The bus driver and several passengers were seriously injured when a Megabus collided with a Ford F-150 on the New Jersey Turnpike.
New Jersey State Police stated that the double-decker bus, with a driver and 22 passengers, was heading from 34th Street in New York City to Philadelphia when it collided with a Ford F-150 pickup truck on the southbound entrance ramp to the Thomas Edison Service Area in Woodbridge Township. Emergency responders had to use the Jaws of Life to extricate several victims, including the 55-year-old driver, from the wreckage.
One person died at the scene. Another person was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Building Blocks of a Negligence Case
Driver error, generally driver impairment or aggressive driving, causes about 98 percent of the vehicle collisions in New York. Occasionally, these incidents are wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time accidents. Much more frequently, a New York personal injury attorney can establish negligence and obtain compensation for victims.
The compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. The basic elements of a negligence case are as follows.
Legal responsibility in a noncommercial crash case is usually straightforward. The duty of reasonable care, which most noncommercial drivers have, is based on the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) which New York children once learned in school. Duty in a bus crash case is more complex, mostly because these operators wear two hats, from a legal standpoint.
Commercial operators not only have a duty to drive carefully. They also have a duty to protect onboard passenger safety. This responsibility includes a duty to keep the aisle clear of wet spots and other fall hazards as well as a duty to break up fights among passengers before they become violent.
This same dual duty extends to other commercial operators, such as Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and school bus drivers.
A breach of duty is more than a mistake. INstead, a breach of duty is a lack of care. The two aforementioned car crash causes, aggressive driving and impaired driving, could both be breaches of duty.
First, let’s look at aggressive driving. Assume Jane is speeding 5mph over the limit when she collides with David. Jane’s velocity might be fast enough to merit a ticket, but it probably wasn’t fast enough to meaningfully contribute to the crash. If Jane was speeding 25mph over the limit, that’s obviously different.
Second, let’s look at distracted driving, which is a form of impaired driving. If Jane takes her eyes off the road and her hand off the wheel to adjust the air conditioner, and as a result she doesn’t see David crossing the street, her distraction probably didn’t substantially contribute to the wreck. If Jane was talking to someone on speakerphone at the time of the wreck, that’s different.
In terms of onboard safety, breach of duty is related to knowledge of the hazard. If a New York personal injury attorney uncovers a smoking gun, like a report of water on the bathroom floor, there’s direct evidence of actual knowledge.
Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) usually involves the time-notice rule. The longer the surface was unsafe, the more likely it is that the bus driver should have made it safer.
This next element is divided into two sub-elements: factual causation, or but-for cause, and legal causation, or foreseeability.
But-for causation basically means the crash wouldn’t have happened “but for” the tortfeasor’s (negligent party’s) lack of care. A New York personal injury attorney must establish cause by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a little proof goes a long way.
Foreseeability is basically possibility. If Jane hits David and the doctor makes a medical mistake during surgery, that injury isn’t foreseeable, as far as Jane is concerned. David may be entitled to compensation for that surgical error, but a lawyer must file a separate legal action against the doctor.
In New York, the car crash or other incident must cause tangible damages that money can compensate for.
There’s a difference between a visible injury and a tangible injury. Emotional distress is a tangible injury. Medically, stress usually creates a chemical imbalance in the brain. Sometimes, the effect is temporary and transient, as is the case with accident-related emotional distress. Other times, the effect is more lasting and widespread, as is the case with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In either situation, money doesn’t fully compensate for the injury. No one can put a price tag on something like emotional well-being. However, victims need compensation to pay accident-related medical bills. It makes no sense that they should have to pay these bills out of their own pockets. Furthermore, although money doesn’t completely make up for the injury, quite frankly, money helps.
Resolving Your Negligence Case
Attorneys start negligence cases by gathering evidence and applying the proper legal principles to this evidence. It’s critical to get a case started on the right foot. However, as we all know, starting well doesn’t mean much unless you also end well.
Very few personal injury case endings involve trials. Sometimes, people need the closure a trial brings or the two sides are so far apart they cannot agree on a resolution. Usually, however, trials only benefit insurance defense lawyers, many of whom charge more than $1,000 an hour.
Nobody likes it when the lawyer wins the day and gets the girl. Well, nobody except the lawyers. Therefore, most civil cases, including most personal injury cases, settle out of court.
Negligence settlement negotiations usually begin once medical treatment is at least substantially complete. If the case settles before this point, the settlement amount might not cover all future medical expenses. This means that victims must pay these expenses out of their own pockets.
If informal negotiations stall or break down, the judge usually appoints a mediator. During a semi-formal mediation session, which usually lasts a full day, the mediator listens to each side’s opening argument. Then, the mediator moves back and forth between the two sides, helping them find common ground. During these sessions, each side has a legal duty to negotiate in good faith. Largely because of this added responsibility, mediation is about 90 percent successful.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact the Pianko Law Group, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.