Articles Posted in Bus Accidents

The danger of not wearing your seatbelt is compounded when a bus or other large vehicle is involved in the crash. That goes for people in the bus as well as other vehicles on the road. Large commercial or passenger vehicles like buses are on the road to transport many passengers or heavy items over extended distances.

Why Are Busses So Dangerous?

Buses can become difficult to maneuver in emergency situations, preventing bus drivers from turning or stopping suddenly due to the weight of their vehicles and passengers. Even without many passengers or large trailers, buses are heavy, making accidents involving them inherently dangerous. Additionally, bus drivers can be under high amounts of pressure to spend long hours on the road, needing to meet transportation deadlines. This can lead to exhaustion and impaired judgment while they drive, especially towards the end of their routes. Tired drivers are more likely to make mistakes when driving, increasing the likelihood of accidents. A recent news article discussed a serious bus accident.

According to the news article, a car driver tried to turn left onto Laurel Bush Road and into the path of an oncoming passenger mini-bus, resulting in a crash. The accident occurred early in the morning on Monday, September 11, around 8:30 a.m. The mini-bus was a Kensington KinderCare bus transporting the children on the way to their elementary school when the crash occurred. Eleven children and an adult were taken to the hospital as a result of the crash.

Many people rely on public transportation to get around Washington, D.C., from getting to and from work, to visiting friends, stores, or museums. Public transportation is a great alternative to driving personal vehicles, as it is better for the environment and often more cost-effective. It can also help to reduce traffic, a common problem around the busy areas of Washington, D.C. While there are many benefits to riding public transportation, it is important to remember that Washington D.C. accidents can still happen when riding the bus or the subway. Like any form of transportation, there are always some risks involved, and accidents may occur, causing injuries or even death.

For example, just last week, there was an accident in Washington, D.C., involving a Metrobus and a car. According to a local news report covering the incident, the head-on collision occurred around midnight one night near Minnesota Avenue Northeast and Benning Road Northeast. A preliminary investigation revealed that the bus and the car, a Nissan Altima, were traveling in the opposite direction on Benning Road Northeast when the bus began making a left turn onto Minnesota Avenue Northeast. The Nissan Altima is reported to have swerved into the left lane and struck the bus head-on. The driver of the Nissan, a 24-year-old man, was taken to a local hospital where he later died. Two passengers in the Nissan were also taken to the hospital, but with non-life-threatening injuries. Officers who responded to the scene also reported that seven of the bus’s passengers were injured, although they were also non-life-threatening injuries. It is unclear what caused the Nissan to swerve, and the accident remains under investigation.

How Can Bus Accident Victims Obtain Money Damages to Cover Medical Expenses?

After accidents like these, Washington, D.C. residents may be able to recover through a personal injury lawsuit. But potential plaintiffs may have many questions about how to file one of these suits. For instance, who should the plaintiff even sue—who was legally responsible for the accident? And what is the first step of the process? What does the plaintiff need to prove to be successful, and what may they be able to recover? Questions like these can be complicated, and their answers can raise even more questions. That is why many Washington, D.C. plaintiffs who are injured in accidents decide to work with a personal injury attorney when filing their lawsuits. While an attorney is not strictly required, having someone to answer questions and handle the complicated requirements can relieve a lot of pressure and stress. An attorney can also increase an accident victim’s overall chance of success.

Last month, we discussed a tragic Washington, D.C. bus accident that claimed the lives of two women who were visiting the nation’s capital from Alaska. Evidently, the women were struck by a private tour bus that was heading northbound on 7th Street, attempting to make a left hand turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue. At the time of the collision, the women were in the crosswalk and had the right-of-way.

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, the cause of the crash seemed to be a mystery. The driver told police that he did not see the women in the road. Police noted that the weather was clear, the bus was in good working order, and the bus driver tested negative for drugs and alcohol. It was also determined that the bus had no passengers on it at the time, and the driver had never been issued a traffic citation.

However, according to a recent news report, video surveillance taken from inside the bus was released, showing that the driver of the tour bus was using a handheld phone at the time of the accident. Apparently, the driver was talking on the phone moments before the crash. The driver put the phone down as he approached the intersection, but then picked the phone back up moments later when it rang. The driver could evidently be seen switching the phone from one hand to his other as he was turning on to Pennsylvania Avenue. Reportedly, the collision can be heard on the surveillance video. The bus driver was arrested and charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

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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.

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.

Evidently, 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.

According 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.”

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

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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