The roadways in New York are often crowded, with all types of vehicles and roadway use in the mix, from vulnerable users such as pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcycles, to massive vehicles, including commercial trucks and buses.
While buses provide an affordable form of transportation for New York residents and visitors, passengers and other roadway users face a risk of severe injuries or even death when bus accidents happen. Here is a look at the types of bus accidents on New York roadways, why they happen, and how, with the help of an experienced bus accident lawyer, you can seek compensation for the financial and psychological impacts if you have been injured in this type of accident.
The Types of Bus Accidents that Occur on New York Roadways
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) the federal agency tasked with regulating the commercial truck and bus industry in the U.S., there are normally more than 200 bus accidents each year.
Most of these accidents involve transit buses, such as those provided by the Metropolitan Transit Authority for commuters and others wishing to travel within a certain city or region. However, dozens of these accidents also involve school buses, intercity buses, and even tour buses or other types of buses used to transport groups of individuals to an area.
Here is a look at the types of bus accidents in New York.
School Bus Accidents
There are an estimated 2.3 million public school students in New York, and many of them get to and from school by riding a bus. The New York State Education Department reports around 50,000 school buses statewide. These buses are often in operation at the busiest times of the day in terms of traffic: the morning, when the roadway is also filled with those commuting to work, and the afternoon, at roughly the same time workers return home.
The National Safety Council reports that except for 2020 when schools were closed due to pandemic restrictions more than 100 people are killed yearly due to school bus accidents. These accidents also generally result in more than 12,000 injuries annually. A third of the injuries incurred in school bus accidents involve school bus passengers. At the same time, 8 percent are the bus drivers, and 54 percent of the injured parties are occupants of other vehicles.
Accidents Involving Metropolitan Transit Authority Buses
The Metropolitan Transit Authority Bus Company is the 11th largest provider of regional bus service in the U.S., with a fleet of more than 1,300 buses and routes throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens boroughs. Each weekday, around 388,000 rides are given along the 812 bus route miles of the MTA’s scheduled routes.
Unfortunately, thousands of accidents involving MTA buses occur annually on New York roadways. Many of these accidents did not involve another vehicle, and many did not result in injuries. However, several issues have been linked to MTA bus accidents over the years, including antiquated bus routes that feature stops in dangerous, high-traffic areas; a lack of designated bus lanes that would prevent bus drivers from having to weave in and out of traffic or maneuver around double-parked vehicles; and buses in proximity to pedestrians who can be struck and even dragged by the bus without the driver even realizing it.
Intercity bus services involve carriers who transport passengers via bus to another region or even another state. Perhaps the most recognizable commercial intercity bus carrier is Greyhound, which has a fleet of about 1,700 vehicles and transports around 16 million passengers a year.
There are more than a dozen intercity bus crashes in the U.S. annually. While this number has declined in recent years, it is sobering to think about serious accidents involving a vehicle carrying up to 56 people and the number of injuries, expenses, and impacts passengers and their families suffered when intercity bush crashes occur.
There are historic landmarks and one-of-a-kind features throughout New York that bring tourists in by droves. Or, more accurately, in by the busload. Another type of bus often seen on New York roadways is a tour bus. These buses are offered by commercial companies, churches, and other organizations. The hop-in-hop-off structure of many of these bus tours poses extreme hazards on congested roadways featuring many different vehicle types and only a small bit of space for each vehicle to maneuver.
Bus drivers often have a vehicle full of people. Likely, some of those people are not in their seats but instead are talking to the bus driver, arguing amongst themselves, or exhibiting other types of behavior that draw the driver’s attention from the conditions of the roadway.
Bus drivers spend long shifts staring out a window and concentrating on driving. This can lead to fatigue near the end of the shift, which can result in lapses in the driver’s attention and focus, similar to alcohol impairment.
Failure to Yield
All vehicles are required to yield to other roadway users at certain times, particularly at red lights, stop signs, and crosswalks. When a bus driver fails to yield the right-of-way, it can be deadly for the occupants of other vehicles, resulting in a broadside accident in the intersection or a collision with a bicyclist or pedestrian.
Other Common Driving Errors
The one common factor in nearly all traffic accidents is human error. Bus drivers are prone to making the same human errors as other drivers, such as driving too fast for the conditions of the road, failing to ensure a travel lane is clear before merging into it, and following other vehicles too closely.
Premises Liability on the Bus and at the Bus Station or Stop
Bus drivers are required to comply with an increased number of federal and state regulations because they’re transporting members of the public and using a large, hard-to-maneuver vehicle to do so. However, bus carriers also have a duty to ensure that their passengers are reasonably safe from hazards on the bus or at the bus station or stop. This includes preventing slip and fall accidents resulting from cluttered bus aisles and requiring that the bus driver does not drop a passenger off in an unsafe area.
Who Is Liable for Injuries Incurred in Bus Accidents?
There are many ways a bus accident occurs, and liability depends on the type of bus and the case facts.
The following parties can be potentially liable for a bus accident:
- The bus carrier is tasked with employing the driver, ensuring that they’re qualified for the position and that the bus is insured and maintained. The bus carrier would be liable if the bus driver caused an accident that resulted in someone becoming injured.
- The drivers of other cars, if the accident resulted from another roadway user’s careless or reckless actions.
- The manufacturer of parts used on the bus or other vehicles involved in the accident.
How to Seek Compensation after a Bus Accident
When a bus accident occurs, resulting in a passenger’s injuries, the occupant of another vehicle, or a bicyclist or pedestrian, the injured party can seek compensation for their injury through New York’s personal injury claims process.
For minor injuries, claimants usually can seek compensation through the personal injury protection policy they purchased when they registered their vehicle in the state. This policy provides coverage of medical expenses and a portion of the injured party’s wage loss.
If the costs of the claimant’s injuries exceed the limit of their policy or they meet the state’s serious injury threshold, they can file a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance policy.
New York’s serious injury threshold includes injuries that result in:
- Substantial disfigurement
- Loss of a fetus
- Permanent loss of the use of a body organ, member, function, or system
- Permanent consequential limitation of a body organ or member
- A significant limitation of a body function or system
Suppose a claim is submitted to the liable party’s insurance provider and that provider fails to pay it outright or enters into a settlement agreement where the claimant receives compensation. In that case, the claim can be filed as a personal injury lawsuit. The lawsuit is a legal request for a judge or jury to hear the case and decide matters of liability and compensation.
To have the right to use the court process to obtain compensation for their injury, New York bus accident claimants must file their lawsuit within the state’s personal injury statute of limitations, which is three years from the date of the injury in most cases.
The Type of Compensation You Can Receive for a New York Bus Accident
New York bus accident claimants can seek compensation for the financial costs of their injury, such as medical expenses, wage loss, loss of earning capacity, and property damage, such as the repair or replacement of the vehicle they were driving when the accident occurred. Claimants can also seek compensation for the psychological costs of their injury, such as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of the enjoyment of life.
Do You Need an Attorney to File a Bus Accident Claim?
While the claims process features no requirement that a claimant hires an experienced personal injury attorney to assist them with their claim, having one is vital to obtaining the compensation you need. The insurance companies for liable parties generally do not want to pay out on claims and will look for ways to pay as little as possible.
The court process can be confusing, and the evidence and documentation needed to prove the claim can be difficult to gather. An attorney and their legal team can assist with all of these aspects of your claim and also provide you with the guidance and information to make important decisions about your case.
If the cost of an attorney is something that is causing you to avoid hiring one, rest assured. Anyone who needs our assistance can afford us due to our contingent fee billing method. The contingent fee means you do not have to pay any money upfront for our team to begin working on your claim. You also do not have to worry about being billed for our services while your claim is active. Instead, you only have to pay us when there is a positive resolution to your claim.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.