Seven People Injured In Winter Haven Bus Accident on US17

Car Accidents

Seven people were injured in an accident between a pickup truck and a Winter Haven city bus (“Citrus Connection”) near the intersection of US17 and CR540 in Eagle Lake, Florida on January 11, 2017.  The accident happened at approximately 9:00 a.m. when the pickup truck struck the rear end of the city bus in the far right (outside) lane of US17.  Three people, including two children, in the pickup truck were injured.  The three injured people in the pickup truck were airlifted to Tampa General Hospital.  Four people on the bus were injured and were taken to Winter Haven Hospital with minor injuries.

Updated News Reports

Updated news reports indicate that the driver of pickup truck was Jaron Skipper, who suffered serious injuries and was not wearing a seatbelt.  The passengers in the truck were Emma Skipper and John Skipper (ages 7 and 4).  Emma was reported to have not been wearing a seatbelt and was ejected through the windshield.  John was reported to have been wearing a seatbelt but still suffered serious injuries.  The news media has not reported whether the 4-year-old child was in a car seat.  Section 316.613, Fla. Stat. would have required the 4-year-old to be in an approved child restraint as below:

Every operator of a motor vehicle as defined in this section, while transporting a child in a motor vehicle operated on the roadways, streets, or highways of this state, shall, if the child is 5 years of age or younger, provide for protection of the child by properly using a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device.

Bus Passengers Have Injury Claims

The four people on the Winter Haven city bus clearly have liability claims against the driver of the pickup truck.  There is a presumption of negligence in Florida for rear-end collisions.  There would appear to be no evidence to rebut that the city bus (assuming it was stopped in the roadway) did not have a right to do so.  The news did not report whether the city bus was stopped to pick up passengers at the time of the collision or whether it was merely just stopped for the traffic light.  Regardless of the reason, the driver of the pickup truck would be legally responsible for striking the rear end of the city bus under the circumstances that are evidence from the photograph by Fox News 13’s helicopter.

Does The City Bus Provide PIP Or No-Fault Coverage To Passengers?

I have represented clients in city bus accident cases before.  Many of the people on the city bus do not have their own car and do not have PIP or no-fault insurance.  Unfortunately, a city bus is considered a “mass transit” vehicle owned by the government for which PIP or no-fault is not required.  See the definition in section 617.732(3), Fla. Stat. below:

(3) “Motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle with four or more wheels which is of a type both designed and required to be licensed for use on the highways of this state and any trailer or semitrailer designed for use with such vehicle and includes:

(a) A “private passenger motor vehicle,” which is any motor vehicle which is a sedan, station wagon, or jeep-type vehicle and, if not used primarily for occupational, professional, or business purposes, a motor vehicle of the pickup, panel, van, camper, or motor home type.
(b) A “commercial motor vehicle,” which is any motor vehicle which is not a private passenger motor vehicle.
The term “motor vehicle” does not include a mobile home or any motor vehicle which is used in mass transit, other than public school transportation, and designed to transport more than five passengers exclusive of the operator of the motor vehicle and which is owned by a municipality, a transit authority, or a political subdivision of the state.

How Can City Bus Passengers Pay For Medical Treatment?

People who involved in an accident while riding a city bus are not covered by any insurance on the bus itself (unless the bus driver causes the accident, then there is liability coverage).  There is no PIP or uninsured motorist’s coverage (UM) on city buses.  Instead, the passengers will have no choice but to seek medical treatment under health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or a private agreement between a patient and the medical providers (aka “letter of protection”).

Since the four passengers who were transported to Winter Haven Hospital will all have hospital bills, those sources (in addition to suing the driver of the pickup truck) are the only appropriate sources of payment for medical expenses.

Call Us If You Have Been Involved In A Bus Accident

If you have been injured in a city bus accident in Polk County, Florida, please contact a Lakeland personal injury attorney for a free discussion of your case.  There are no attorney fees or costs unless money is recovered for you.

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