On July 13, 2021, a Long Island woman was charged with “Driving While Intoxicated” after crashing a bus carrying boy scouts twice. Bus driver, Diane M. Juergens, 61 of Ridge, New York, was operating the bus carrying 10 children and one adult camp staffer just west of the Baiting Hollow Scout Camp. Juergens is alleged to have left the scene of both accidents. Juergens was arrested and charged with felony Aggravated Driving while Intoxicated, a violation of Leandra’s Law, two counts of leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident, and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Fortunately, none of the children suffered immediate and apparent injuries that required treatment at the scene.

What would you do if this happened to your child?

            First thing is first, get your child evaluated by a medical professional immediately. Even if your child appears to have no immediate and life-threatening injuries, injuries from motor vehicle accidents frequently manifest after a couple of days. Injuries such as non-displaced fractures, spinal injuries, and soft tissue injuries are not apparent immediately following the accident. At times, non-displaced fractures are overlooked on x-rays. Better safe than sorry- have your child evaluated, even just to rule out latent or hidden injuries.

            Secondly, evaluate your child’s mental health. Psychological trauma can result after being involved in a dangerous and emergency situation. Do not discount the impact being in an accident can have on a minor. Especially in this situation due to the passengers being involved in two collisions. To make matters worse, the bus driver allegedly did not stop after the first or second impact. It is reasonable that the passengers would be fearful of what could happen to them.

            Take time for yourself by seeking psychological assistance for yourself as well. Nothing is scarier than learning your child has been involved in an accident. When you left your child in the care of the Boy Scouts, you thought your children would be safe. You could not have anticipated that your child would be at the whims of a drunk driver operating a school bus carrying boy scouts to camp in the middle of a Tuesday.  

            Thirdly, speak to an attorney. An attorney can ensure that all of you and your child’s rights are preserved. We can help you with investigating, preserving and discovering evidence, and timely filing a claim or lawsuit. We can advise you on your questions such as how to obtain medical coverage for your child, and what you should do you with your child’s camp enrollment.

Who is responsible for the alleged criminal acts of the bus driver?

            The driver could have to respond to this matter in both civil court and criminal court. The driver will have to answer the criminal charges in District Court. This District Attorney’s Office will work on securing a criminal conviction and appropriate penalties. In addition to criminal penalties, you can also seek to have the driver held responsible civilly. In the event the bus driver is not convicted, she can still be held responsible in civil court. This means if she were to be found “not guilty” in criminal court, she can still be found responsible in a civil court. Drinking and driving is reckless. Those who are reckless and cause injuries as a result are liable for the damages they cause. However, recklessness does not need to be proven in order for the driver to be held responsible. If a court were to determine that she make an innocent mistake, she is still at fault for causing both crashes. Fortunately, here, any injuries or damages the bus driver caused as a result of the accident will be covered by the bus company and/or the bus company’s insurance.

            The bus company and owner of the bus can also be held liable. The bus company has a duty to ensure that its drivers are capable, professional, and follow the laws of the road. If the bus company negligently hired the driver or failed to properly screen the driver for appropriate qualifications or driving history, the bus company could be found to have negligently caused this incident. Failure to train employees, failure to monitor employees, and failure to regulate employees can make the bus company liable as well. Permitting a person to driver a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, if the bus company knew or should have known, will make the bus company liable.

            The boy scouts could be held liable. If it is provable that the boy scouts knew, should have known, or could have prevented the incident with a little diligence, the boy scouts can be held liable. Similarly, the camp staffer who was riding the bus with the boy scouts could be held liable. If the camp staffer is held liable, he or she will likely be held accountable as part of the boy scouts organization. It is highly unlikely the camp staffer will be held personally liable. Depending on the facts that emerge, it could have been the responsibility of the adult camp staffer to intercept. The camp staffer would have to have a reason to suspect that the bus driver was not fit to drive. Whether the bus driver smelled of alcohol, was acting irregular or appeared impaired could all be reasons why the camp staffer could be held responsible. If this is the case, it would support holding the boy scouts responsible for any injuries.

To schedule a consultation with us:

            If you or your children were involved in this accident, a similar accident, or any motor vehicle accident, we handle cases involving minors and the intricate rules that accompany these matters. We are happy to discuss all of your rights and options in a confidential and free of charge consultation. Call or email us to arrange an appointment, (631) 343- 7676 // assistant@toccialaw.com.

Disclaimer: this office does not represent any party related to this matter. This is a third-party analysis, based upon facts reported in the public record and by news and media outlets.

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