Serfin Castillo and Francisco Urana were killed in a Miami, Florida bus accident at the Miami International Airport. Thirty-one other people were also injured. According to news sources, the bus was operated by Miami Bus Service Corporation, a Miami company owned by Mayling and Alberto Hernandez. The driver of the bus was a man named Ramon Ferreiro. He was not injured in the crash.
According to news reports, Ramon Ferriero was driving the 11 foot tall bus when he got lost and ended up entering the Miami International Airport. Despite very clear warning signs for vehicles that exceed 8 feet 6 inches, Ferriero crashed the bus into a low hanging airport overpass as he tried to enter the lower level section of the airport. The collision was loud, bloody, and caused substantial damage to the bus.
News reports indicate that passenger Serfin Castillo was killed on impact. Another passenger, Francisco Urana, later died at a local hospital. Other passengers, including Luis Jimenez, age 72, were sent to local hospitals for treatment, some of whom suffered critical injuries.
As a Florida personal injury lawyer, I strongly suspect that the victims in this case will be entitled to VERY substantial compensation from the transportation company.
This case disgusts me because it was entirely preventable. Look at the above photo… the sign warning of the height limitations COULD NOT HAVE BEEN ANY CLEARER!
In fact, THERE ARE TWO SIGNS!!!
There was absolutely NO reason why that bus driver ignored the height limitations and drove his bus into that overpass. Avoiding low hanging overpasses is one of the most fundamental jobs of any bus driver.
For this accident to happen, three errors had to be made.
First, this careless driver had to literally close his eyes and turn off his brain to ignore the HUMONGOUS yellow signs warning of the low ceiling. Second, he had to completely set aside all sense of space and time to figure that he could squeeze his very tall bus into that very short drive way.
Being lost is no excuse. If anything, he should have pulled over and called his supervisor for directions.
Third, the bus company was likely also negligent for failing to supervise its bus driver responsibly. First of all, how on Earth did this guy get lost on his way to West Palm Beach? Second, why didn’t he know to call in to the bus company for help? Third, why wasn’t the bus company tracking his progress and calling in when he was very clearly off course?
To be clear, I don’t think this is a case about evil motives or bad intentions. Rather, it is about carelessness and sub-par business management.
I highly doubt Ramon Ferriero left his house that morning intending to harm anyone. I am equally sure that Mayling and Alberto Hernandez (the owners of Miami Bus Service Corporation) are utterly devastated by what happened.
Being good people has nothing to do with this case. This is a case about careful driving and responsible business management.
As this case unfolds, it will be very interesting to see if the driver was even able to read. Respectfully, there may have even been a language barrier.
There is no excuse for management failure. Employees who drive charter buses need to be monitored, they need to know that if they get lost they must call in to headquarters for help, and at a bare minimum, THEY HAVE TO BE ABLE TO READ STREET SIGNS!!!!
Additionally, I would love to see Ramon Ferreiro’s employment record and his driving history. I would bet he has a history of making mistakes. It would not be surprising to learn he has exercised poor judgment in the past.
Honestly, as I write this I can’t believe this accident happened. The road signs could not have been any clearer.
Florida law requires bus companies that transport people to carry very substantial insurance coverage. This insurance can be in the millions of dollars.
After all, who should pay for the victims’ injuries? Some of these people now require very expensive medical treatment. Those who had the fortune of surviving may be left with permanent and painful disability.
What about Serfin Castillo and Francisco Urana? Who will answer to their families?
Who will pay the medical bills for the injured? Who will make up for their lost incomes?
Who will make this right?
Under Florida law, a company like Miami Bus Service Corporation is legally responsible for the negligent acts of its employees when those acts are committed within the scope of employment. In legal jargon, this is referred to as “respondeat superior.”
For example, a hospital may be held liable for the medical malpractice committed by one of its doctors.
In this case, I strongly suspect Miami Bus Service Corporation will be held legally responsible because the accident happened while Ramon Ferreiro was performing his duties as a bus driver.
If there is ever a case of respondeat superior, this is its most classic example.
For a personal injury attorney to make a winning claim, he/she must establish three basic things. Based on the facts presented in this case, I strongly suspect all three exist here. They are:
1) Proof of Liability 2) Proof of Injury 3) Collectible/Insured Defendant
Lets take these three parts one at a time…
First, when it comes to Miami Bus Service Corporation’s liability, news reports make it appear as though evidence is abundant. It seems clear that Ferreiro had no business entering the ground floor arrivals, that he ignored VERY OBVIOUS street signs warning of height limitations, and it is clear that he failed to exercise reasonable judgment in the operation of the bus. It is also clear that Miami Bus Service Corporation failed to properly supervise its bus driver and operate its charter bus.
Second, when it comes to injures, this case is divided into two parts. The first part concerns Serfin Castillo and Francisco Urana loss of life. Since evidence of their passing is obvious, this legal element is not difficult to establish. However, the second part concerns those who were injured but did not lose their lives.
This is where a talented personal injury attorney comes in.
To maximize the success of the underlying client’s case, a personal injury lawyer will need to establish the full and complete extent of his/her client’s injury. To do so, the following must be thoroughly evaluated:
- Actual Physical Injuries
- Medical Bills
- Future Medical Expense
- Lost Income
- Diminished Earning Capacity
- Pain and Suffering
- Emotional Duress
To develop this part of the case, a personal injury lawyer will need to start building a portfolio on every client. This portfolio will include all medical records, bills, financial information, as well as opinion by health care providers about the prognosis for the future. To be perfectly candid, it may take some time before the full extent of some victims’ injuries are known.
The third portion of a successful case is a very practical one. It addresses the ultimate point of legal action: getting paid compensation.
As I mentioned earlier, I expect the transportation company to be held accountable for the actions of its bus driver, Ramon Ferriero. For that reason, personal injury attorneys can make claims against the transportation company’s insurance. Since such policies are usually in the millions, it may be possible to settle all claims without also going after the bus company’s assets. However, if the insurance coverage was insufficient, given the fact that there may be more than 30 claimants in this case, then personal injury lawyers may seek satisfaction from the assets of the bus company.
The bottom line is this: it appears as though this was a completely preventable bus accident and there is no excuse!
Serfin Castillo and Francisco Urana are dead and thirty others are injured, some critically. Miami Bus Service Company and Ramon Ferreiro should have gone further and done more to prevent this accident.
You have to remember this… some of the worst accidents on our roadways happen when drivers fail to exercise due care.
I am sorry for the tone of this article, but cases like these get under my skin. No person should die on a bus in 2012! Its that simple.
The public deserves better than this. If you operate a transportation company, you had better do it safely.
Most importantly, my prayers and condolences go out Serfin Castillo and Francisco Urana families and I wish and pray for a speedy recovery for those who were injured.
Hopefully by creating awareness in cases like these, other companies will learn that they have to be careful with OUR LIVES.