Post Date: January 20th, 2011
Today I was reading the news when I read about a very tragic incident that occurred in Williamsburg, Missouri. It is being reported that 6-year-old Hunter Pitt was exiting a school bus just west of Williamsburg in Callaway County when the bus began to pull away. Patrol Sgt. Paul Reinsch further stated that,
At some point in time, he went under the bus and he was struck by the bus while it was leaving.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol has released that the bus driver was 77-years-old but they did not say whether the driver was cited.
As my firm specializes solely in Missouri personal injury cases, I take this to mean that the Highway Patrol is still investigating the matter. This will often include interviewing witnesses such as the other children to determine how Hunter got under the bus to being with. I assume they will also interview the driver and conduct an accident reconstruction.
Unfortunately, what the Highway Patrol often does not do is to investigate the past history and qualifications of the school bus driver. School bus drivers are required to obtain their CDL license, which, in Missouri, means they are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. These safety regulations govern virtually every aspect of driver operations. This can include not only how the driver operates the school bus, but also whether the driver is medically fit, properly trained, and whether he obtained enough sleep before driving.
What we often find in these cases is that there were numerous violations of the safety regulations that, had they not been ignored, illustrate that the incident was not just a fluke accident, but was rather a timebomb waiting to explode. In Missouri, violations of these safety regulations are grounds not just for compensatory compensation, but also punitive damages.
My guess is that the bus driver and school district will claim that Hunter went under the bus on his own accord and the driver had no idea.
I don’t buy it.
There is a specific area of law in Missouri that requries drivers such as bus drivers to make sure all passengers have properly exited and “alighted” the vehicle before the continue on. What this really means is that, if the driver dropped off four kids, he needs to make sure he sees four kids safely away from the bus before he travels forward.
This case reminds me of a prior case I was involved in several years back where the school was using the young school children as crossing guards and a very dangerous intersection. Tragically, on just his second day on the job, the young boy was hit and killed by an elderly driver. One of the things that the parents appreciated most in the outcome of that case was not that we had finally achieved a large settlement despite months and months of the school denying they were responsible, but that, as part of the settlement, we required the school to change its operations and to set up an honorary award named after the child.
Thus, many times wrongful death cases such as these can be used to change procedures and policies to make sure that these types of tragedies never occur again.
As the father of a young child, my heart certainly goes out to the families involved here.
Joshua P. Myers is the owner and President of Myers Injury Law, LLC and is a founding partner of Schultz & Myers, LLC. He has been recognized for his many accomplishments in the field of personal injury law with inductions into the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars, Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly Up & Coming Lawyers, and the American Trial Lawyer’s Association as one of Missouri’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers.
His firm handles catastrophic injury cases throughout all of Missouri. For more information or to speak with him regarding a case, feel free to contact him toll-free at 888-956-2487 or at email@example.com.
Tags: 6-year-old, accident, bus, callaway, crash, died, fatal, highway patrol, hunter pitt, killed, missouri, paul, reinsch, school, williamsburg
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