MTA Bus Accidents
On February 14, 2015, an MTA bus struck a 15-year-old girl in Brooklyn. According to a report in the Daily News, although 58-year-old veteran driver Francisco de Jesus looked before turning, he did not see the girl walking across the street and proceeded to turn left. The victim suffered serious injuries, including a mangled leg. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), reports that over 400,000 people ride MTA buses each work day, and a total of over 390,000 ride on Saturdays and Sundays combined. This amounts to approximately 125,000,000 riders each year. New Yorkers depend on MTA buses to get to work, to school, to visit friends and family, and to run everyday errands. In addition, many of the over 50 million tourists who visit New York City each year use MTA buses as their preferred mode of transportation. Unfortunately, MTA buses sometimes are involved in accidents. In some cases such as with the 2015 accident involving de Jesus, the accident involves a pedestrian. In other cases accidents involve collisions with other vehicles or other stationery objects. Because of the massive size and weight of MTA buses, during accidents victims often suffer serious personal injuries such as back, neck and head injuries. If you or a loved one was injured in a bus accident involving an MTA bus, it is important to contact an experienced New York MTA bus accident lawyer as soon as possible who understands the unique rules that apply when seeking damages from a governmental entity such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.Causes of MTA Bus Accidents
There are a variety of types of bus accidents-- head on collisions, rear-end accidents, pedestrian accidents, speeding accidents, alcohol-related—to name a few. As with any type of vehicle accident there are many different reasons that MTA bus accidents occur.
- Fatigued driver. Drivers who are tired may fall asleep at the wheel. Even if they manage to stay away, fatigued bus drivers tend to have impaired reaction time, judgment and vision, leading to accidents.
- Distracted driver. Drivers can be distracted by several different things, including using cellphones while driving, unruly passengers, mechanical issues, or personal issues. In April 2015, an MTA passenger riding a bus in Queens took a video of a bus driver doing paperwork while driving. According to WABC-TV, MTA took the driver off the road. In addition, as reported by NBC4 New York in 2013 a recent study conducted by MTA officials found that a disturbing number of MTA drivers use cell phones while driving. Under New York law it is illegal to use a cell phone or other portable electronic device while driving. This means that drivers are not allowed to receive or make calls using a handheld phone, receive or send text messages or email messages, browse the internet, play games, or take photos.
- Failure to obey traffic rules. Failure to follow the “Rules of the Road” is a common cause of vehicle accidents, including MTA bus accidents. Whether it is speeding, running through a red light, failure to stop at a stop sign, failure to yield, breaking a traffic law is reckless and can lead to serious accidents, injuries, and death. In fact, as an experienced New York MTA bus accident lawyer will explain, if an MTA bus driver receives a ticket during the accident investigation, that would be strong evidence that the driver was at a minimum partially responsible for the accident.
- Driving while intoxicated. Just like any other vehicle driver, MTA bus drivers are prohibited from driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Even though bus drivers are subject to random alcohol testing under regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, not all bus drivers follow the rules that prohibit driving while under the influence.
- Poor maintenance. A bus that is not running properly may make it difficult for the driver to operate it properly. In addition, a problem with the bus may also distract the driver's attention away from focusing on the road. If an accident can be traced to a maintenance issue, the fault may not be with the driver, but with the MTA or the entity responsible for maintaining the bust.
- Poor weather conditions. Rain, ice and snow can also contribute to bus accidents.
- Boarding passengers. People are sometimes injured as they try to board or disembark from the bus because the driver closes the door too quickly, engages the bus lift, or begins to drive while the doors are still open.
- Other drivers. Some MTA bus accidents are caused by other drivers. As reported by ABC 7 Eyewitness News, on April 7, 2019, an MTA bus was struck by a speeding car, causing the bus driver to swerve and crash into a bagel store.
While undoubtedly many MTA bus accidents are caused by the negligence of the bus driver, some accidents are caused by the negligence of a third party such as another driver, by the distracting behavior of a passenger, or by the actions of a pedestrian.Bus Accident Injuries
Because of the sheer size and weight of an MTA bus coupled with the relative lack of safety features such as seatbelts or airbags, when a MTA bus accident occurs injuries can be severe.
- Fall injuries. Passengers are injured in MTA bus accidents not only during collisions, but also from falling while boarding or disembarking from buses, and falling while the bus is in motion. Falling off the steps of a bus, falling under a bus, falling onto the floor of a bus, or falling against a seat or pole in a bus can result in head injuries, neck injuries, crushed bones or broken bones. For example, in Lee v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 972 N.Y.S.2d 144 (2013), plaintiff Maria Lee filed a claim against the MTA after suffering injuries when the driver of the MTA bus she was attempting to board retracted the bus lift, causing Lee to fall backwards onto the pavement. Similarly, in Samuels-Rochester v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 988 N.Y.S.2d 525 (2014), the plaintiff suffered an injury when she was thrown from her seat when the driver made a sharp turn at a high speed.
- Traumatic brain injuries. During a bus accident when a passenger's head hits the hard pavement, a rail, pole, seat or side of the bus, there is a chance that that passenger may suffer a serious injury to the brain. TBIs leave victims with many temporary and permanent physical and mental problems including memory loss, cognitive problems, poor balance, slurred speech, and difficulty sleeping.
- Spine injuries. Vehicle accidents are a leading cause of spinal cord injuries. A spine injury occurs as a result of trauma to the spinal cord from a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that crushes, fractures, or dislocates one or more of the vertebrae. Those who suffer spinal cord injuries may experience severe back and neck pain or even paralysis.
- Broken bones. Broken bones, also referred to as bone fractures, are common in bus accidents due to the force exerted on bones when the bus collides with another vehicle. Bones that are often fractured include the arm, collarbone, ankle, foot, toe, hand, finger, leg, nose, and jaw. Victims who suffer broken bones often have decreased mobility and have difficulty working or performing daily activities of living.
- Death. Sadly, in some cases victims of bus accidents do not survive. This is particularly likely in cases where an MTA bus hits a pedestrian or cyclist.
As an experienced New York MTA bus accident lawyer will explain, in order for the MTA to be liable to you for the injuries you suffer in an accident, the MTA must be at least partially negligent. Fault in a bus accident largely depends on the cause of the accident. If the accident was caused because the driver was intoxicated, distracted or speeding, then the MTA was a fault. On the other hand if a third party was negligent such as the driver of another vehicle, then the MTA may not be at fault at all. In such a case it would be appropriate to pursue a case against the third party through a personal injury lawsuit.
If you were injured in an accident involving an MTA bus, you should not be the one deciding who was at fault. Fault is a complicated issue that should be handled in consultation with an experienced MTA bus accident attorney in New York.Collecting Damages from the MTA
Because the MTA is a New York State government entity, if you are injured in an MTA bus accident there are special procedures that you must follow to seek damages. You cannot simply go down to the courthouse and file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. There is a special procedure you must first follow before you file a lawsuit. You must first file a "Notice of Claim." N.Y. GMU. LAW § 50-e. The Notice of Claim must be filed within 90 days of the accident. The Notice of Claim must state:
- The name of the claimant
- A description of what happened, including the date, time, and location of the accident
- The nature of your injuries
- Amount of damages sought
N.Y. GMU. LAW § 50-e
It is critical that you file the Notice of Claim within 90 days. If you miss the filing deadline, not only will you be barred from filing a claim against the MTA, you will also be barred from filing a lawsuit. In the case of Lee v. Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Lee's claim against the MTA was ultimately dismissed due to problems related to when she filed her Notice of Claim and what was included in the filing. If you timely file a Notice of Claim, you have 1 year and 90 days after the incident to file a lawsuit for personal injury. For a wrongful death lawsuit, you have 2 years from the date of death.Compensable Damages
If you are injured as a result of an MTA bus accident, you may be entitled to several different types of compensation.
- Medical expenses. The MTA may be required to compensate you for your medical bills. This includes 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. This is important because in cases of severe injuries, medical treatment can extend well into the future. Medical expenses include expenses related to emergency room treatment, hospital stays, visits to your doctor, rehabilitation, durable medical equipment and prescriptions.
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity. If you miss work while your recover from your injuries, the MTA may be ordered to compensate you for the income you lost. Even if you were paid but had to use sick days or vacation days, the court may order the MTA to compensate you for the value of those days that you had to use. In addition, if you sustain permanent injuries such that you are unable to return to the same job or earn as much money as you otherwise would have, then that may also be a compensable loss.
- Pain and suffering. In addition, you may receive damages to compensate you for the physical and mental anguish you experienced from your injuries and recovery. In the case of the injured 15-year-old pedestrian who apparently suffered a severe injury to a leg that left it "mangled," if she is permanently disfigured or if her mobility is permanently affected, then she will have a strong argument for a significant damage award for pain and suffering.
- Wrongful death. If a loved one was killed in an MTA bus accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation for medical expenses, the decedent's pain and suffering, lost wages and loss of consortium. Of course the MTA would be required to pay for your loved one's funeral expenses and burial.
- Property loss. If your property is destroyed or damaged in an MTA bus accident, the negligent party may be required to compensate you for the loss. For example, if an MTA bus hits your car due to the negligence of the bus driver, you may be entitled to receive payment for the cost of repairing your vehicle or replacing your vehicle.
MTA buses are not inherently unsafe. MTA buses carry over 400,000 people each work day. The overwhelming majority of passengers arrive at their destinations safely. However, on occasion accidents do occur. When they do, the injured victims have the legal right to seek compensation from the negligent party. Because MTA bus accident cases can be complicated and involve a special set of procedural rules, it is critical that you are represented by an MTA bus accident attorney serving New York with experience filing claims against the MTA or other government entities. Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates to discuss the details of your case. Our staff has experience successfully representing vehicle accident victims and their families. 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: Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.