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New Jersey Jury Awards $5 Million to Student in Drunk Driving Accident

After a two-and-a-half week trial, a Camden County Superior Court jury found a school bus company negligent and awarded $5 million to a student who was struck by a drunk driver in 2007.

Crystal Burkert of Gloucester County, New Jersey was 17 at the time of the accident.

The school bus driver for the Holcomb Bus Service forced Burkert to leave the bus a third of a mile from her home and walk down a rural road with high-speed traffic and no sidewalks, rather than dropping her off at the designated stop in front of her home. He did this more than 40 times during the year before the accident, because it shortened his bus route and let him finish work earlier.

The driver even enlisted Burkert's fellow students to bully and badger her to get off the bus far from home so that they could also get home earlier.

On December 3, 2007, Burkert was struck by a drunk driver while walking home from the unauthorized drop-off point. She suffered pelvic fractures, back injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. She is able to work and attend school, but she still suffers from pain and memory lapses on a daily basis.

Although the jury found that the drunk driver bore more responsibility for the accident, they apportioned 75% of the liability to the bus company and 25% to the drunk driver. Thus, the bus company will be liable for $3.75 million of the $5 million in damages.

Burket's attorneys had previously rejected a settlement offer of $125,000 from the bus company's insurance carrier.

Although school bus accidents often make headlines, taking the bus to school is actually safer for children than traveling in the family car. The rate of deaths in automobiles is eight times higher than in school buses, per mile traveled.

From 1994 to 2004, only 71 passengers on school buses were killed in accidents, compared with almost 32,000 killed in cars in 2004 alone.

If you or a family member has been the victim of an injury accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney at the New Jersey Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC.

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