Samantha McClung was seriously injured in Santa Rosa County, Florida in a motorcycle accident / bus accident with a school bus. According to news reports, the bus driver, April L. Stone, has been ticketed for violating Samantha’s right of way. When it comes to a legal analysis of this case, this fact is a very big deal.
It appears as though the accident was caused when April Stone drove her bus across U.S. 90 from a stop sign, without first yielding to an on coming motorcycle driven by McClung.
For reasons I will explain below, I strongly suspect that Samantha McClung has a very good case against the School Board for the injuries she sustained. As a result, she may be entitled to very substantial compensation for her losses.
While my suspicions may prove accurate, I must caution readers that not all of the required evidence is presently known at this time. For that reason, it is still too early to draw any concrete conclusions about this case. However, that being said, the following analysis will explain why I think Samantha is entitled to compensation for her injuries…
As I have mentioned countless times on this blog, any successful injury case is comprised of three basic things. They are as follows:
1) Proof of Negligence 2) Provable Injury 3) Collectible Defendant
When it comes to proving negligence, an accident attorney must present evidence that the responsible party either did something wrong or failed to do something right, thereby causing your injuries.
When it comes to Samantha McClung’s case, negligence can be proven by showing that the bus driver crossed U.S. 90 without first yielding to Samantha’s on coming motorcycle. Not only is this a violation of the traffic code, but it is also an act that would leave the bus driver and bus operator (whether it is the school board or a private entity) liable for any injuries caused as a result.
Put simply, the bus driver acted negligently by failing to yield right of way.
This case also presents another interesting legal issue. In most instances where you have a rear end collision, the law typically presumes that the rear driver is the responsible party. This is because a person has a duty to follow at a safe distance. By definition, a safe distance means being far enough away that you can stop in the event of an emergency without making contact with the car in front of you.
However, this is a “rebuttable” presumption. Meaning, it can be countered with other evidence.
In this case, the facts (as reported in the news) indicate that Samantha McClung crashed into the rear of the school bus. As such, the law would normally assume she is the negligent party.
However, the only reason why McClung collided with the rear of that bus is because the bus driver failed to yield right of way.
Therefore, this case presents an interesting example of when the presumption of negligence is actually rebutted in a rear end collision case.
In any event, the ultimate point as it relates to this case, is that I strongly suspect that proof of negligence will be satisfied by the available evidence… namely, that the bus driver was negligent and can therefore be held accountable.
Next, to make a successful claim, McClung’s accident attorney will need to investigate the full extent of her injuries. This is done by putting together her medical records, consulting with her doctors about her prognosis for the future, and assessing her economic and property losses.
When an accident attorney builds a case, he/she must look at the full picture of the client’s injuries. We need to know if Samantha will be left with permanent disability, whether she will require future medical treatment or surgeries, and whether or not she will ever be able to earn the same type of income as she did before the accident… just to name a few.
Finally, in order to make her case translate, accident attorneys must identify responsible parties who are also collectible. Meaning, those who are liable for what happened and who either have the insurance or the assets to actually pay McClung for her losses.
Even though the individual bus driver is the one who caused the accident, under a legal theory called “respondeat superior,” her employer is responsible for any acts of negligence she committed in the course of her employment.
As it relates to this case, this means that the school board and/or the private bus company may be held legally responsible for causing the accident. As a result, there is clearly a collectible defendant in this case.
With proof of negligence due to the bus driver’s failure to yield, the fact that Samantha McClung suffered serious injuries as a result, and the presence of a collectible defendant, I suspect that Samantha has a pretty good case.
Again, this is based on information made available in the news and is subject to further consideration once all the available evidence can be reviewed.
At the end of the day, we cannot forget that there is a person at the center of all this. Samantha McClung is presently in a hospital dealing with an extremely traumatic and painful life experience.
I hope she recovers quickly and is able to get back to living her life and enjoying her motorcycle.