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Tour Bus Accidents

A tour bus is a special type of bus service that takes passengers sightseeing or to tourist attractions. In some cases tour buses travel relatively short distances carrying passengers to local attractions, while in other cases they take passengers on long distance excursions from city to city or state to state. New York is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Over 50 million tourists travel to New York each year, many of whom ride tour buses. Furthermore, the tour bus industry has grown tremendously in recent years. One estimate is that 2000 bus trips arrive or depart from New York each week. While most tour bus rides occur without incident, on occasion there are accidents. In March 2011, a tour bus operated by World Wide Tours, Inc. crashed on Interstate-95 near the Bronx, killing 15 people. Witnesses reported that immediately prior to the accident the bus, which was traveling at a high speed, swerved several times. It then flipped on its side and slammed into a pole. The driver reported that a tractor-trailer clipped it, causing the bus to swerve. According to the New York Times, the bus was returning to Chinatown from a trip to the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. While we are not suggesting that tour buses operated by World Wide Tours are inherently dangerous, unfortunately, accidents involving tour buses in general are not uncommon. Victims of tour bus accidents and their families suffer both physically and financially. However, the law allows such victims to recover compensation from those whose negligence caused the injuries. If you or a loved one suffered a serious personal injury in a tour bus accident, it is important that you immediately contact an experienced New York tour bus accident lawyer who will review the facts of the case, explain to your legal rights and who will work closely with you to make sure that you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled through a personal injury or wrongful death claim.

Common Causes of Tour Bus Accidents

Just like accidents involving cars, SUVs, trucks, and other types of vehicles, there are many reasons for tour bus crashes. In addition, tour bus accidents include not just collisions, but accidents involving passenger falls and accidents involving pedestrians.

Driver fatigue. One of the most common causes for bus accidents is driver fatigue. Many tour bus drivers drive long distances with few stops and few breaks. Data from the Centers for Disease Control show fatigue to be a leading cause of bus accidents. In addition, a report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board noted that driver fatigue is a major issue with some tour bus operators. Some evidence seemed to suggest that the bus driver involved in the 2011 World Wide Tours bus accident was fatigued and that contributed to the accident. The bus driver, Ophadell Williams, was charged with 15 counts of manslaughter. He was later found to be not guilty.

Another tour bus operator, Sky Express Bus Company, was involved in a fatal accident where driver fatigue was involved. On May 31, 2011, a Sky Express Bus Company bus traveling on I-95 headed from North Carolina to New York, swerved from side to side before careening off the road and landing on a ditch. Four people died and dozens were injured. The bus driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, who acknowledged falling asleep, has since been convicted of 4 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of the 4 passengers.

Intoxicated driving. As an experienced New York tour bus accident lawyer will explain, another cause of tour bus crashes is intoxication. Just like any other 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 phencyclidine (PCP). Unfortunately, there are some tour bus companies that fail to consistently adhere to federal laws related to the use of drugs and alcohol on the job. According to a report published by WNYC News, tour bus company Sky Express Bus Company has been cited multiple times as violating safety rules when drivers were found to have used drugs or alcohol while on the job.

Distracted driving. Distracted driving has become a huge problem over the last 2 decades. Despite New York laws prohibiting the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving, both drivers of cars as well as drivers of buses continue to do so.

Other traffic violations. Failure to follow practically any traffic rule can lead to a serious accident.

  • Speeding. Speeding is by far the most cause of tour bus accidents. This is particularly the case with buses traveling long distances on highways.
  • Failing to stop at a red light or stop sign. Drivers who drive through a light that has just turned read or who roll through stop signs can end up in an accident that was easily to avoid.
  • Improper lane changes. When drivers are speeding along a highway and cutoff other drivers when changing lanes, a serious and avoidable accident can occur.
  • Following too closely. Bus accidents can occur when a bus follows too closely behind another vehicle. Because of the massive size and weight of a bus, if a bus slams into the rear of another vehicle, there is a good chance that people will suffer injuries.

If it is determined that a bus driver violated a traffic law, the police will issue the driver a ticket. That ticket can serve as strong evidence of liability in a personal injury case.

Poor maintenance. The law requires that owners and operators of tour buses properly maintain their vehicles. This means that the buses must be regularly serviced and 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 for to the accident victims.

What Types of Injuries are Injuries are Common to Tour Bus Accidents?

The types of injuries that tour bus accident victims suffer vary widely and depend largely on the type of accident.

  • Traumatic brain injuries. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious injury that results from a violent blow or jolt to the head that caused brain damage. TBIs are common to bus accidents as passengers are often ejected from their seats and slam into the side or floor of the bus. In other cases passengers are thrown from the bus and land on a hard road or sidewalk surface. TBIs are particularly likely in cases where the bus falls on its side or rolls over.
  • Spine injuries. Vehicle accidents, including bus 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. It can also diminish sexual function and the ability to breathe. Many people who suffer severe spinal cord injuries end up permanently paralyzed.
  • Broken bones. Victims commonly suffer broken bones in bus accidents. A broken bone occurs when excessive force is applied to a bone causing it to break or shatter. In some cases the bone breaks completely, while in others the bone is cracked. Bones that are often fractured in vehicle accidents include the arm, collarbone, ankle, foot, hand, finger, leg, and nose.
  • Death. Sadly, in some cases victims of bus accidents do not survive. Death may occur in tour bus collisions involving other vehicles or where the bus for various reasons leaves the roadway, crashing into trees, poles, or buildings. In addition, in cases where a bus hits a pedestrian or a cyclist, the result may be that the pedestrian or cyclist does not survive.
Pinpointing Fault

As an experienced tour bus accident attorney in New York will explain, a determination of fault must be made in order to determine who is legally and financially responsible for the accident. The tour bus company will only be legally responsible for an accident if the driver or some other company employee or contractor was at least partially negligent. Even beyond the actions of the bus driver that may have lead to the accident, the tour bus company may also be liable and be required to pay additional damages if it was found to have been negligent in hiring the driver. For example, if the driver had a history of poor driving or of abusing drugs or alcohol and the tour bus company still hired that driver, a court may determine that the tour bus company was negligent in hiring that driver.

In other tour bus accidents, the evidence may point to another driver being negligent. For example, if another car runs through a red light and collides with a tour bus, investigators would conclude that the tour bus company was not at fault and that the driver of the other care was.

In still other cases, both the tour bus company and the driver of another vehicle may be at fault. In such a case, the court would order each negligent party to pay a proportionate share of the damages.

Determination of fault is not always clear. It is important not to jump to conclusions about fault or to admit fault prior to consulting with an experienced New York tour bus accident lawyer. For example, if the bus driver slammed on the breaks causing a passenger to fall, whether or not the bus driver would be considered negligent would depend on several factors. If the driver suddenly slammed on the breaks because a car swerved in front of the bus, or in order to avoid a pedestrian, then the driver may absolved of fault under the "emergency" doctrine.

Compensable Damages

The 2011 World Wide Tours bus accident resulted in 15 deaths. While we do not represent any of the victims of this accident or their families, are not privy to all of the evidence in this case, and have no opinion as to fault, if World Wide Tours was determined to be at fault, there are several different types of damages that the families of the deceased victims would have been able to recover from World Wide Tours and the driver through wrongful death lawsuits.

  • Medical expenses. If your loved one was killed in a tour bus accident, the tour bus operator or other negligent party may be required to compensate you for the medical expenses that your loved one accumulated from the time of the accident until that person's death. Medical expenses include expenses related to ambulance fees, emergency room treatment, hospital stays, surgery, and medications. Such expenses are easy to prove by bills related to decedent's medical treatment as well as receipts showing payments that were made.
  • Lost wages. Relatives may also recover the decedent's lost wages. The amount of lost wages would equal the amount of money that the decedent would have earned from the time of the accident until the victim's death. In other words, if your loved one died a week after the accident after spending that amount of time in the hospital, then lost wages would amount to what your loved one would have earned in a week. In addition, you can also sue for the value of money that your loved one would have earned over the remainder of his or her lifetime were it not for the premature death.
  • Funeral and burial expenses. The court will undoubtedly require the negligent party to pay for your loved one's funeral expenses.

Not just any relative can sue for wrongful death. Typically, wrongful death damages can be awarded to the surviving spouse, minor children, and parents of minor children.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Tour buses such as those operated by Sky Express Bus Company and World Wide Tours are not inherently dangerous. Nor are their drivers generally incompetent or negligent. However, tour buses are on occasion involved in accidents. Because of the many unique aspects of the tour bus industry claims based on injuries in a tour bus accident can be quite complicated. One significant issue is determining fault. Another issue is determining the proper party or parties to sue as more than one entity may be involved in arranging and managing a tour. Furthermore, there are deadlines that must be adhered to in order to preserve your right to sue for damages. If you or a family member were injured in a tour bus accident, contact an experienced tour bus accident attorney serving New York at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates to discuss the details of your case. We can 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: Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.

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