Tour Bus Wreck in PA Kills and Injures 60+ People
January 8, 2020 | Napoli Shkolnik News
Overall, the overnight wreck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike killed five people and seriously injured sixty others.
According to investigators, the Z&D Tours bus rolled downhill and careened off an embankment prior to overturning.
Two large trucks then collided with the wrecked bus. Investigators ruled out icy conditions as a cause, but they still do not know what triggered the crash.
Forbes Hospital President Mark Rubino said the facility treated victims for both physical and psychological injuries.
“The people coming in were not only physically injured, but they were traumatized from a mental standpoint as well,” he explained.
Lawsuit Location in Tour Bus Wreck Claims
Venue is the legal term for the place where an attorney files a legal claim. Generally, venue is proper in the county where:
- The accident occurred, or
- The victim/plaintiff resides.
In many vehicle collision claims, venue is irrelevant.
Most accidents occur close to the victim/plaintiff’s home. But tour bus crashes are different.
The above story is a good example. Those involved were from New York, the crash occurred in Pennsylvania, and the bus was bound for Cincinnati from Rockaway.
Both venue choices have pros and cons. The county of the victim’s residence is usually the most convenient place to file a claim.
Many injured victims cannot easily travel, even a short distance. On the other hand, most or all of the evidence is probably in the county where the wreck occurred.
This consideration is significant, since the victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof.
Other factors to consider include the judge’s temperament, state of the court’s docket, and the jury’s likely makeup.
All these factors could affect the odds of winning at trial, which in turn affects a case’s settlement value.
Commercial Operator Duty of Care
Legal responsibility plays a part in this process as well.
Most people know that, because of their education and experience, doctors have a high duty of care.
What might be an accidental mistake in some situations is usually actionable negligence in a doctor-patient context.
The same thing is true of bus drivers, Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and other commercial operators who transport people for a fare. In many states, these drivers are common carriers.
A common carrier is almost an insurer of safe conduct.
That’s much higher than the duty of reasonable care which normally applies in these cases.
So, it is easier to win at trial, which means the case has a higher settlement value.
This duty is not just operational. Tour bus companies also have a duty to protect passengers during their journeys.
So, someone must do things like clean wet spots on the floor and break up squabbles between passengers before they turn violent.
In New York, the higher duty of care does not apply.
Therefore, victims might be better served bringing a claim in another state, if the option is available.
Evidence in Bus Crash Claims
A good venue choice and a high degree of legal responsibility are not enough to obtain damages.
As mentioned, evidence is critical as well. Victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
In many vehicle collision claims, the police accident report provides much of the needed proof.
However, that’s often not the case in tour bus wrecks. That’s especially true if the bus driver was killed.
Obviously, a police report contains only one side of the story in these cases. Additional evidence in these claims often includes:
- Event Data Recorder: EDRs are much like the black box flight data recorders in commercial airplanes. In car crash claims, EDRs store operational information like vehicle speed, steering angle, and brake application. Experienced attorneys, sometimes working with accident reconstructionists, can put this evidence together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
- Safety Maintenance System Report: The SMS report is essentially a multi-state driving record which includes things like crash history, prior traffic citations, HOS (hours of service) compliance, and vehicle maintenance history.
- Electronic Logging Device: Before the ELD mandate took effect, drivers used paper log books to track HOS. These log books were easy to fake. ELDs are attached to the drivetrain. So, attorneys have absolute proof of when the driver was behind the wheel.
Circumstantial evidence can be important as well. The above crash occurred shortly after midnight. Most people are naturally drowsy at this time of day, no matter how much rest they had the night before.
Additional risk factors involved in drowsy driving cases include sleep apnea and recent schedule changes.
Tour bus drivers often suffer from sleep apnea, mostly because these individuals sit for long periods of time. People with sleep apnea essentially nap all night.
They do not get any deep, restorative sleep. As for schedule changes, a work schedule may be different, but the body’s circadian rhythm remains the same.
Damages in a tour bus crash usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Seemingly straightforward collisions are often extremely complex.
For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We have several offices in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area and other parts of the country.
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