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Public Bus Accidents

According to report published in the New York Daily News In 2005 a New York public bus traveling on Ocean Parkway near Avenue U in Brooklyn ran a red light. The result of what some might consider a minor traffic infraction was quite devastating. The bus slammed into a car carrying Brenda Whaley and Amanda Wade. Both women sustained serious injuries. New York has one of the most extensive public bus systems in the country. Each year MTA buses and other buses managed by New York authorities carry over 100 million riders. New Yorkers depend on the public bus system as essential to everyday activities such as going to work, going to school, running errands, and getting to social events. While most public bus travel occurs without incident, accidents do sometimes occur. As in the case of the Ocean Parkway accident, public bus accidents can leave victims with serious personal injuries. When a public bus accident is the fault of the bus driver, then the injured victims may be able to recover damages from the government entity that operates the bus company. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident involving a public bus, it is important that you immediately contact an experienced New York public bus accident lawyer who will review the facts of your case and who will work hard to help you get the maximum compensation to which you are entitled.

Causes of Public Bus Accidents

There are several types of public bus accidents that result in someone being injured. Typical scenarios include:

  • Collision between the bus and another vehicle or a cyclist
  • Bus striking a pedestrian
  • Bus striking a fixed object such as a lamppost or a building
  • Passenger falling while riding the bus
  • Passenger falling while getting on or off the bus

Accidents are caused by a variety of reasons. The most common cause is that either the bus driver or the driver of another vehicle violated a traffic rule such as speeding or improperly changing lanes. According to the New York Daily News, in the Ocean Parkway accident the occupants of the car claimed that the bus ran through a red light, while the bus driver accused the driver of the car or running through a red light. While we do not represent any of the parties involved in this case and have no opinion as to who caused the accident, the court did find that the bus driver was at fault and awarded Brenda Whaley and Amanda Wade over $7 million in damages.

Another cause of bus accidents is distracted driving. Like most other states, New York enacted a distracted driver law that prohibits drivers from using portable electronic devices while driving. This makes it against the law for all vehicle drivers including public bus drivers to use a cell phone, tablet or laptop to make calls, send or receive text messages or emails messages, play games, or take photos. Yet many public bus drivers regularly violate this rule. A recent study by MTA officials found that a disturbing number of MTA drivers use cell phones while driving. In addition to being distracted by electronic devices, some drivers are distracted by other things such as unruly passengers, eating, or even because they are doing paperwork while trying to drive a huge bus. As reported by WABC-TV, in April 2015, an MTA passenger riding a bus in Queens took a video of a bus driver doing paperwork while driving. MTA took the driver off the road.

Just like any other vehicle driver, bus drivers are prohibited from driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In addition, under regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration bus drivers must submit to random alcohol testing. Furthermore, they are subject to screening for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and PCP. So, not only must drivers refrain from driving or taking drugs while on duty, the MTA and other city officials must follow federal guidelines regarding alcohol and drug testing. Despite this, there have been cases in which public bus drivers were found to be driving while under the influence. For example, in 2018 MTA driver, Lenny Lachman, ran into multiple cars. According to the New York Post, the police determined that Lachman’s blood alcohol level was well over the legal limit. Lachman was arrested.

Common Bus Accident Injuries

The types of injuries that public bus accident victims suffer varies widely depending on the type of accident. However, because of the massive size and weight of the average bus, it is not surprising that accident victims often suffer severe injuries and sometimes death.

  • Traumatic brain injury. Vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). A TBI occurs when a violent blow to the head damages brain cells. While in some instances victims can recover fully recover from TBIs with time, medication, or surgical intervention, in many cases brain injuries can lead to permanent cognitive deficits, blindness, and paralysis. For example, Joao Brito was struck by a public bus in Manhattan that resulted in a brain injury so severe that she was not able to testify in court about the accident. Brito v. Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority, 590 N.Y.S.2d 450 (1992).
  • Spine injuries. A spinal cord injury is defined as damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal. Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Injuries to the spine can affect the movement and control of the torso, legs, bowel, bladder control, and arms. Severe cases leave the victims paralyzed. Quadriplegia involves paralysis of the arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs. Paraplegia is paralysis of all or part of the trunk, legs and pelvic organs.
  • Fractures. Fractures, meaning broken bones, are also common bus accident injuries. The most common causes of broken bones are vehicle accidents and falls. Victims commonly suffer broken bones in both bus accidents that involve collisions but also in bus accidents that involve falls, such as when a passenger falls while getting on or off the bus. Bones that are often fractured include the arm, collarbone, ankle, foot, hand, finger, leg, and nose.
  • Death. Sadly, in some cases victims of bus accidents do not survive. This is particularly likely in cases where public bus hits a pedestrian or cyclist.

As an experienced New York public bus accident lawyer will explain, 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. Fault usually is determined to be:

  • The fault of the bus driver
  • The fault of a third party such as another driver or a passenger
  • The fault of a combination of the bus driver and another party

If the accident was due to the negligence of the driver, then a government entity such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City Transit Authority, or the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority would be at fault. In the case of the 2005 Ocean Parkway accident, the New York City Transit Authority was determined to be liable and ordered to pay the victims significant damages.

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, that is strong evidence that that person was negligent. Thus, if the public bus driver was issued a citation, than there is a strong likelihood that the bus driver and the government agency that operates the bus would be held at least partially, if not completely liable.
  • Arrest. In some cases the police will arrest a driver whose actions are suspected to have been criminal. If a bus driver is arrested, tried and found guilty of criminally negligent behavior, that would be strong evidence that the driver and the bus company should also be held financially liable. For example, if the bus driver is arrested, charged, and convicted for driving while drunk or while impaired by drugs, then he or she would likely also be found to be liable for the accident.
  • Witness statements. Statements from eyewitnesses can be invaluable in pinpointing 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 mechanical failure.

As with many vehicle accidents, fault may not be immediately clear. An experienced New York public bus accident lawyer will thoroughly investigate the accident in order to make a determination of fault.

Filing a Claim Against a Public Agency

If the driver of the bus was negligent then you would seek compensation from the government entity that operates that bus. There are, however, special procedures that your must follow to bring a claim against New York State or New York City. 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, and must include the following information:

  • 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

Furthermore, it is important that you file the claim with the proper government entity. As an experienced public bus accident attorney in New York will explain, if you fail to file the Notice of Claim on time at the proper place, then not only will you be barred from filing a claim against the government entity, you will also be barred from filing a lawsuit in court. 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.

Damage for Victims of Public Bus accidents

If you are injured as a result of a public bus accident, you may be entitled to several different types of compensation. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City Transit Authority, or the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority, or other negligent party 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.

If you miss work while you recover from your injuries, the negligent party may be ordered to compensate you for the paychecks you lost as well as sick or vacation days you had to use while recovering. If you sustain permanent injuries such that your future earning potential has been diminished, then you can demand compensation for that loss.

Pain and suffering is a type of compensation that may be available to compensation an injured victim for the physical and mental anguish experienced due to the injuries suffered in the bus accident. For example, victims who undergo surgery or who have permanent injuries such as an amputation or permanent vision loss are likely to receive a greater award for pain and suffering then if the injury was comparatively less severe.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Public buses such as the MTA are not inherently dangerous. In fact, they safely carry millions of passengers each year. However, public buses are sometimes involved in accidents, and the injured victims have the legal right to seek compensation from those responsible. Claims based on injuries in a public bus accident can be complicated. Not only may there be complex issues regarding pinpointing fault, there are also special procedural requirements. Furthermore, perpetually cash-strapped municipalities are often loathe to admit liability and settle cases. Instead, they often prefer to "take their chances" in court. This is exactly what happened in the 2005 Ocean Parkway bus accident. The New York City Transit Authority initially refused to admit fault and settle the claims of the 2 victims. The victims ended up suing in court and were awarded a significant amount of money in damages. This is another reason it is important to be represented by an experienced public bus accident attorney serving New York with experience. Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates at 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.

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