Megabus Bus Accidents
In the early morning hours of September 11, 2010, a tragic bus accident occurred in Salina, New York, resulting in the deaths of 4 passengers. The accident occurred when the driver of a Megabus double-decker bus attempted to drive the bus under a railroad overpass. The bus was too tall and the top of the bus crashed into the overpass. The bus was en route from Philadelphia to Toronto carrying 29 passengers when the driver, 60-year-old John Tomaszewski, missed a turn and ended up taking an unfamiliar route. While the type of accident that the Megabus was involved in Salina is unusual, motor coach bus crashes in general are not. It is far more common for a bus accident to involve a collision with another vehicle. However, regardless of the how an accident occurred, if negligence was involved, the injured victims and their families have the right to pursue compensation from those responsible for the accident. If you or a loved one suffered a personal injury in an accident involving a Megabus, it is important that you contact an experienced New York Megabus bus accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates who will work closely with you to make sure that you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled for the losses you suffered.Causes of Bus Accidents
Just like any type of vehicle accident, there are many possible reasons that a Megabus may end up involved in an accident. In some instances the Megabus driver is at fault, while in other cases the driver of another vehicle, pedestrian, or cyclist is at fault.
Driver error or confusion. If a driver is not familiar with a route, the driver may end up in a dangerous situation or an accident. This is what may have happened in the Salina Megabus accident. According to the New York Daily News, the driver was supposed to exit I-81 and proceed to the Regional Transportation Center in Syracuse. However, for unclear reasons the driver missed the exit. In an attempt to get back on track the driver used his personal GPS system to try to find his way to the Regional Transportation Center. Unfortunately, the driver attempted to go under an overpass that did not have sufficient clearance for the bus. If a driver is not properly trained on a route or goes off route, a peculiarity with that route could lead to an accident.
Fatigued driver. Like Greyhound Lines, Inc. and Trailways Transportation System, Inc., Megabus specializes in excursions that take passengers on relatively long, interstate and intercity trips. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict rules related to a motor coach driver's hours of service (HOS). The HOS rules dictate a driver's number of rest and driving hours. Drivers must keep careful records regarding their driving hours. If Megabus fails to properly monitor its drivers' driving hours, if a driver falsifies his records, or if a driver does not get proper rest before driving, a driver can easily become tired while driving. In some cases fatigued drivers fall asleep at the wheel, causing the bus to drift into another lane or off the road. In other cases fatigued drivers lose focus and experienced decreased ability to react to stimuli such as changes in road conditions or the movements of other vehicles.
Distracted driver. As contact an experienced New York Megabus bus accident lawyer will explain, under New York's distracted driver law, it is illegal to use a hand-held cell phone or other portable electronic device while driving. N.Y. VAT. LAW §§ 1225-c and 1225-d. Prohibited activities on a portable electronic device include:
- Using a mobile telephone or engage in a call while the vehicle is in motion
- Viewing, taking or transmitting images
- Playing games
- Composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages, or other electronic data
Looking down at a cell phone or tablet to check messages, text or browse the internet is distracting, and can easily cause a bus driver to lose focus and end up in an accident.
Failure to obey traffic rules. A frequent cause of not just bus accidents, but vehicle accidents in general is speeding, running through red lights, improper lane changing and violating other traffic rules. For example, according to the Chicago Tribune, in April 2015 a Megabus driver was cited for speeding after a crash in Indiana that resulted in injuries to 19 passengers.
Driving while intoxicated. Unfortunately, just like drivers of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other types of vehicles, drivers of buses sometimes choose to drive while intoxicated even though it is against the law. If a bus driver involved in an accident is convicted of driving while intoxicated, that would be strong evidence that the driver will be held financially liable for the accident.
Mechanical problems. In some cases bus accidents are caused by some sort of mechanical malfunction. If a bus is not properly maintained and as a result does not operate properly, the driver may have a difficult maintaining control over the bus. The operators of Megabus are required to regularly inspect and properly maintain its fleet of buses. If a malfunction caused an accident and records showed that Megabus failed to property inspect and maintain its buses, then Megabus would likely be held liable for the accident.
In 2014 a Megabus bus crashed in Greenwood, Indiana on a rain-slick stretch of highway, rolled on its side, injuring a number of passengers. According to WHTR.com, passengers reported that the windshield wipers on the bus malfunctioned, contributing to the crash.
Third-Party Fault. There are also cases where a bus accident occurs because of another person's negligence. For example, if another driver breaks a traffic law such as driving through a read light, speeding, driving while intoxicated, or texting while driving and causes an accident, then that driver would be legally responsible for the accident.
Non-collision accidents. Not all bus accidents involve collisions. In fact, there are bus accidents that occur when the bus is stationery. For example, sometimes passengers are injured while boarding or getting off of the bus. The step from the bus to the street is fairly steep, making it easy for passengers to stumble when trying to get on or get off the bus. Some buses are equipped with a kneeling function that allows the driver to lower the bus to make it easier for passengers to get on and off. However, passengers still sometimes stumble and fall.
Passengers also sometimes fall when the bus is in motion. When a bus is moving passengers who are standing often get jostled about. If the driver makes a sharp turn or sudden stop, passengers can lose their balance and fall.Bus Accident Injuries
The type of injury a victim suffers in a bus accident depends on many different factors including whether the accident involved a collision, whether the accident involved a fall, the speed at which the bus was traveling, whether the victim was a passenger or pedestrian, and whether the victim was on the bus or in another vehicle. Common types of injuries include traumatic brain injuries (TBI), broken bones, amputations, spinal cord injuries, and cuts and bruises. For example, according to Syracuse.com one of the victims of the Salina accident suffered several broken bones. Another passenger suffered a TBI.
Such injuries may require an extended period of recovery. In some cases the victim never fully recovers. For example a TBI may result in permanent brain damage. A spinal cord injury may leave a victim with decreased mobility or permanent paralysis. A broken leg may leave the victim with a permanent limp. In some cases a victim suffers an injury so severe that the victim dies.Fault
In order for you to recover damages after a Megabus accident, it must be determined who was at fault. It is important that you do not hold off contacting a New York Megabus bus accident lawyer because you are unsure of who was at fault. There are time limits for filing claims. If you miss the deadline you will not be able to recover damages. In some cases the bus driver or someone else involved in the accident may face criminal charges related to the accident. It is important to note that while a guilty finding in a criminal case may be an indicator of civil liability, the outcome of the criminal case is not always an accurate predictor of the outcome of a civil lawsuit.
Megabus at fault. If the driver was in some way negligent, or if the bus was poorly maintained, then fault lies with Megabus and its employees or contractors. In the case of the Salina Megabus accident, it appears as if driver may have been at fault. While we do not represent any of the victims or family members of the victims of this accident and have no opinion as to fault, according to Syracuse.com there were a number of warning signs related to the low-clearance of the overpass. In addition, the District Attorney prosecuted Tomaszewski for the deaths of the 4 victim. Ultimately, Tomaszewski was acquitted of homicide. Despite the acquittal, there is at least some evidence that might support claims that the negligence of Megabus and Tomaszewski led to the fatal accident. Megabus settled a number of lawsuits based on this accident.
Third party at fault. If a Megabus accident was caused by the negligence of a third party such as another driver, then the liable party would be that driver. For example, if a driver fails to stop at a red light and collides with the bus, then the accident would be the fault of the driver who ran through the red light.
Multiple parties at fault. If accident investigators determine that the accident was caused by both Megabus and another driver, or by both Megabus and the accident victim, then the amount a negligent party will be required to pay will be based on proportionate fault.Compensation for injured victims
The August 2010 Salina Megabus accident resulted in 4 deaths. If Megabus was determined to have been at fault, there are several different types of damages that the families of the victims would have been able to recover from Megabus through wrongful death lawsuits. Such damages may include the decedent's medical expenses, if any, related the injuries sustained in the accident, loss of the decedent's income, loss of consortium, and funeral and burial expenses. Generally, only a spouse, child or parent would be able to seek damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
In bus accident cases where the victims suffered serious injuries, the damages that the victims may be entitled to include:
Medical expenses. You can demand that the negligent party compensate you for your medical expenses, since you would not have accumulated such medical bills if you were not injured in the accident. Compensable medical expenses include not only the medical bills that you accumulated prior to filing the lawsuit, but medical bills you accumulated since the lawsuit was filed as well as future medical bills. Medical expenses include expenses related to emergency room treatment, hospital stays, visits to your doctor, rehabilitation, durable medical equipment such as crutches or a wheelchair, and prescriptions.
In order to ensure that you receive compensation for all expenses related to your medical care, it is important that you keep detailed records of your medical expenses. Keep bills from your doctors, receipts from any payments you made, and correspondence from your health insurer such as explanations of benefits. This documentation will be critical for you to recover not only your past medical expenses, but your future medical expenses.
Lost wages and reduction in earning capacity. One of the devastating aspects of being seriously injured in a bus accident is that you may be unable to work and earn an income while you recover from your injuries. Recovery from a broken leg may take several weeks. A serious brain injury may require surgery, followed by extended rehabilitation. A spinal cord injury may leave your permanently paralyzed.
Thus, if you are injured in a bus accident and miss work while you recover from your injuries, the negligent party may be ordered to compensate you for the income you lost, including sick or vacation days you had to use while recovering. In addition, if you sustain permanent injuries such that your future earning potential has been diminished, then that may also be a compensable loss. In order to prove losses related to your income from employment, you would need to show evidence of your hourly wages or annual salary. If you were on track to receive a bonus or promotion, but were derailed because of missing work while recovering, then you would need to get evidence of this from your employer.
Pain and suffering. The court may also award you damages based on the physical and mental anguish they experience due to their injuries and period of recovery. Pain and suffering can be based on the severity of your injury or whether or not your injury is permanent. For example, if you end up with a large, noticeable scar on your face or a permanent, that will be a factor the court will consider in determining the amount of compensation you should receive for pain and suffering.
Megabus buses are not inherently dangerous, and drivers of Megabus buses are not generally incompetent or negligent. However, Megabus accidents do occur, and those injured have the legal right to hold the responsible party legally accountable. Claims based on injuries suffered in a Megabus accident can be complicated, involving complex issues regarding pinpointing fault. Contact an experienced Megabus Bus accident attorney serving New York at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates to discuss the details of your case. Our staff has experience successfully representing bus accident victims and their families, as well as those who were injured in other types of vehicle accidents. 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: Brooklyn, Long Island, Suffolk County, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Bronx, and Westchester County.