Articles Posted in Bus Accidents

Earlier this month, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a case filed against a government that elucidates one issue of sovereign immunity that is not often seen in personal injury cases. In the case, Moreno v. City of Gering, the court only had to determine the amount of damages that was appropriate because the City of Gering admitted liability for the accident.

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The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, Moreno, was riding as a passenger on a county bus when it was struck by a van that was being operated by a volunteer from the city’s fire department. The impact from the collision resulted in Moreno being ejected from the bus, and she landed on the pavement nearby.

Moreno had suffered from back pain in the past, and according to her, the accident aggravated that pain. After her injury, Moreno consulted with a physician, who recommended that she receive surgery to help correct the aggravation of the pre-existing condition caused by the accident. She had the surgery performed.

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Earlier this month in Seattle, a collision between an amphibious tour vehicle and a charter bus resulted in four fatalities and several injuries. According to one local news source, the Fire Chief reported that in addition to the four who were killed, 12 people were in area hospitals in critical condition as a result of the accident.

vintage-bus-01-1459344Evidently, the accident took place on the Aurora Avenue Bridge, which is a main north-south artery through Seattle. The bridge has three lanes in each direction, with no median separating the directions of travel. While investigators are conducting an investigation into the accident, it is not clear at this time how the accident was caused, or which of the drivers may be at fault. However, there has been some concern expressed over the safety of the military-style amphibious tour vehicle that was in the accident.

To increase the danger and potential for harm, the amphibious vehicle was being operated by a tour company known for excited and flamboyant drivers who would speak to their passengers over megaphones as they toured the city. This concept, some argue, invites distracted driving and other dangerous driving behaviors.

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Earlier this week, the family members of a woman who died while riding on the DC Metro filed a lawsuit against Metro Transit Agency, seeking $50 million for their loss. Back on January 12, there was an unusual accident on the DC Metro near the L’Enfant Plaza stop when a train suddenly came to a halt and then filled with smoke.

subway-station-in-munich-1414233-mAccording to one local news report, some of the occupants on the train were trapped in the smoke-filled cabin for 45 minutes before emergency responders were on the scene. The deceased woman, whose family recently filed suit, was one of those passengers.

Evidently, the lawsuit claims that the ventilation fans in the subway tunnel did not work properly and that the accident was “completely foreseeable” given their state of repair.

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Generally, a personal injury plaintiff must prove four elements to prevail in a negligence claim: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. However, in some cases, plaintiffs can take a “short cut” under the legal theory of “negligence per se.” Negligence per se is a Latin term that means negligence in and of itself. Under Washington D.C. law, negligence per se is applicable “where a particular statutory or regulatory standard is enacted to … prevent the type of accident that occurred.” Further, an “unexplained violation of that standard renders the defendant negligent as a matter of law.”
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This means that the plaintiff must prove only that the statute was designed to protect against the type of harm caused in the accident, and that the defendant was the person or entity that engaged in the conduct. Therefore, when the facts of the case allow it, a plaintiff will almost always want to instruct the jury on negligence per se because it makes the plaintiff’s burden that much easier to meet.

For that reason, when a court erroneous instructs a jury on negligence per se, the defendant may have an issue on appeal because of the harm caused by the instruction. However, a recent D.C. Court of Appeals case held that an improper negligence per se instruction can be “redundant” rather than harmful in some cases, and does not always require reversal.

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Our Washington DC personal injury law firm represents children and adults injured in motor vehicle crashes. Unfortunately, DC school bus accidents can be a cause of serious injury to kids—especially because there is no law requiring that these large vehicles be outfitted with seat belts. This means that during a school bus collision, kids on a bus don’t have anything to keep them securely tethered to their seats. As a result, head injuries, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, and other debilitating injuries are more likely to occur during a crash.

The NHTSA has just turned down a petition calling for a federal law requiring that all school buses come with seat belts. The National Coalition for School Bus Safety and the Center for Auto Safety were the leaders of the petition.

According to the Washington Post, In the Federal Register NHTSA said it considered big school buses among some of the safest vehicles in the country. Their fatality rate is six times less than that of passenger cars. NHTSA also said that of the approximately 19 school kids who die annually in bus crashes, 14 are killed in school bus loading zones—compared to the five that die while on the bus. The federal agency argued that since fatalities in a school bus usually will have occurred because of impact with an object or another auto, seat belts would likely not prevent this. Cost, decrease in the number of passengers, and smaller fleets were also cited as a factor for why mandating seat belts on large school buses did not make sense.

School bus safety coalition member Arthur Yeager, however, noted that it was “hypocrisy” for NHTSA to push for seat belts in almost all other vehicles under their control but not for school buses. (Smaller school buses weighing less than 10K are required to have shoulder-lap belts for their seats.)

Regardless of whether or not a school bus is equipped with seat belts, depending on who caused the crash and the severity of your child’s injuries, you may have reason to seek damages from the school bus operator, the school, the bus manufacturer, the district, the motorist of another car that was involved, and/or the entity in charge of maintaining the road or traffic signals where the accident happened.

Feds reject request to require seat belts on school buses, Washington Post, August 25, 2011
NHTSA Turns Down Petition for Lap/Shoulder Belt Requirement on Large School Buses, School Transportation News, August 25, 2011
Related Web Resources:

Read the petition for rulemaking (PDF)

The Federal Register

Center for Auto Safety

National Coalition for School Bus Safety


More Blog Posts:

Preventing the Non-Crash Auto Deaths of Kids, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 26, 201
Tour Bus From Washington DC Involved in Deadly Crash May Have Been Derailed by Tire Blowout, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 18, 2011
Frederick County, School Bus Crash Involving Injuries Went Unreported, Say Maryland State Police, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 28, 2010

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While motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of child fatalities, our Washington DC personal injury lawyers want to warn you of other auto vehicle-related dangers that could put a kid at serious risk. Here are a few of these safety hazards, as identified by the National Highway Safety Administration:

Backover accidents: This usually involves a vehicle backing out of a driveway or parking lot and the driver not realizing that there is a child behind the auto. Backover accidents can prove fatal. Because the vehicle is being operated in reverse, the motorist must take extra precautions to check all viewing mirrors, footage from the backup camera, and perhaps even physically look back to make sure there is no one there.

Power windows: Power windows can entrap a young child’s hands, fingers, feet, neck, or head. It is important to make sure that power window switches have been locked. Otherwise, a child can accidentally activate the switch.

Police are saying that a tire blowout may have caused the deadly tour bus crash on I-390 that killed two people and injured several others—leaving at least three of them with severe injuries—on Sunday. The bus, which had left Washington DC, was headed to Niagara Falls. As of midday Monday, media sources were reporting that 20 people remain hospitalized. Injuries include internal injuries, fractures, and head wounds, which are consistent with injuries from a bus accident.

The bus driver reportedly lost control of the bus at around 4pm in the Avoca area. The vehicle left the road before going down an incline and tipping over in a wooded area.

Today, at a news conference, New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said that driver fatigue and alcohol are not likely factors in the crash. Also, in addition to the driver’s log being “proper” the front tires on the bus had just been replaced with new ones in the last couple of months. It was one of these tires that appears to have blown out.

The two passengers that died, Shail Khanna, 66, and Sakina Kiazar, 52, and the 34 other passengers on the bus were with tour group from India. The two women were seated behind the driver’s seat, which was the only seat on the bus with a safety belt. Tour buses do not have to have seat belts for passengers.

According to state Department of Transportation staff, the bus passed its last inspection on June 28 and has a good safety record. Bedore Tours was given a “satisfactory” (which is the top) rating by federal inspectors last year.

Tire Blowouts

Tire blowouts can prove fatal—especially if they cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle. A tire manufacturer can be held liable if its tire’s defects caused a DC traffic crash that resulted in injuries or deaths. If it was the driver who failed to replace or properly maintain the tires or a repair company that didn’t correctly check to make sure that a tire was in proper driving condition, either party could also be held liable.

In an accident such as the one discussed here, other possible liable parties—defending on the evidence found—might also include the tour operator, the tour bus driver, or the bus company owner.

Trip normal till tire blew out, Rochester bus driver says after I-390 crash, Democrat and Chronicle, July 18, 2011
Tour bus from D.C. crashes in N.Y.; 2 dead, The Washington Post, July 17, 2011
Related Web Resources:

Bedore Tours

SaferCar.gov


More Blog Posts:

Frederick County, School Bus Crash Involving Injuries Went Unreported, Say Maryland State Police, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 28, 2010
Baltimore Personal Injury News: Six Hurt in Montgomery County Car-School Bus Accident on I-270, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, June 3, 2011
Maryland Traffic Injury News: Car Hits City Bus in Baltimore County; 12 Passengers Hurt in Crash, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, May 28, 2011

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According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, up to 25% of motor vehicle accidents in this country occur because motorists were distracted driving and more often than not using cell phones and other handheld devices. The GHSA’s report, which was released last week, is called “Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do.”

As our Washington DC personal injury law firm has reported in past blogs, distracted driving is very dangerous and can dramatically increase the chances of injuries or deaths. It also can be grounds for a DC car crash lawsuit against the driver. Other findings from the study:

• Some drivers are distracted as much as 50% of the time they are on the road.
• Texting while driving, which is both a manual and visual distraction, is even more dangerous than talking on a phone.

• Examples of other common types of distracted driving behavior include talking to other passengers, looking for tapes or CD’s, switching radio stations, drinking, eating, reading directions or a map, reading books or newspapers, dealing with kids or pets, shaving, putting on makeup, shuffling through an iPod, and reading your GPS.

Many people don’t realize that distracted driving impairs their ability to drive safely. This does not change the fact that this behavior can result in very deadly consequences.

Should other parties aside from a distracted driver be held liable for DC personal injury or wrongful death? A couple of years ago, one woman sued Nextel, Samsung, and Sprint for her mother’s distracted driving death. The plaintiff claimed products liability because the three companies allegedly failed to warn the driver that using a cell phone wile driving is a safety hazard. Samsung countered that it did include safety warnings on its websites and packaging and in its user manuals and advertising.

Report: Gadgets Linked To 25 Percent Of Car Accidents, AutoGuide, July 13, 2011

Read the GHSA’s Distracted Driving Report

Related Web Resources:
Distracted Driving, US Department of Motor Vehicles
Cell Phone and Texting Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association
More Blog Posts:
US DOT Holds Second Annual Distracted Driving Summit in Washington DC, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 22, 2010
Preventing Maryland Car Crashes: State Senate Approves Ban on Reading Text Messages While Driving, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 9, 2011
Maryland Lawmakers Want Texting While Driving Ban to Block Drivers From Reading Messages, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 20, 2010

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According to the Washington Post, one of the reasons that more red-light cameras are being installed in the Washington region is that per a new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study, between 2004 and 2008 they helped the number of DC traffic deaths at intersections go down by 26%.

Red-light cameras catch drivers crossing intersections when the light is red by taking a picture of them committing the act. Although some people have complained that the cameras are a tool for raising revenue—these cameras generated $7.2 million in revenue in 2000, under $5 million in 2005, and $7.2 million in D.C. in 2009— stopping people from driving across the street when the light is red can save lives. D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier told the Washington Post changing driver behavior is the goal. She says that traffic deaths in the District went down 50% in four years.

DC Car Crashes

According to a survey conducted last year by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, although 93% of drivers reported that they believe that if a motorist can stop safely to obey a red light then it isn’t acceptable to run one, 1/3rd of them admitted that they had done just that in the past 30 days. Regardless of whether or not you approve of red-light cameras, it is important to point out that running a red light at an intersection can prove catastrophic should a Washington DC auto accident occur.

Some reasons why people run red lights:
• Speeding
• Distracted driving
• Drunk driving
• Drugged driving

None of these reasons are good enough reasons to get involved in a DC car crash. Not only can injuries or deaths result but the negligent driver could end up in jail.

Use of red-light cameras in Washington area increases, Washington Post, February 23, 2011
Q&As: Red light cameras, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Related Web Resources:

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

District Department of Transportation

More Blog Posts:
Baltimore Automobile Accident News: Kent Island Father and Young Son Die in Rte 50 Car Crash, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, February 22, 2011
Baltimore Car Injury News: Reckless Driving Suspected Injury Accident in Anne Arundel County, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, February 20, 2011
Baltimore Car Accident News: Maryland Woman Dies; Other Injured in Charles County Traffic Collision, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, February 18, 2011

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The District intends to install more traffic cameras at street intersections. The main purpose of these new portable cameras is to catch motorists committing traffic offenses, such as failing to come to a full stop and not yielding to pedestrians. The cameras will be placed in areas where there is proven need for greater enforcement and control. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says the cameras will be put in place “within the next year.”

Intersections are a common site for traffic crashes. With vehicles approaching from opposite directions, pedestrians crossing the street, and people attempting to make left and right turns, the fact that the risk of collision goes up is no surprise.

Our DC personal injury law firm hopes that with additional cameras set up, more people will be discouraged from committing traffic violations that can lead to Washington DC car accidents. The knowledge that one can get caught on camera running a red light or not coming to a full halt at a stop sign, or turning left even when the left turn arrow is red will hopefully prevent such “minor” offenses, which are, in fact, among the most common causes of serious injuries and deaths at intersections.

How to Avoid Becoming Involved in an Intersection Accident:
• Pay Attention
• Don’t drive while distracted
• Be ready to stop or slow down even if there is no “Stop” sign or traffic light
• Yield to the pedestrian that is already crossing the street or the vehicle that is already moving through the intersection even if you technically have the right of way
• Always look in all directions before driving across the street or turning
• Obey traffic rules
D.C. to Add More Traffic Cameras, Government Video, February 7, 2011
Red-light cameras save lives, study says, Washington Post, February 1, 2011
Related Web Resources:

DC Department of Transportation

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

More Auto Accident Posts:
Washington DC Car Accident Involving Metro Bus Causes Injuries, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 6, 2010
Baltimore Injury Accident News: Alcohol Blamed in Fatal I-70 Car Crash that Killed Montgomery County Woman, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, February 6, 2011
Maryland Bicycle Injury News: Family Settles Wrongful Death Suit following Fatal Baltimore Cycling Accident, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, December 24, 2010

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