When your or a family member has been injured in a car wreck because someone else was negligent or worse – criminally reckless like a drunk driver – having a skilled, experienced, dedicated and caring attorney is key. Having a Montana accident injury attorney and law firm – a solid team – that only advocates for you and folks like you, and not the other side on the other days of the week, is also critically important. Getting in a car wreck in Montana, caused by someone acting like an idiot – can cause all kind of mayhem in your life – medical expenses, lost earnings, inability to engage in activities you enjoy, pain, not being able to sleep at night; it can get downright depressing. Yes, I have been through it as the injured person in the car wreck, the victim of negligence and the insurance company and their profit motives. My experience with the people from the company that advertises about their “good hands” and what happens with the mayhem – has helped make me the advocate for the injured and an attorney dedicated to fight those folks every day. We don’t work from the insurance companies and their minions – only the injured folks. Even before I was injured in a car wreck, and then had to hire my own personal injury attorney to deal with the insurance company, I knew the auto insurance companies were not all they claimed to be. My experience in reality was more bitter and educational than I would have liked, as the insurer denied responsibility, and I was compelled ultimately to file suit and proceed with litigation to get justice. However, once you have been run through the insurance company grist mill as they grind up injured people to increase their profits with the delay, deny, defend tactics – it becomes clear that many insurers are at war with the injured in order to increase profits.
The battle rages against justice by many of the big insurance companies, not just in each claim, but at the Legislature and in the courts. Insurance companies have lobbyists writing legislation to make it easier for them to make more money, deprive the injured of just compensation, and the benefit of the bargain in their insurance contracts. The Montana Supreme Court has to decided cases frequently to interpret the laws passed at the Legislature regarding auto insurance carriers. These insurer lobbyist created bills passed by the Legislature, including anti-stacking legislation, are designed to help the insurance companies make more money by paying less on claims. You will probably recognize the names of the insurance companies in these cases. We don’t take cases from the insurance companies to defend the wrong doers – just the injured people. We don’t defend the insurance companies. However, many of these lawyers that work for the insurance companies actually file lawsuits against the injured people. This is called a Declaratory Judgment action – where your own insurance company sues you. Can you believe it? You suffer a devastating injury in a motor vehicle wreck, or you get run over – literally – and your insurance company sues YOU! Yes, insurance companies can and do file lawsuits against their own insured customers to ask the Court to declare that they are not underinsured or are not covered! This is called a Declaratory Judgment action, and I have seen insurance companies sue injured folks – to ask the Court to declare there is no coverage. Can you imagine that – you get hurt and make a claim to recover for your losses under your policy, and the insurance company adds insult to injury by suing YOU. They do this so that they can not only deny payment, but to try to get the upper hand in the litigation they fight against you to try to prevent you getting the benefit of your insurance policy (that they wrote). We only represent the injured person and their family – not the insurance company. This sets us apart from some other local and Montana law firms that advertise on the internet to represent you in injury claims.
Experienced and skilled attorneys that represent (only) injured person – and who do not represent the insurance companies and defend them on the other days of the week and hours of the day – can help get your the results and fair treatment you deserve and have a dedication and commitment that cannot be matched by the fair weather injury attorneys. We identify with your concerns and problems, not those of the claims adjusters and the insurance companies that hire defense attorneys. When it comes the insurance companies and personal injury battles, an injured person is best served by an attorney that does not have a conflict of conscience about going after the insurance companies and holding them accountable. Consumers need a lawyer that works for consumers every day, not the insurance companies half the week and then represents the “other side” – the consumers and victims of the insurance companies on the other days.
At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., Kalispell Montana, we do not have divided loyalties, or conflicts regarding who we represent – we only represent the injured, sick, and the disabled. We represent consumers – not the insurance companies – or their customers that cause the wreck and hurt innocent people. Unlike some of our “competitors” who advertise for injury cases from consumers on attorney websites and lawyer websites to represent the injured – but also or usually take work from the insurance companies (and sometimes even advertise their experience working for the insurance companies as being useful experience) – we don’t work for insurance companies – ever. We find that to be contrary to our mission, which is to represent and assist innocent victims of motor vehicle wrecks, and other injuries caused by the negligence and bad acts of others. Can you imagine Darth Vader getting in a X-wing fighter and getting in formation to help Luke Skywalker attack the ‘Death Star’ known as Big Insurance Company? Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? In our opinion, lawyers that help insurance companies deprive injured folks of just compensation and defend the insurance companies (and or those who cause the injuries one day), and then say they are going to go all out for injured party in a different case are just as ridiculous. Make no mistake, insurance is big, big business in the United States, and the insurance companies have huge profits at stake – even in claims in Montana.
When injured because of someone else’s negligence, we urge you to hire a Trial Lawyer, not an insurance DEFENSE trial lawyer that works for insurance companies. Before you call an attorney about your injury case to get help, check out their website, phone book ad or other media presence to find out whether they believe in helping innocent victims of injuries, that they actually believe you should obtain just and fair compensation, as all injury victims should receive. If they do insurance defense work, we submit such lawyers are not the best choice to represent you and care for your needs when you are injured and suffer loss.
Back to School Law: Accusations of assault and sexual assault on a Glacier High School bus, how can Montana Civil Law protect students?
There are many harmful school yard incidents that seem to be on the increase right here in Montana, including Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish. This leads to vulnerability among the younger students along with escalating risk of injury or harm.
The focus of this article is student upon student assault and sexual assault along with the duties of the Kalispell School District under Montana Civil Law. Strong anti-bullying and anti-hostile student environment policies are important but do not help if not properly enforced in a prioritized common sense manner. While I have no specific evidence of failure to enforce policies in the Glacier High Bus assault case, one student accused of serious assault has already been returned back to school. While possession of tobacco or marijuana merit immediate suspension and expulsion it appears that allegations of sexual assault and assault do not.
It is my opinion that assault and sexual assault upon another should warrant the suspension and if proven after investigation, expulsion on a much higher priority basis. If the local Flathead County School Districts fail to prioritize their enforcement of harassment policies, then the more serious incidents will result in severe injuries. In this case, physical and permanent emotional harm to the victims of the alleged assault and sexual assault likely occurred all on a supervised Glacier High School Football Team bus trip.
The parents of Students according to the Daily Interlake and other unnamed sources state their opinion that the Glacier High School officials are trying to “make this go away” or “sweep it under the rug”. In my effort to be fair to our hard working teachers here in Kalispell and the Flathead, I contacted Kalispell School District Superintendent Darlene Schottle, who refused to respond.
Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan has filed some criminal charges in the case. Under Montana Law, pending investigations and other criminal investigative information is confidential under the Montana Confidential Criminal Justice Act. Therefore, Flathead County Attorney, Ed Corrigan would be limited in any substantive comment he could make until the matter moves to trial. Further charges may be on the way since investigations are ongoing and are confidential until the charge is filed.
Therefore, I will examine how our Montana civil justice system may assist in protecting the most vulnerable of our students through an examination of Montana and Federal Civil School Law. Once again, the focus of this article is student upon student, harassment and assault.
In most cases involving civil suits against a school district, its employees and agents are provided under our United States Constitution protection from liability under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. This comes from the common law where the State is considered the “King” and a subject may not sue his “King.” States may waive this immunity under the tort claims act and statute. The legislature has provided as follows: Every governmental entity is subject for its torts and the torts of its employees, §2-9-102 MCA. There are exceptions for police officers and others. The Montana Legislature decides these issues. As a result of the above statute, tort claims for negligent supervision, violation of policy, negligent infliction of emotional distress and Negligence among other claims may be asserted against Glacier High School. The agents and employees would not be personally liable but if a suit was successful, the Kalispell School District would have the duty to defend and pay the damages in the case of any judgment based upon negligence theories.
The Seminal Case on this subject from the Montana Supreme Court is the case of S.M., et al. v. R.B. an individual, and Missoula School District No. 1., 261 Mont. 552. The facts of this case involved a four year old special education student who suffered sexual assault by the hands of a third party bathroom aide. The Court ruled that the legal issue involved whether the teacher or other school personnel knew or should have known of the sexual assault.
To apply the fact to this case, one must speculate as to what may be developed in a civil suit through discovery. This process involves investigation, taking statements and depositions. If the facts showed that coaches on the Glacier High School bus knew the other members of the Glacier Football Team had engaged in hazing and harassment of the younger freshmen previously, then it would be reasonable they protect against assault or sexual assault may occur. The Kalispell School District could also be liable for violating its own harassment policy, even if a prior hazing event were less severe.
The Kalispell School District may also be liable for the Glacier Bus Assaults on the grounds of simple negligence. The standard for negligence is what actions a reasonable person would under the circumstances to protect physical or mental injury to children. All of the coaches sat in the front of the bus. If the coaches were aware of hazing or harassment in the past, it would seem unreasonable not to separate the coaches on different areas of the bus for supervision. To leave freshman members of a football team with older students on a bus without chaperone may be considered negligent, if school employees knew or should have known something inappropriate would happen. In my opinion, if a harassment policy were followed, then the escalation would not have occurred. Therefore the Kalispell School District may be held liable for negligent supervision and negligence. If found liable, substantial damages for physical and mental injury may be awarded by a jury or judge.
The Glacier High bus assaults may also implicate Federal Law under Title IX. Title IX is part of the civil rights act, which requires equal protection and due process. The Courts are split on this particular situation, student upon student assault. Several Courts around the County have held, “a safe school environment includes the absence of sexual harassment and discrimination.” Citing Lenz School Security on Student Harassment and Bullying. Under Title IX, a student, through his parent, may make a claim and receive remedial action and damages along with attorney’s fees. Moreover, a Complaint to the Federal Department of Education may result in a review of the Kalispell School Districts Title IX funding.
As a counter argument, the facts may conclude that there were no prior incidents, nor any reason to believe that such behavior would occur. All of the students may have been well behaved at all times in front of staff. If no reports were made then the assaults may not have been foreseeable. This is an issue for a jury to decide. It is unfortunate that our hard working teachers are taking a lot of heat for the tortuous actions of other children whom they supervise. Only a thorough proper and neutral investigation will sort this out.
As a result of the Title XI funding issue, there may be a high degree of incentive to just “make this go away” quietly. The silence from Superintendent Darlene Schottle is deafening. Nonetheless, all students and staff in the Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish School districts should be on notice that this behavior on a bus is foreseeable and there must be proper supervision. This again brings us back to priorities. While tobacco is very bad and should not be allowed, investigations of assault, sexual assault and harassment should take precedence over behavior which does not involve the immediate physical and mental harm of our students. I would also suggest that when assault is alleged, that a thorough third party neutral investigation takes place promptly, without delay. Hopefully through this article, and the collective action of the citizens of Flathead County, such an investigation with its results will be published without delay.