Timothy Lemaster, of St. Cloud, was killed near Orlando, Florida in a motorcycle accident / bus accident with a Lake Nona school bus early this morning. According to news reports, the bus was initially located at a stop sign, but then pulled in front of Lemaster’s motorcycle and a pickup truck driven by Isai Urbana-Del Andel, of Oviedo, Florida.
This caused Timothy Lemaster to crash into the bus and get ejected from his motorcycle. Once ejected, Lemaster was then run over by the bus.
Sadly, this is one of the worst motorcycle accidents in Orlando recent history.
As a personal injury lawyer, I suspect that Timothy Lemaster’s family will have a very good case against the School Board for the negligent acts of the bus driver. Given the fact that Lemaster was killed, I would also expect that settlement to include a very substantial monetary award to the family.
When it comes to motor vehicle negligence cases, there are three basic elements that every attorney must consider… whether you represent the injured party or are defending the responsible party. They are as follows:
1) Proof of Negligence 2) Proof of Injury 3) Collectability/Insurance
In other words, does the evidence prove that the bus driver was at fault in this case? If so, you move on to the next element… injury. Since this case resulted in a person’s death, I expect injury to be very easy to prove. Finally, the ultimate question comes down to one of collectability and insurance… in other words, does the responsible party have the means to actually pay the victim’s family for his death?
When I consider these three things in this particular case, I see a case that will result in substantial compensation being paid to Lemaster’s family.
First of all, it appears as though the bus driver caused the accident by negligently turning into Lemaster’s path of travel. Second, Lemaster was killed and nothing could be worse. Third, the School Board is a governmental body that has the means to compensate victims for the negligence of its employees.
The reason why the School Board can be held accountable is due to a legal concept called “respondeat superior.” Under this rule, an employer is liable for the negligent acts of its employees when they are committed in the course of their employment. In this case, the employer is the School Board and they can be held liable because the bus driver caused the accident while operating one of their buses.
At this point, a thorough independent investigation is needed. Preserving evidence and putting together the necessary elements of a successful claim are essential.
When it comes to evidence, one must act quick. Witnesses disappear, memories are lost, and things like crucial surveillance videos can get misplaced or taped over.
Moreover, officials working for the School Board may try to settle with the victim’s family early on for a much smaller amount of money than they are entitled to. To prevent such an eventuality, it is advisable for the family to retain legal counsel as soon as possible. Once the family is represented by a lawyer, the School Board and its representatives will cease to communicate with the family directly and everything will have to go through the watchful eye of their attorney.
Not only does an injury attorney need to collect and evaluate the evidence, but he/she must also be prepared to ask the tough questions. For instance, I would like to know the driving record of this bus driver. I would also like to know if he/she has a discipline history.
Has this particular driver been in other accidents? Has he/she been cited for violating the traffic code? What is his/her employment record like? Does the record call the driver’s ability to operate a school bus safely into question?
What did the School Board know and what did they act on? What did they ignore? Were there warning signs about the particular driver that were ignored?
While police do not suspect that alcohol or drugs played a role in this case, it is nonetheless important to review the toxicology results of blood samples taken on the scene from the bus driver.
I would also like to know if the driver had a valid license. You might be surprised but there have been cases where commercial drivers were actually operating without a valid license.
Finally, I think it is important to explore the training programs employed by the School Board as it relates to their drivers. Like any other professional, bus drivers need to keep up on their skills. You may think operating a bus is easy, but you should also remember that its cargo is precious. Transporting the community’s children is an awesome responsibility and is one that should be handled with the utmost amount of care and concern for the safety of all those involved.
Since this motorcycle accident appears to have been caused by the bus driver, I suspect that the School Board will be held accountable to Timothy Lemaster’s family for his death. In this particular case, I further suspect that the amount of compensation they are entitled to is great because we are talking about the loss of life, which is the worst kind of injury possible.
Given the fact that the responsible party is the school board, I would expect a reasonable settlement to be worked out amongst the parties in an efficient manner.
Most importantly, we must remember that a man lost his life in an accident that should have never have happened. My regrets and condolences go out to his family. I hope they are able to find peace one day and move forward with their lives.