New York Bus Accident Attorney

bus accident attorneyBus accidents, whether they occur in the city or on the nation’s highways, have the potential to cause catastrophic injuries and even fatalities. Buses often do not have the individual safety features that are available in passenger vehicles. Most buses are not equipped with seat belts or airbags to cushion occupants (other than the driver) and prevent blunt force trauma. During a collision, this may result in passengers being ejected – sometimes even from the vehicle, leaving them exposed to greater danger on the roadway. Bus passengers suffer significant injuries when they are tossed inside the vehicle in the event of a crash.

The New York City bus accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm have more than four decades of experience protecting the rights of seriously injured victims and families that have lost loved ones. We pursue compensation on behalf of injured clients and ensure that they are fairly and fully compensated for their losses. If you or a loved one has been injured in a bus accident, it is critical that you gain a thorough understanding of your legal rights and options.

Bus Accident Statistics

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates tour bus and commercial carrier accidents, nationwide, more than 700 million people – nearly the entire population of Europe – are transported by buses annually. In 2009 alone, more than 250 people were killed and 20,000 were injured in bus crashes. From 2000 to 2007, there were 1,093 fatal bus accidents in the United States resulting in 1,315 deaths and 3,471 injuries. These fatality numbers include pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles involved in accidents with buses. Researchers note that buses and other commercial motor vehicles have a higher likelihood of fatal accident involvement per registered vehicle.

Bus Accidents Caused by Negligence

A majority of bus accidents are caused by some type of negligence on the part of the bus driver or the company that owns and/or operates the bus. Here are some of the most common causes of bus accidents:

Drowsy or fatigued driving: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which oversees commercial carriers, has established hours-of-service regulations for commercial operators including bus drivers. A bus company is responsible for making sure that all its drivers maintain accurate logs of when they started their shift and whether they got the required amount of rest. Tired and sleepy bus drivers put their passengers and others on the roadway in grave danger. When a driver is tired or sleepy, he is more likely to make mistakes such as failing to check blind spots or driving too fast for the existing road and weather conditions.

Distracted Driving: Another dangerous form of inattention that causes bus accidents is distracted driving. When a bus driver is texting while driving, eating, using the navigation device or talking on a cellphone, the consequences can be devastating. Cell phone companies do keep activity records, but only for a limited period or time. So, it is crucial that such evidence be obtained right away, especially if driver distraction was a factor in a bus accident.

Impaired Driving: Most state laws prohibit commercial drivers from operating with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 percent or higher. That legal limit is 0.08 percent for drivers of non-commercial vehicles. Bus drivers are held to a higher standard when being tested for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Bus companies are responsible for carrying out random, unannounced alcohol and drug tests on their drivers as well as conducting thorough criminal and other background checks prior to hiring them.

Faulty Equipment: One of the more common causes of bus accidents is also one that is highly preventable. Often, bus companies fail to inspect their buses for mechanical problems or fail to fix buses that have faulty or malfunctioning parts such as tires and brakes. Bus companies have been known to cut such corners and avoid or delay bearing the expenses. As a result, buses are rushed through safety checks and repairs are postponed so as to not have the bus taken out of service. Federal regulations require that buses be properly maintained and serviced. It is the responsibility of the bus company to ensure that the vehicle is in good condition.

Reckless or Aggressive Driving: Thousands of traffic accidents each year are caused by bus drivers who fail to follow the rules of the road or observe the speed limit. Improper speed doesn’t only refer to the times drivers exceed the speed limit, but also to when bus drivers operate at speeds that are dangerous given the traffic, roadway and weather conditions. Buses are equipped with event data recorders also known as “black boxes,” which store valuable data including the speed of the bus at the time of the crash.

Bus Accident Injuries

Bus accident victims typically get more seriously injured than passengers of other vehicles such as cars or SUVs. Because of the size and weight of a bus and the lack of safety devices such as airbags and seatbelts, bus passengers are tossed around when a collision or rollover occurs. In rollover crashes, bus passengers are often ejected. As a result, they suffer permanent or even fatal injuries. Since they are not buckled up, bus passengers are thrown from their seats and are slammed against other seats, walls or windows. So, they tend to suffer blunt force trauma.

The physical injuries sustained in a bus crash include, but are not limited to, head injuries, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, spinal cord trauma, torn ligaments and tendons, amputations, cuts, bruises, etc. Bus accident victims may also become permanently scarred or disfigured as a result of burn injuries. Often, victims require multiple surgeries. Burn victims may require costly and painful skin graft surgeries.

Bus crash victims may suffer emotionally and psychologically. While these types of injuries are less apparent than physical wounds and scars, they can be just as difficult to cope with and the psychological effects of a traumatic bus accident can last a very long time. Affected victims may become depressed by the fact that they cannot return to life as they knew it.

For example, an individual who has suffered multiple fractures may need months of rehabilitative treatment and therapy before being able to resume normal life and return to work. Others may never be able to rejoin the workforce or earn a livelihood because they have been catastrophically injured. Victims and their families feel the financial and emotional stress in the aftermath of a bus accident.

What to Do after a Bus Accident

First and foremost, make sure that you and your loved ones get immediate medical attention. When a bus accident occurs, emergency responders will be called. Do not decline medical attention at the scene. Go to the emergency room if you are injured. Insist on a complete medical evaluation for all types of injuries. As soon as possible, contact an experienced New York personal injury lawyer who has successfully handled bus accident cases. There are a number of regulations that are specific to common carriers such as bus companies and transit authorities. Experienced bus accident lawyers will be able to determine how they apply to your particular case.

If possible, gather as much physical evidence from the scene as possible. If you are unable to do this because of your injuries, have a friend or family member do it for you. Take photos of the vehicle, the damage, the traffic conditions, the seat where you were sitting and injuries suffered. Obtain contact information from others on the bus and anyone who may have witnessed the accident. Save your bus ticket. If there is someone writing down an accident report, make sure you get your name in the report. Obtain a copy of the report. Do not talk to insurance companies, defense lawyers or any other parties before speaking with your own personal injury lawyer first.

Who Can Be Held Responsible?

There are many potential causes for a bus accident. So, the question of who is responsible for the crash and the injuries really depends on the circumstances of the incident. Where it can get complicated is when it comes to identifying all responsible parties. Some of the individuals and entities that may be held liable in a bus crash case include:

Bus operators: Depending on what caused the bus accident, the bus company can be held responsible. For example, when the bus company fails to properly inspect vehicles for defects and malfunctions, hires unqualified or inexperienced drivers, or fails to properly supervise its employees, then, it can be held liable for the resulting injuries and damages. The company may also be held liable for passenger injuries or fatalities if its failure to enforce safety procedures caused or contributed to the accident.

Governmental entities: Local governments such as cities or counties may be held liable when a bus operated by a transit authority is involved in an accident. For example, if a bus driver is reckless or negligent, both the driver and his or her employer may be held liable.

School districts and boards of trustees: When a school bus accident occurs due to negligence on the part of the driver or the entity operating the school bus, the school district and the school board that is charged with making decisions relating to school bus operations may be held accountable.

Bus driver: As we well know, driver negligence or inattention often leads to accidents. If a bus driver ignores traffic control devices, falls asleep at the wheel or drives while impaired or distracted, then, he or she may be found negligent. Bus drivers, in addition to possibly facing criminal charges or losing their commercial license, may be held civilly liable for the injuries and damages sustained by passengers. Companies employing the bus driver and the insurance companies that cover them would typically be held financially responsible for bus crash damages.

Other drivers: Drivers of other vehicles who cause collisions with buses may also be held liable. If that driver was on the job at the time of the crash, his or her employer can also be held accountable.

Product manufacturers: When defective auto parts cause a bus crash, the manufacturer of the bus or the faulty parts can be held liable. In such cases, victims can file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturers.

Bus maintenance companies: Sometimes, bus operators or bus companies contract with other firms to carry out maintenance work on their fleet. When these companies fail to properly do their jobs, a mechanical malfunction caused by poor vehicle maintenance may result and lead to an accident.

What is Your Claim Worth?

The amount of damages to which you are entitled largely depends on the types of losses you sustained. If you suffered major or catastrophic injuries, your claim will be worth a lot more than if your injuries were not significant. Injured bus accident victims can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, lost earning capacity, cost of long-term treatment and care, rehabilitation costs, permanent injury, disability, past and future pain and suffering, etc. An experienced New York personal injury lawyer will be able to factor in damages such as lost future income, loss of livelihood and loss of life’s enjoyment, which are often challenging to calculate. Also, the ability to prove who or what entity caused the accident is very important.

Compensation for Injured Victims

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a bus accident or if you have lost a loved one in a bus accident, the experienced New York bus accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case. We have recovered many millions of dollars for victims of motor vehicle accidents.

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