SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS Karen Kucher and Erin Noonan reported that several high school students and their bus driver were injured on June 9, 2010. The accident occurred at around 11:20 a.m. on North El Camino Real at or near North Douglas Drive in Oceanside, when their bus lost control and rolled after being hit by a car.
According to Oceanside police Sgt. Jeff Brandt, 81-year-old Betty Hoke who was driving a white Toyota 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 property damage to the bus as well as the personal injuries to the bus driver and students for her violation of California Vehicle Code 21804(a), which requires a driver entering a highway to yield the right of way to any vehicle that is close enough to constitute an immediate hazard. Due to the number of people injured, of particular concern is whether she has sufficient insurance liability limits to adequately compensate all of them. 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. In addition to any liability claims, the bus driver will also have the added protection of workers compensation benefits since he was injured while in the course and scope of his employment.
There are far too many cases 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.