the driver behind was negligent unless that driver can show that the driver in front was illegally stopped in the roadway or suddenly stopped unexpectedly without justification. In this case, city buses are known to make frequent stops and legally permitted to do so by Florida Statutes. Drivers are then required to yield to city buses.
Who Has A Potential Insurance Claim?
The passenger in Pfaff’s vehicle has an insurance claim for personal injuries against Ms. Pfaff unless excluded from coverage. While some states have an automobile guest statute limiting liability, a driver in Florida is held legally responsible for negligence in accidents that cause injury to passengers. However, regardless of legal liability, insurance is what pays a person’s claim. Unless the passenger is a “resident, relative household member” or “relative residing in the same household” (in insurance terms), then the passenger has a collectible insurance claim. On the other hand, in the event that the driver and passenger are related and live in the same home, then the exclusion applies (again, insurance coverage is different than the right to sue).
What Claims Can Passengers On The City Bus Make?
While LPD says that no one on the bus was injured, someone may in fact have an injury for which they will later seek medical treatment. Under Florida’s no-fault law, an injured person has 14 days after an accident to seek medical treatment (An injured person can still seek treatment after 14 days, however, no-fault insurance will not cover the bills) under section 627.736, Fla. Stat.
The first insurance claim with most accidents is whether the medical bills will be covered by no-fault insurance. No-fault insurance applies to any vehicle that you insure in Florida and typically covers anyone related living in the same household. Therefore, if you live with a family member who owns a car, then you are covered under your family member’s automobile policy unless you are specifically excluded from coverage (or there was a misrepresentation disqualifying coverage altogether).
However, a city bus used in mass transit is not considered within the definition of “motor vehicle” under section 627.732(3), Fla. Stat. and any no-fault insurance that you have will not apply. For anyone on the bus who was injured, they will have only two legal avenues of payment: 1) health coverage and/or 2) a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. This is where having a personal injury attorney can help you bring the right legal claims against the correct parties.
Contact A Lakeland Personal Injury Attorney About Your Accident Case
If you have been injured in a car accident in Lakeland, FL, you should contact a Lakeland personal injury attorney to discuss your case. You will likely need help from an attorney on where to go for medical treatment and how to cover the expenses for those visits. If you have questions about your car accident injury, you should schedule a free appointment with an attorney today.
— The Ledger (@theledger) April 12, 2017