Whenever you board a New York City or private transit bus, take a Greyhound across the country, or put your child onto a school bus, you are entrusting the bus driver, the bus company among a host of other entities with keeping you and your loved ones safe. Part of this trust comes from an expectation that the bus driver has received the proper training necessary for the effective care and maintenance of the vehicle as well as for the maximization of passenger safety. Unfortunately, statistics from 2009 provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prove these trusts and expectations to be unfounded, as there were 485 buses involved in both fatal and non-fatal crashes in New York State which resulted in 16 fatalities and 681 injuries to bus passengers, other motorists and pedestrians. If you are a bus passenger, even further increasing your risk of injury in the event of an accident is the lack of restraints which would allow you to be thrown about the bus, lurching toward large windows and banging into metal poles. Resulting injuries such as soft tissue damage, fractures/ broken bones, paralysis and traumatic brain injury can prove to be both devastating to one’s personal and professional life. If you or a loved one has been involved in a bus accident and sustained injuries or someone close to you has died in this type of accident, call the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. for a free initial consultation regarding your legal rights in order to obtain full and fair compensation and damages due to your harms and losses.
Bus Classification and Law
According to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, a bus is defined as a motor vehicle with a minimum carrying capacity of 10 passengers. Included in this definition are municipal transit buses, church buses, large vans used for public transport, school buses, interstate carriers, trolleys and most airport shuttles. Since these vehicles are all considered to be “common carriers,” the law states that they are all subject to both federal and state licensing requirements and corresponding regulations. However, liability for injuries sustained in a bus crash is determined only by state law.
A bus company owes its passengers a duty to use reasonable care in operating its bus for their safety. Reasonable care means that care which a reasonably prudent bus company would use under the same circumstances, in keeping with the dangers and risks known to the bus company or which it should reasonably have foreseen.
Therefore, in addition to being responsible for the actions of its driver on the roadway, a bus company as a common carrier also has a duty not to expose a passenger to other dangers as well. This could also include owing a duty to protect a passenger against injury caused by the conduct of a third person if the injury caused by a third person was attributable to the defendant bus company’s failure to exercise reasonable care in protecting the plaintiff from injury. In this type of case, you would have to prove that the bus company was on notice of disorderly conduct of an attacker who assaults another passenger. Of course, there is also a duty on the part of a bus company to maintain its vehicles and equipment for the safety of its passengers.
When operating a bus, drivers must also use reasonable care in order to avoid sudden, unusual or violent jerks, lurches or stops. This is not to say that every stop or movement gives rise to liability. If the movement or stop was unnecessarily sudden, unusual or violent, or it resulted from an emergency created or contributed to by the bus company’s own conduct, then the bus company will be responsible under the law.
Clearly, there are a number of facts, circumstances and other variables which come into play in order to determine what the necessary proof will be in any lawsuit involving a bus accident case. Therefore, it is advisable to call the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. in order to get an opinion regarding the merits of any type of bus accident case.
Bus Accident Causes
There is a plethora of causes for bus accidents. Simply due to the massive size of buses compared to other motor vehicles, there is an inherent danger if you are a passenger because the top-heaviness of the bus may cause it to flip over, and if you are a pedestrian or another motorist, any form of contact with a bus may cause severe injuries and damages. Since bus companies do not generate profits unless their buses are on the road, the result is often due to a lack of inspections and maintenance on those vehicles which creates a dangerous and potentially catastrophic situation for bus passengers and other motorists. These companies many times hire unqualified drivers whose negligent actions (or inactions) result in accidents as well. Improper implementation of bus safety procedures, especially in the case of school buses, is also a cause of injuries when children do not use the safety restraints required by school district policy.
The National Transportation Safety Board names these to be the most common causes of bus accidents:
- Bus driver negligence, criminal behavior, and fatigue,
- Bus overload (overcapacity),
- Insufficient bus driver training,
- Improper bus maintenance,
- Hazardous road conditions,
- Illegal, faulty or missing safety equipment, and
- Foreign-made buses that fail to meet USA bus construction mandates.
Bus Accident Injuries
The momentum that a bus accumulates, especially at dangerous speeds, coupled with a lack of restraints in the case of public transportation, make it very easy for a bus passenger to incur severe injuries in the event of a bus accident. Some of the most common injuries that result include:
- Broken bones or fractures,
- Head/Brain injuries (traumatic brain injury),
- Internal injuries and bleeding,
- Neck injuries (whiplash),
- Herniated disks in the back (lumbar spine) and neck (cervical spine), and
- Eye injuries (from broken glass).
In order to receive the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries, you will need the help of competent attorneys like those at the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. who are equipped with the knowledge, experience, resources and the willingness to expend all necessary expenses to best evaluate and pursue your claim.
Insurance Relating to Bus Accidents
There have been laws enacted in the State of New York, commonly referred to as No-Fault, that provide first-party benefits for the bus accident victims which allow for coverage related to their medical, remedial and certain health care expenses including lost earnings as defined by the State of New York insurance law. This coverage is known as “Basic Economic Loss” and is available for up to $50,000.00 per person. These first-party benefits are designed to promptly pay medical bills, lost wages and other reasonable expenses that start to accumulate shortly after a motor vehicle accident. This first-party coverage is separate and distinct from your right or ability to start a separate lawsuit for any pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment due to debilitating, serious injuries which are commonly known as “non-economic loss”.
Section 5103(1) of the New York Insurance Law provides the following about buses:
In the case of occupants of a bus, other than operators, owners, and employees of the owner or operator of the bus, the coverage for first-party benefits shall be afforded under the policy or policies, if any, providing first-party benefits to the injured person and members of his household for loss arising out of the use or operation of any motor vehicle of such household. In the event there is no such policy, first-party benefits shall be provided by the insurer of such bus.
In other words, bus accident No-Fault coverage is available if you were injured as a result of being a passenger on a bus involved in an accident and either you or someone in your household has No-Fault coverage through insurance on a vehicle that exists in your household. This automobile insurance available in your household becomes responsible for your first-party benefits. However, if neither you nor anyone in your household has No-Fault coverage because there is no vehicle in the household, then the bus’ insurance company becomes responsible for your first-party benefits.
The purpose of No-Fault coverage is to provide victims with monies to cover medical costs, lost wages and other reasonable expenses shortly after the accident. However, these benefits have nothing to do with recovering compensation for victims’ pain and suffering as a result of their injuries sustained in the bus accident. The compensation for pain and suffering is obtained as a result of a claim and/or lawsuit which is made against all the responsible parties. For a more detailed explanation concerning No-Fault benefits which arise due to an accident with a motor vehicle, see our website content on HOW ARE MEDICAL/HEALTH EXPENSES, LOST EARNINGS AND OTHER EXPENSES COVERED AS A RESULT OF A MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT?
HOW WE CAN HELP YOU
Ira Perlman and Robert Rosen have over 30 years of experience in winning their clients full and complete monetary compensation for their harms and losses as well as the respect and dignity they so justly deserve. Mr. Perlman is a tenacious and seasoned trial attorney who has been successfully trying his clients’ cases as well as cases referred to the office from other attorneys for over 30 years. Mr. Rosen, with his adept litigation and writing skills has navigated clients’ lawsuits inside and outside the courthouse in order to achieve the excellent results that generate their ongoing success. The Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. are prepared to expend all of the necessary resources, financial or otherwise, in order to investigate and prosecute your case including retaining all necessary medical and/or technical experts in the relevant areas and fields and taking your case to verdict at trial if the insurance companies who represent the wrongdoers do not want to fully and fairly compensate you and your loved ones. If you, a family member or a loved one has become a victim due to an accident, malpractice or a serious injury and you would like to achieve optimum results relating to your claims, call the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. at (212) 689-5000 for help now including a free initial consultation.