Trailways Bus Accidents
A few weeks prior to Thanksgiving, 2014, a Pine Hill Trailways bus crashed on Interstate 81, near Syracuse, New York. The bus had originated in Toronto, Canada and was on its way to New York City. Prior to the accident, the bus stopped in Buffalo where there was a change in drivers. At the time of the accident the bus had 52 passengers. The bus slammed into a car that had previously crashed into a guardrail and landed in the left land of I-81. The bus then hit a tractor trailer whose driver had pulled off to the shoulder in order to assist the driver of the car. The driver of the Trailways bus as well as 26 of the bus's passengers were injured. According a report in Syracuse.com, police charged the driver of the car with driving while intoxicated. Unfortunately, like other types of vehicle accidents, bus accidents involving Trailways buses, as well as accidents involving other motor coach bus lines such as Greyhound, Peter Pan and Megabus that result in serious personal injury occur with some regularity. When a Trailways bus is involved in a collision, it is not uncommon for victims to suffer serious injuries and sometimes death. While there are some cases in which Trailways bus accidents are caused by the negligence of the bus driver, there are other cases in which the accidents were caused by the negligence of another person. Whether the accident was the fault of Trailways or someone else, the injured victims have the right to seek financial compensation from the party who is legally liable. If you or a family member was injured in an accident involving a Trailways bus, it is important that you not wait and try on your own to determine who was at fault. It is critical that you immediately contact an experienced New York Trailways bus accident lawyer who will review the details of the accident and work hard to ensure that you receive compensation from those responsible for the injuries you suffered.Causes of Motor Coach Bus Accidents
An accident involving a Trailways bus can be caused by a variety of circumstances. In some cases the bus driver is at fault, while in other cases the driver of another vehicle or some other third party is at fault.
Driver fatigue. One reason that is often cited for motor coach bus accidents is driver fatigue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that driver fatigue is a factor in 100,000 vehicle collisions each year. Like drivers of tractor trailers, Trailways and other drivers of motor coaches often drive long distances with few breaks. For example, the Trailways bus that was involved in the Syracuse accident was headed from Toronto to New York, with one driver scheduled to drive from Buffalo to New York City. If a bus company does not properly monitor a driver's driving hours, or if a driver fails to get proper rest prior to getting behind the wheel for a long drive, driver fatigue could quickly set in. As a result the driver may have compromised reaction time, judgment, and vision. The driver may even fall asleep at the wheel.
Distracted driving. While distracted driving can be described as a driver focusing on anything that causes that driver to take his eyes off the road or to mentally turn his or her attention away from driving, the term typically refers to driving while using a cell phone or other portable electronic device. Since cell phone use has dramatically increased over the last 15 years, most states have enacting "distracted driving" laws. In New York it is illegal to drive while using a portable electronic device. Portable electronic devices include cell phones, tablets, PDAs and laptop computers. "Using" a portable electronic device is defined as not just talking on a cellphone, but also typing or sending text or email messages, browsing the internet, taking photos, or playing games.
Other activities can also cause bus driver to be distracted such as eating, talking to passengers, or focusing on unruly passengers.
Poor maintenance. The law requires that owners and operators of motor coach bus companies 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.
A common maintenance problem in buses is worn, damaged or underinflated tires. A tire that is not in proper condition can blowout. A blowout is particularly dangerous for motor coach buses which often travel on highways at high speeds. The driver could lose control of the bus resulting in a serious accident with victims both on the bus and in other vehicles.
Similarly, if brakes are not regularly inspected a problem may go unnoticed until a driver is unable to stop the bus, resulting in an accident. Most maintenance issues can be caught and corrected with thorough regular inspections. Signs of faulty brakes include the odor of the brake pads burning.
Intoxicated driving. In the case of the 2014 Syracuse Trailways bus accident, media reports state that the driver of the car was cited for driving while intoxicated. Unfortunately, drunk driving has been a problem for decades and has contributed to countless injuries and deaths. While in the case of the Syracuse Trailways accident there appear to be other factors that contributed to the accident, including the actions of the driver of the car, investigators will determine if the bus driver’s actions also contributed to the accident.
Bus drivers must adhere to New York laws regarding intoxicated driving. As an experienced New York Trailways bus accident lawyer will explain, bus companies such as Trailways must also adhere to federal regulations established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration related to intoxicated driving. For example, bus drivers must submit to random alcohol testing and screening for drugs.
Other traffic violations. Failure to follow almost any traffic rule can lead to a serious accident. For example, many motor coach bus accidents have been caused by speeding drivers. If the police issue the bus driver a ticket, that is strong evidence that the driver's negligence caused or contributed to the bus accident.
Other types of accidents. Trailways bus accidents can occur even when there is no collision. For example, passengers are sometimes injured while getting on and off the bus. The bus steps are relatively high from the ground. Trailways buses have a kneeler which allows the driver to lower the bus slightly to make it easier for passengers to embark and disembark from the bus. However, falls still sometimes occur. In Mary Kearns v. Adirondack Trailways, 872 N.Y.S.2d 244 (2009), plaintiff Mary Kearns was injured while alighting from a Trailways bus. Kearns, who was 71 years old at the time, alleged that the Trailways bus driver did not activate the kneeler feature so that the bus would be closer to the ground and that the driver did not otherwise help her alight the buses. In fact, Kearns testified that the driver actually partially blocked her. As a result Kearns fell and suffered injuries.
In another case involving a Trailways bus accident where there was no collision, plaintiff Louise Ruffin was a passenger on a Lion Trailways bus when the driver made a sudden stop. The sudden stopped caused Ruffin to be thrown into the dashboard, resulting in injuries. Ruffin v. Lion Corp., 969 N.Y.S.2d 806 (2008). Whether the incident was a collision with another vehicle, or some other type of incident involving a Trailways bus and you suffered a serious injury, contact an experienced New York Trailways bus accident lawyer who can help make sure your legal rights are protected.Common Bus Accident Injuries
When a motor coach bus is involved in an accident, victims may suffer a variety of injuries. For example, in the Syracuse Trailways bus accident, according to the Daily Freeman 27 people were injured, some of which suffered injuries to the lower extremities, chest, back and face. Due to the massive size and weight of motor coaches like Trailways buses and because motor coaches are not all equipped with safety features such as seatbelts and airbags, it is not surprising that accident victims often suffer severe injuries and sometimes death.
- Traumatic brain injury. In cases where the bus collides with another vehicle at a high speed or rolls over, there is a good chance that passengers and other victims will suffer traumatic brain injuries. A traumatic brain injury or TBI occurs when there is a violent blow to the head that is so forceful that it causes brain dysfunction. If a victim's head slams against the floor or side of a bus, or if the victim is thrown to the ground, that victim may suffer a TBI. While in some cases after surgery or the passage of time the victim may recover completely, in many cases victims with traumatic brain injuries are left permanently disabled.
- Spine injuries. Trauma to the head, neck, or back could lead to a spinal injury. The spine is central to the functioning of practically every part of the body. Depending on where the damage occurs, a spinal cord injury can result in the loss of the ability to move various parts of your body. It can even result in a loss in the ability to breathe. A serious bus accident that causes you to be thrown about the bus or onto the ground, landing on your head or back can lead to damage to the spine.
- Broken bones. Victims commonly suffer broken bones in accidents that involve collisions as well as in accidents that involve falls. In accidents where passengers fall while getting on or off the bus typical injuries include broken hands, wrists, or arms.
- Death. Sadly, many motor coach bus accidents result in injuries so severe that the victim passes away.
As an experienced Trailways bus accident lawyer 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. Trailways Transportation System, Inc. will only be legally responsible for an accident if the driver or another Trailways employee or contractor contributed to the accident. For example, in case of the Syracuse Trailways bus accident, Syracuse.com reported that it appears as if the driver of the car was intoxicated, slammed into a barrier, and ended up on the left lane of I-81. Arguably, the Trailways bus driver could not have avoided hitting the car and then the tractor trailer.
However, suppose that the Trailways bus had plenty of time to avoid hitting the car, but failed to. If the result of the accident investigation is that the Trailways bus driver in some way contributed to the accident, then Trailways may share some legal responsibility. If you are involved in a Trailways bus accident or any type of vehicle accident, it is important that you do not make assumptions about what occurred and who was at fault. Pinpointing legal fault can be complex. In determining fault, investigators will review all evidence at the scene and will interview witnesses. If the bus driver received a ticket from the police indicating that the driver violated a traffic law, then that would be strong evidence of fault. On the other hand, if another driver received a ticket, then that person may have been at fault.
In addition, if the evidence points to the driver or another Trailways employee or contractor as responsible for the accident, it is important to pursue the correct entity. Trailways Transportation System, Inc. is made up of several independent bus companies. Pine Hill Trailways, for example, is part of the Trailways network, but is an independent company.
If the accident was caused by a mechanical malfunction, the negligent party may be Trailways as well as the company that serviced the bus, or the company that manufactured the part that malfunctioned.Pursuing Compensation
The November 2014 Syracuse Trailways bus accident resulted in injuries to over 25 passengers. We do not represent Trailways or any of the victims of this bus accident and have no opinion as to who was at fault for this accident. However, there are several types of compensation that victims of vehicle accidents, including bus accidents, may be able to pursue from the negligent parties through personal injury lawsuits. It is important to understand that accident victims will only be awarded damages if their injuries are substantial. A few bumps and bruises will not be enough to sustain a personal injury claim.
Medical expenses. If you are injured in a motor coach accident then you may be able to recover out-of-pocket expenses that you incurred as a result of the accident. Such out-of-pocket expenses include medical bills since you would not have incurred them if you were not injured in the accident. Medical expenses do not only include bills from your doctor. They include the cost of the ambulance ride to the hospital, emergency room fees, all costs associated with your stay at the hospital, doctor's visits, prescriptions, physical therapy, and durable medical equipment such as crutches or a wheelchair.
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 suffer a serious injury in a bus accident you will miss work. You are entitled to compensation for lost wages. This means not only paychecks you missed, but also the value of the vacation or sick days that you had to use. In addition, if because you missed work you did not qualify for a bonus or promotion that you would have otherwise received, you may be able to receive compensation for the value of those missed opportunities. 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.
Pain and suffering. The court may also award you damages based on the physical and mental anguish they experienced due to your injuries and period of recovery. Pain and suffering is 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 if you lose a limb, that will be a factor the court will consider in determining the amount of compensation you should receive for pain and suffering.
Wrongful death. If a member of your family was killed in a bus accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation for medical expenses, your loved one's pain and suffering and lost wages. In addition, compensation may be awarded for loss of consortium. Generally, only a spouse, child or parent would be able to seek damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
While Trailways buses are not inherently dangerous, Trailways buses are on occasion involved in accidents. If you or a family member was injured in a bus accident, you have the right to pursue compensation from the company or individual responsible for the accident. Contact an experienced Trailways 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 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: Suffolk County, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island, Nassau County, Bronx, and Westchester County.