Party Bus Accidents
On August 31, 2012, 16- year-old Daniel Fernandez was killed in a horrific accident while riding a "party bus." Sixty-four teens were on the bus which was en route from St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens, to Garfield, New Jersey where a sweet 16 birthday party was to take place. This particular party bus was also a double-decker bus. At about 6:30pm Fernandez, who according to ABC News had been drinking heavily, 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. He was rushed to a hospital where he was declared dead 45 minutes later. A party bus is a special type of charter bus that is specially equipped with amenities that allow passengers to social, enjoy music, videos, food, beverages and other type of entertainment while en route. The buses are typically climate controlled and feature reclining seating, entertainment systems including flat-screen televisions, special lighting, restrooms, and ice coolers. While the accident which resulted in the death of Fernandez may seem as a bizarre or freak bus accident, it is not the only instance in which a party bus passenger's head struck an overpass. If you or a family member was injured in an accident involving a party bus, it is critical that you immediately contact an experienced New York party bus lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates 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 party Bus Accidents
Many different factors can contribute to an accident involving a party bus. In some instance the bus driver is at fault, in other cases the driver of another vehicle or some other third party is at fault, in still other cases the victim's actions contributed to the accident.
Passengers. While not all party bus accidents are caused by the actions of passengers, there are indeed instances when passenger behavior at least contributes to accidents. Let’s face it, passengers are often boisterous and unruly. Alcohol is frequently involved. This can lead to the driver being distracted as he or she tries to both focus on the road and control the behavior of the passengers.
Driver fatigue. Another factor that can contribute to a party bus accident is driver fatigue. Party buses are often hired for the evening. This can mean that the bus is engaged to from the early evening to early morning. If the driver is not properly rested then he or she may be in no condition to drive. Fatigued drivers have a difficult time paying attention to the road. It takes them longer to make decisions, meaning that they are not able to react quickly enough to actions of other drivers or changes in road conditions. Fatigued drivers sometimes fall asleep while driving. The bottom line is that driving while fatigued can lead to accidents. In fact, research shows that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk drinking.
Intoxicated driving. The problem of drunk driving is not limited to drivers of private cars. Drivers of commercial vehicles such as party buses, school buses, city buses, and church buses also sometimes break the law and drive while intoxicated with tragic results.
Distracted driving. Safe driving requires the driver’s attention to be on the road. Anything that distractions the driver’s attention away from the road, even momentarily, can result in a tragic accident. In fact, such an incident would not be an accident at all, but a predictable outcome of negligent driving.
Cellphones are major distractions to drivers, and New York has rules that prohibit using cellphones while driving. The problem of texting and otherwise using phones while driving has become so prevalent that there have been nonprofit and government backed television campaigns about the dangers of “texting while driving.” Yet, people, including party bus drivers still do it.
Driver are also distracted by eating while driving, reading, doing paperwork, and the actions of passengers. Party bus passengers can be rowdy and unruly. The addition of alcohol can make the situation worse.
Third party behavior. Of course, not all party 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, a collision may be caused by the driver of another vehicle who speeds, is driving while intoxicated, or fails to stop at a red light or stop sign. Accidents can also be caused by actions of pedestrians. If the bus poorly designed or was not manufactured according to specifications and as a result an accident occurs, the manufacturer would be liable for that accident.Common Bus Accident Injuries
When a bus is involved in an accident, victims may suffer a variety of injuries. How the accident occurred and what the victim was doing at the time of the accident will impact the type of injury that victim suffers. Common injuries include traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, and spinal injuries. A serious injury can mean expensive treatment and long recovery times. Some injuries such as damage to the spinal cord or a head injury can leave the victim permanently disabled and unable to function as he or she did prior to the accident.Pinpointing Fault
It is not always immediately clear as to why an accident occurred and who was at fault. However, a finding of fault is necessary in order to determine who is legally liable for the losses the accident victims suffered. This is why it is important to contact an experienced New York party bus lawyer immediately after a bus accident, who has the knowledge and resources to thoroughly investigate and accident an determine fault. Fault usually is determined to be:
- The fault of the bus driver- For example, the bus driver was speeding or ran through a red light.
- The fault of a third party such as another driver. For example, another driver cut off the bus or was driving while intoxicated, or the bus malfunctioned due to a faulty design
- The fault of a passenger. For example, a passenger was acting unruly or refusing to sit down
- The fault of a combination of the bus driver and another party
If the accident was due to the negligence of the party bus driver, then the victims can seek compensation from the bus driver and the owner or operator of the party bus company. If the bus malfunctioned, the victims may be able to recover damages from the manufacturer of the part that malfunctioned. If the accident was caused by a third party, then victims must seek to recover damages from that person and not necessarily the bus company.
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 including whether someone received a ticket for a traffic violation, whether someone was arrested, statements from eyewitnesses, and an inspection of the bus and the other vehicle(s) involved in the accident.Compensable Damages
If you were injured in a party bus accident, or if a relative was killed in a party bus accident, an experienced New York party bus lawyer can help you pursue a variety of types of damages from the negligent party.
- Medical expenses. If you are injured in a party bus accident then you may be able to recover out-of-pocket expenses that you incurred as a result of the accident. Medical fees for treating serious injuries will be substantial. Medical insurance is not likely to cover it all. 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 health insurer.
- Lost wages. If you are employed and suffer a serious injury in a party bus accident you will miss work. You are entitled to compensation for lost wages. 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. If you are self-employed, you can still demand compensation for lost income, as long as you can show proof of the revenue you lost.
- 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. Medical records, including records from a therapist can support a demand for pain and suffering compensation.
- Wrongful death. If a relative was killed in a party bus accident, contact an experienced party bus accident attorney in New York regarding pursuing damages based on a wrongful death claim. There are special rules related to who has standing to file a wrongful death claim, as well as a timeline for when such a claim must be filed.
Party buses are not inherently dangerous. However, as with any type of vehicle, party buses are on occasion involved in accidents. While a party bus accident may have some similarities to any other types of vehicle accidents there are nuances to handling a party bus accident that only an experienced party bus accident lawyer serving New York will understand. If you or a family member were injured in a party bus accident, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates to discuss the details of your case. Our staff has experience successfully representing accident victims and their families. We have the knowledge and resources 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: Nassau County, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Suffolk County, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, and Westchester County.