Limousine Bus Accidents
The death of Daniel Fernandez made headlines not only in New York, but across the country because of the horrific details of the incident. On August 31, 2012, 16-year-old Fernandez along with about 60 other teens was riding in a double-decker limousine bus operated by Designer Limousines. The group was traveling from St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens to Garfield, New Jersey where a birthday party was to take place. According to details published in the New York Post at about 6:30pm Fernandez stuck his head out of the emergency hatch of the bus just as it was about to travel under an overpass. Fernandez's head struck the overpass. His shocked friends alerted the driver as to what happened and tried desperately to save Fernandez's life. Unfortunately, Fernandez did not survive. Limousine bus accidents occur for many different reasons. Regardless of the reason for an accident, the victims have the right to hold the negligent party who caused the accident accountable. If you or a family member was injured in a bus accident involving a limousine bus or a party bus, it is important that you contact an experienced New York limousine bus accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates right away who will review the details of the accident and explain to you the process for seeking compensation from those responsible for the injuries you suffered.Causes of Limousine Bus Accidents
A limousine bus is a specialty limousine that can carry large groups and is equipped with amenities such as reclining seating, sofas, entertainment systems, special lighting, restrooms, and ice coolers. They have been described as vehicles that from the outside have the appearance of a bus and in the inside have the appearance of a limousine. Limousine buses are also referred to as limo buses or party buses. People typically hire limousine buses for special celebrations such as birthdays, graduations, proms, bachelor parties, and bachelorette parties. Such buses are particularly popular with young adults and teens, as well as with celebrities as they allow celebrities to comfortably travel to and from events with their often large entourages of friends. Just like any other type of accident involving a vehicle, there are many different factors that can lead to an accident involving a limousine bus. In some cases the negligence of the bus driver leads to the accident. In other cases the driver of another vehicle acted negligently. In still other cases the actions of a passenger on the bus in some way contributed to the accident.
Driver fatigue. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration driver fatigue is a factor in 100,000 vehicle collisions each year. Industry periodical, Limousine, Charter & Tour Magazine, acknowledges that driver fatigue is a significant problem for bus drivers and is the cause of many serious accidents. Federal regulations have strict rules on the amount of driving and the amount of rest a driver must have. Under the rules, a driver is limited to limits of 11 hours driving in a 14-hour period followed by 10 hours of rest. However, in some cases drivers falsify driving logs. In other cases drivers do not actually rest when they are supposed to so that show up for work already tired. Fatigued drivers sometimes fall asleep at the wheel. In other instances fatigued drivers stay awake, but are not fully alert. For example, fatigue impairs reaction time, judgment and vision, making it difficult for drivers to react to other vehicles or judge road conditions. Signs that a limousine bus driver may be fatigued include the driver drifting into another lane, missing exits, appearing to be confused, drinking a lot of coffer or energy drinks, and frequently yawning.
Distracted driving. While distracted driving can be described as a driver focusing on anything that causes that driver to take his eyes off the road or to mentally turn his attention away from driving, the term typically refers to driving while using a cell phone or other portable electronic device. Like in most states, in New York it is illegal to drive a car, bus or other type of vehicle while using a portable electronic device. Portable electronic devices include cell phones, tablets, and laptop computers. "Using" a portable electronic device is defined as not just talking on a handheld phone, but also typing or sending text or email messages, browsing the internet, taking photos, or playing games.
In the case of a limousine bus, drivers can also be distracted by what is going on the bus. Passengers may be loud and unruly. The noise level may be high with the voices of the passengers, loud music, and sounds from a television or video game system. The addition of alcohol can make the situation even more distracting. Particularly in the case of a bus caring teens, failure to have an adequate number of chaperones can lead to driver distraction and accidents.
Poor maintenance. As an experienced New York limousine bus accident lawyer can explain, the law requires that owners and operators of bus companies properly maintain their vehicles. This means that the limousine buses must be regularly serviced and that the bus companies must keep records proving that they properly maintain the buses. If a bus is not properly maintained and as a result it malfunctions and causes an accident, then the bus company would be liable.
Intoxicated driving. The problem of drunk driving is not limited to drivers of private cars. Drivers of commercial vehicles such as buses also break the law and drive while intoxicated with tragic results.
Other traffic violations. Failure to follow almost any traffic rule can lead to a serious accident. For example, many bus accidents have been caused by speeding drivers. If the police issue the bus driver a ticket, that is strong evidence that the driver's negligence caused or contributed to the bus accident.
Third party behavior. Of course, not all limousine bus accidents are the fault of the bus driver, bus company, or bus passengers. In some cases a third party causes the accident. For example, in June 2014 comedian Tracy Morgan was severely injured and another passenger killed in a limo bus accident when the limo bus they were traveling in was hit by a tractor-trailer. According to CBS New York the driver of the tractor-trailer, Kevin Roper, may have been speeding and driving after having little sleep in the previous 24 hours. In 2016 Roper pled guilty to charges related to the accident.Common Limousine Bus Accident Injuries
Bus accidents can be quite violent, leaving victims with severe and devastating injuries. The type of injury a victim suffers depends on multiple factors such as the type of accident, whether or not the bus was moving and how fast, and where the victim was when the accident occurred.
- Traumatic brain injuries. In cases where the bus collides with another vehicle at a high speed or rolls over, there is a good chance that passengers and other victims will suffer traumatic brain injuries. A traumatic brain injury or TBI occurs when there is a violent blow to the head that is so forceful that it causes brain dysfunction. If a victim's head slams against the floor or side of a bus, or if the victim is thrown to the ground, that victim may suffer a TBI. While in some cases after surgery or the passage of time the victim may recover completely, in many cases victims with traumatic brain injuries are left permanently disabled. In the most severe TBI cases, the victim will not survive.
- Spine injuries. Trauma to the head, neck, or back could lead to a spinal injury. The spine is central to the functioning of practically every part of the body. Depending on where the damage to the spine occurs, a spinal cord injury can result in the loss of the ability to move the arms, legs and various other parts of the body, the ability to breathe, or the ability to control certain bodily functions. A serious bus accident that causes you to be thrown about the bus or onto the ground, landing on your head or back can lead to damage to the spine.
- Broken Bones. Victims commonly suffer broken bones in accidents that involve collisions as well as in accidents that involve falls. In accidents where passengers fall while getting on or off the bus typical injuries include broken hands, wrists, or arms. Tracy Morgan reportedly suffered a broken leg, broken nose, and several broken ribs in a limo bus accident.
Even with eyewitness testimony it is not always clear as to why an accident occurred and who should be held legally and financially liable. However, an experienced New York limousine bus accident lawyer will evaluate the evidence at the accident scene, interview witnesses, review police reports, and analyze other evidence in order to make a determination of fault. In a limo bus accident the actions of the bus driver, another driver, a passenger, the victim, or a combination of more than one person could have contributed to the accident. If the accident was due to the negligence of the limousine bus driver, then the victims can seek compensation from the bus driver and the owner or operator of the limousine bus company. If the bus malfunctioned, the victims may be able to recover damages from the manufacturer of the part that malfunctioned.
After an accident that results in serious injuries, law enforcement will review the scene of the accident to make a determination of fault. There are several factors that may be considered in determining fault.
- Traffic violation. If the police issue a ticket to someone, than that person was likely at least partially negligent.
- Arrest. If a bus driver is arrested, tried and found guilty of criminally negligent behavior related to an accident that would be strong evidence that the driver and the bus company should also be held financially liable to the victims.
- Witness statements. Statements from eyewitnesses can contain valuable clues as to what happened and who was at fault.
- Examination of the vehicles. An inspection of the bus and any other vehicle involved may give important clues as to what happened, including whether or not there was a defect part or mechanical failure.
By recounting the tragic accident that resulted in the death of Daniel Fernandez, we are not suggesting that Designer Limousines was at fault for the accident or that Designer Limousines limo buses are inherently dangerous. For some the initial instinct may be to blame Fernandez. After all, he opened the emergency hatch and stuck his head out. However, an accident case is rarely that straightforward. While we do not represent the family of Daniel Fernandez or anyone else involved in this accident, based on the information included by the New York Post there were certainly issues that the investigators likely reviewed in determining fault.
- Whether Fernandez was intoxicated
- If passengers on the bus were intoxicated, whether or not the driver was aware that there intoxicated minors and that minors were possibly consuming alcohol on the bus
- The condition of the hatch
- Whether there were a sufficient number of chaperones on the bus
If you were injured in a limo bus accident, or if a family member was killed in a limo bus accident there are several types of damages that you can seek from the negligent parties through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
- Medical expenses. If you are seriously injured in a limo bus accident you will undoubtedly accumulate substantial medical bills. Medical expenses do not only include bills from your doctor. They also include the cost of the ambulance ride to the hospital, emergency room fees, all costs associated with your stay at the hospital, doctor's visits, prescriptions, physical therapy, and durable medical equipment such as crutches or a wheelchair. In addition to medical expenses that you incurred at the time of your lawsuit, you can also sue for future medical expenses. In order to receive compensation for these expenses, you must be able to prove them. It is important to keep meticulous records including bills, receipts and correspondence from your medical care providers as well as from your health insurer.
- Lost wages. If you were employed prior to the accident and suffered a serious injury in a limousine bus accident you will miss work. You are entitled to compensation for lost wages. This means not only paychecks you missed, but also the value of the vacation or sick days that you had to use. In addition, if because you missed work you did not qualify for a bonus or promotion that you would have otherwise received, you may be able to receive compensation for the value of those missed opportunities. In order to prove losses related to your income from employment, you would need to show evidence of your hourly wages or annual salary such as paystubs or records from your company's human resources department.
- Pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is a type of damage award that compensates victims for both the physical pain and emotional suffering they experienced as a result of the accident. The determination of the amount a victim should receive for pain and suffering can be complicated. If you have to undergo surgery, have a permanent, noticeable scar, or have some other permanent injury, you are more likely to receive a significant pain and suffering award then if you fully recovered from your injury.
- Wrongful death. If a family member was killed in a bus accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation for medical expenses related to the decedent's injuries, the decedent's pain and suffering and lost wages. In addition, you may be awarded for a loss of future compensation based on what the decedent would have earned over a course of a lifetime. Not every relative has the right to compensation based on a loved one’s wrongful death. An experienced limousine bus accident attorney in New York can explain the process of filing a wrongful death claim, including who has legal standing.
While most limo bus excursions occur without incident, on occasion accidents do occur. While a limo bus accident may have some similarities to an auto accident, there are nuances to handling a bus accident that only an experienced limousine bus accident attorney serving New York will understand. If you or a family member were injured in a limo bus accident, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates to discuss the details of your case. We are here to help. Contact us at 800.NY.NY.LAW (800.696.9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.