On July 17, 2021, a tourist trolley in St. Augustine, Florida, owned by Historic Tours of America flipped onto its side due its operator driving the trolley at an excessive speed. The overturned trolley ejected multiple passengers and pinned others between the trolley and the road surface. There are reports of numerous serious injuries.
The trolley had a total of three cars linked to a single engine. The car that flipped was the rear trolley car. Apparently, the driver attempted to “whip” the third trolley, presumably to provide a thrill to those passengers. Witnesses have reported that the driver quickly accelerated as he turned into the parking lot for the Oldest House near the intersection of Charlotte and St. Francis streets. The driver has not been charged; however, the St. Augustine Police Department has referred charges for reckless driving to the State Attorneys office.
From the civil justice standpoint of our St. Augustine personal injury attorneys, the injured passengers will have claims against Historic Tours of America and its driver, whose name has not been published. Those who were injured will be entitled to recover for their medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. In all likelihood, Historic Tours of America will have a large liability insurance policy or policies in place, likely with coverage limits in the $5m to $10m range. Historic Tours of America is a fairly large company that operates tourist trolleys in St. Augustine, Key West, San Diego, Nashville, Savannah, Washington DC and Boston.
This completely avoidable accident calls into question both the hiring and training practices of Historic Tours of America. While Historic Tours of America is already responsible for the negligence of its driver, the complete factual background could give rise to punitive damages depending on the driving history and capabilities of the driver. Also, as driving a three car trolley is much different than operating a normal passenger vehicle, sufficient training must be provided. This is especially the case in St. Augustine which has numerous traffic difficulties including: congestion; narrow streets; numerous pedestrians; horse and buggies; and traffic snarls caused by the periodic raising of the Lions Bridge.