SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS Karen Kucher and Erin Noonan report that seven students and their bus driver were injured on June 9, 2010 when their bus lost control and rolled after being hit by a car. One student was airlifted to Scripps hospital in La Jolla, and the rest were transported by ambulance to local hospitals. The accident occurred at around 11:20 a.m. on North El Camino Real at or near North Douglas Drive in Oceanside.
According to Oceanside police Sgt. Jeff Brandt a white Toyota being driven by 81-year-old Betty Hoke pulled onto El Camino Real from the Laguna Vista mobile home park and merged into the bus’ left rear wheel. “It looks like that person merged right under the bus, which sent the bus out of control,” Brandt said. “A set of wheels went right over the top of the car. You can see the tire tread marks up over the hood of the car.” School officials said the high school students on the bus were part of an cross-age tutoring program to help elementary students with math and reading.
Applicable California law
Hoke will be liable for the damage to the bus as well as the personal injuries to the bus driver and students for her violation of California Vehicle Code 21658, unsafe lane change, and other code violations, which caused the injuries. I would refer you to my prior Blog posts relating to the requirements on driver competency and age limitations. However, of particular concern is whether she has sufficient insurance liability limits to adequately compensate all of the injured. California’s minimum bodily injury limits of 15/30 provides a maximum of 15,000 to any one claimant, and a total of 30,000 for all claimants in any given accident. Thus, depending on the nature and extent of the injuries, and the number of claimants, Hoke’s insurance might not be enough to adequately compensate the injured. If the injured have their own Uninsured/Underinsured ( UM/UIM ) coverage with limits greater than the party at fault, their own insurance can be used to bridge the gap even when they are not driving, or riding in their or their family’s vehicle.
When I meet with new or prospective clients, and review their insurance policies I am always shocked by how many people do not carry UM/UIM coverage, or have minimal limits. Unfortunately, there are times when attorneys can not help injury victims because there is either no insurance, or inadequate insurance coverage. Frequently the cases involving the most serious and compelling injuries, pose the greatest challenge. UM/UIM coverage is for the direct benefit of you and your family, so purchasing the highest limits you can afford, is not a luxury but a necessity. Car accidents, bus accidents, truck accidents involving large vehicles tend to have a high likelihood of causing serious injuries. Having adequate insurance coverage, and consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney when you or someone you know has been seriously injured is a necessity.