Articles Posted in Bus Accident

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nebraska issued an opinion in a case arising out of a bus accident in which the city government named as the defendant admitted liability but argued that the damages ordered by the court were too high. In the case, Moreno v. City of Gering, the appellate court ultimately determined that the lower court was correct in its ruling, and it affirmed the verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

bus-1209153_960_720The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, Moreno, was injured in an accident involving a county-owned bus and a city-owned fire truck. Evidently, Moreno was riding on the bus when it was struck by a fire truck being operated by a volunteer fire-fighter. As a result of the collision, Moreno, who had a pre-existing medical condition affecting her back, suffered serious injuries. A few months after the accident, she had a cervical fusion surgery performed.

At the trial, the city and county admitted that they were each liable to Moreno, but they argued that the surgery was not necessary. To support their claim, they pointed to recent news articles that the doctor who had recently performed the surgery performed a record number of similar surgeries. The defendants presented a medical expert who testified that the surgery was unnecessary given Moreno’s injuries, and that the surgeon who performed it was “a criminal.” There was also evidence presented that the surgeon had been suspended due to the number of medical malpractice cases brought against him.

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A school bus accident on a Baltimore County road earlier this month led to at least ten middle school students escaping from emergency exits. The accident happened after the driver reportedly lost control of the bus, causing it to flip off of the side of the road. school%20bus%202.jpg

The single vehicle accident occurred at nearly 7:30 a.m., and sent the bus nearly end-over-end. As a result, windows were smashed and a tree pierced the front left wheel well. It reportedly finally came to rest on its left side, nearly on its roof, in a gully full of brambles, trees, vines and other vegetation, its door pointed skyward.

The accident reportedly sent the bus driver and five students to local hospitals for treatment of minor injuries, according to a Fire Department spokesperson. According to a later statement from a school official, the worst injury sustained was reportedly a sprained ankle. The cause of the accident is unknown, and remains under investigation. Authorities plan to review coverage from the bus’s three onboard cameras, among other evidence.

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1363811_73692648.jpgA man and his son sued the District of Columbia for injuries sustained in a bus accident in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The lawsuit asserted vicarious liability against the District for the alleged negligence of its employee, the bus driver. The Court of Appeals of Maryland affirmed the trial court’s judgment for the defendant in District of Columbia v. Singleton, 41 A.3d 717 (Md. 2012), finding that the plaintiffs did not produce sufficient evidence to support a theory of res ipsa loquitur.

The accident occurred on June 20, 2008, when Wayne Singleton and his two sons, ages six and eight, were passengers on a bus for a day trip to the Six Flags amusement park, sponsored by the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation. On the return trip to DC, the bus apparently went off the road and crashed into a tree. Singleton and his eight year-old son, Jaron, sustained injuries in the crash. Singleton was asleep when the bus went off the road, allegedly waking up while it was “airborne,” and Jaron had no memory of the accident. Both suffered minor injuries.

Singleton filed suit against the District in January 2009 on his own behalf and on behalf of Jaron. Because neither plaintiff had personal knowledge of the circumstances of the accident, they relied on the theory of res ipsa loquitur. This translates literally as “the thing speaks for itself.”

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A pickup truck, whose driver was allegedly driving under the influence, caused an accident with a school bus on the evening of November 22, 2011. Twenty people, including fifteen students from Great Mills High School, were treated at a nearby hospital for injuries. Fortunately, no fatalities or serious injuries were reported. The bus driver sustained back injuries.

At about 9:23 p.m. that night, 45 year-old John Patrick Kravats allegedly ran a stop sign while another car, a Ford Fusion, was in the intersection. Kravats’ truck hit the Fusion, sending it into the school bus’ lane. The school bus, carrying members and coaches of the Great Hills High School Girls’ Basketball team, struck either the pickup truck or the Fusion and went off the road and into the woods. Local news coverage showed the bus wedged between trees in a wooded area just off the road.

Witnesses credited the school bus driver with heroic driving maneuvers that prevented the bus from tipping over and prevented serious injuries. The bus driver, another adult, and fifteen students were taken to the hospital. The driver of the Fusion and a 13 year-old passenger were also taken to the hospital.

Police at the scene arrested Kravats for driving under the influence. Local news discovered that Kravats is listed on the Maryland sex offender registry because of a conviction for sexual abuse of a minor. While this is of little to no relevance in determining Kravats’ liability for the accident, it will not help him in the criminal case for DUI.

Based on news reports of the accident scene, it appears that Kravats’ truck did not directly strike the school bus. The school bus may have hit the truck, and it was the efforts of the school bus driver to avoid tipping over that took the bus off the road and into the woods. A personal injury attorney would therefore need to examine causation, to see if Kravats would be legally liable for injuries to school bus passengers. It seems that he should be liable for injuries in both the Fusion and the school bus.

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According to Maryland lawmaker James Malone, the state’s law regarding handheld cell phones while driving is not tough enough. Delegate Malone, a Democrat from Baltimore County, is supporting a bill that would make using a handheld cell phone while operating a motor vehicle a primary offense. Hopefully, such a bill will stop more people from distracted driving with their phone or PDA so that they don’t cause a Maryland car crash.

Under the current law, talking on a handheld phone while driving is a secondary offense, which means that the ban can only be enforced if the driver is being cited for another violation. Also, although drivers are banned from sending text messages, they are allowed to retrieve and read them. Malone and others also want to make the text messaging ban tougher. Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Baltimore County is sponsoring a bill in the Senate that would make it illegal to also read texts while driving.

According to the Maryland State Highway Administration, in the past five years, there have been over 380 distracted driving fatalities in the state. Distracted driving, as described by US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, is an epidemic. It was the cause of 5500 fatalities in the US in 2009—yet many people, when they can get away with it, continue to text, talk on the phone, send emails, surf the Internet, or play games on their cell phone while driving. Although talking on a handheld device is not safe either, at least the driver has both hands on the steering wheel.

A distracted driver can be held liable for Baltimore County personal injury or wrongful death if his/her failure to pay attention caused a catastrophic Maryland car accident. There are steps that an experienced Baltimore personal injury law firm can take to prove that a driver was distracted when the Maryland traffic crash happened. For example, there may be phone records that can be obtained to match up when the crash happened and when a call was taking place. A witness may have observed the distracted driver texting.

Md. Bill to Tighten Cell Phone Use While Driving, ABC News/AP, February 16, 2011
Distracted driving epidemic: U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood calls issue a ‘personal crusade’, Sea Coast Online, October 24, 2010
Related Web Resources:
Cellphone Laws, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Distraction.gov

Related Blog Posts:
US DOT Holds Second Annual Distracted Driving Summit in Washington DC, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 22, 2010
Maryland Injury News: Distracted Driving Blamed for Increasing Number of Fatal Teenage Automobile Accidents, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, July 17, 2010
Maryland Auto Injury News: Distracted Driving Blamed in Baltimore Woman’s Death following Fatal Howard County Crash, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, June 26, 2010

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Maryland State Police are investigating a Frederick County traffic crash between two school buses onThursday that they say went unreported. A number of school children reportedly sustained injuries.

According to the authorities, a Littlestown School District bus collided with another district bus at around 3pm. A number of third graders that had been headed back to Littlestown Rolling Acres Elementary after a field trip to Washington DC were later taken to hospitals by their parents. Injuries sustained ranged from minor bruises to possible bone fractures and concussions. One student lost a tooth. Another student suffered a bloody nose.

The school bus drivers reportedly discussed the collision with each other and notified district staff about the incident before leaving the Maryland bus accident site. At the time, the bus drivers reportedly did not realize that any of the students had been hurt.

According to the Gettysburg Times, a number of the students’ parents have expressed dismay with how the Maryland school bus accident was handled. They are wondering why police and ambulances were not called to the crash site immediately, whether the bus drivers had been given a plan for what to do during a traffic, and, if so, then why the plan wasn’t followed.

One parent says that chaperones who were on the bus when the crash happened were surprised when the bus driver resumed driving before help could arrive. Another parent says that someone on the bus called for help but that somebody else cancelled the request. Someone else says that one of the bus drivers had been tailgating. Parents were reportedly told that it was up to them to determine whether their child needed medical care and to make sure that he/she received it.

Buses collide, pupils injured, Gettysburg Times, October 22, 2010
Investigation continues into school bus crash near Frederick, WTOP, October 23, 2010
Related Web Resource:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts

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University of Utah psychologists are saying that texting while driving increases a motorist’s crash risk by six times. The study can be found in the latest edition of Human Factors, a journal.

According to the researchers, texting presents a 50% greater car crash risk than talking does. One reason for this is that reading or writing texts takes a driver’s attention completely off the road. Meantime, talking on the cell phone while driving at the same time divides the motorist’s attention between both tasks. However, this is not to say that it is safe to talk on the phone while operating an auto.

The study’s lead psychologist, Frank Drews, says that he and other researchers asked 20 motorists, ages 19 to 23, to drive in a “high fidelity driving simulator.” All of the participant drivers were seasoned texters.

The researchers say that compared to drivers who did not text or talk on the cell phone, motorists’ median reaction time went up 30% while they texted. Drivers’ median reaction time rose by 9% when talking on a cell phone. The study also reports that it is more distracting to read text messages than it is to compose them.

Distracted Driving Accidents

This past year, federal and state transportation safety officials have stepped up their efforts to make sure motorists are aware of how dangerous it is to text while driving. In September, Maryland’s statewide ban on sending texts while driving went into effect. Also that month, federal transportation officials kicked off a two-day distracted driving summit in Washington DC. This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched it’s distracted driving Web site, and President Obama’s executive order banning all federal workers from texting when driving goes into effect today.

Unfortunately, distracted driving continues to be a leading cause of Maryland car crashes. Like drunk driving accidents, distracted driving crashes are preventable.

Research: Texting while driving leads to six-fold increase in accidents, TopNews, December 22, 2009
Texting While Driving Raises Crash Risk Sixfold, BusinessWeek, December 21, 2009
Related Web Resources:
Cell Phone Driving Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association

Distraction.gov

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reportedly recommended as far back as 2002 that motorists not talk on cell phones while driving—unless in an emergency situation. The federal agency also recommended that drivers not use hands-held, as well as hands-free phones and even went so far as to note that establishing laws banning only handheld cell phones might not be enough to minimize the risks of using a phone while operating a motor vehicle.

The reason for this recommendation was that the NHTSA had in its possession hundreds of pages of research documenting the dangers associated with cell phone use while driving. Yet the recommendation and the research were never made available to the public. One reason for this was concern that Congress and other public officials would see the proposal as a form of lobbying.

The information finally became public after Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety, two public interest groups, managed to access the information via the Freedom of Information Act.

The question now being asked is how many lives could have been saved if people knew then what they know now about the risks involved with cell phone use while driving? When the NHTSA first made its proposal several years ago, there were more than 170 million people using cell phones in the country—now, there are more than 270 million cell phone subscribers. And now, more than ever, cell phone use while driving has become a bad driving habit that millions of motorist are finding hard to break.

Yet as more motor vehicle accidents are reported involving motorists that caused auto crashes because they were talking on a phone or text messaging, the consequences of cell phone use while driving can no longer be ignored. Even train operators have been found negligent for engaging in these bad habits and causing catastrophic train collisions.

While Maryland doesn’t have a ban on any kind of cell phone use for adult drivers—only for minor drivers—all drivers will be prohibited from text messaging beginning October 2009. The Maryland Highway Safety Foundation says it had been pushing for a hand-held cell phone ban, but with the latest revelations about the NHTSA’s suppressed findings, they may recommend a total ban on the use of all cell phones while driving.

U.S. Withheld Data on Driving Distractions, WBOC 16, July 22, 2009
Suppressed federal study having ripple effect in Md., Baltimore Sun, July 2009
The Truth About Cars and Cellphones, NY TImes, July 22, 2009
Related Web Resources:

Center for Auto Safety

Public Citizen

NHTSA

Maryland Highway Safety Foundation

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According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, about 83% of the 609,000 Marylanders traveling 50 miles or more over the Memorial Day weekend will travel by car—that’s 508,000 motor vehicle riders. A decrease in local gas price is one of the reasons cited for an increase in road travelers from last year. Air travel is also expected to increase this year by 7%. Another reason cited for this rediscovered travel bug is that a poor economy has forced hotels, cruises, airlines, and car rental companies to lower their prices.

With more people getting into their cars and heading toward vacation destinations and family reunions, the roads will likely be more crowded this weekend. Traffic and the excitement and rush to arrive at a specific location can create a less relaxed travel climate that can increase the chances that a motorist might become involved in a catastrophic Maryland car accident.

Here are a number of safe driving tips to help you navigate your way through the Memorial Day weekend:

• Make sure you have your maps organized and travel routes planned before leaving.
• Check the Internet, listen to the radio, or watch TV to see where there may be traffic backlogs that you can avoid.
• Make sure that your car is in proper working condition before you head out.
• Have a roadside emergency kit with you.
• Get plenty of rest before you drive.
• Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination.
• Take periodic breaks while driving so you don’t get lethargic or drowsy.
• Don’t speed.
• Obey traffic laws.
• Don’t talk on the cell phone or text message or read maps while driving.
• Drive defensively.
• Don’t drive drunk.

• Keep emergency numbers at your disposal.

More Marylanders to hit the road this weekend, Baltimore Sun, May 21, 2009
Related Web Resources:
AAA Mid-Atlantic
MD Roads

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The Maryland State Highway Administration says that of the 589 Maryland traffic deaths that occurred in 2008, 124 of those fatalities took place in Prince George’s County. That’s almost twice as many fatalities than in Baltimore County, ranked number two with the most traffic deaths at 52 fatalities. Montgomery County came next with 52 traffic deaths. Baltimore had 49 traffic fatalities, and Anne Arundel County recorded 48 traffic fatalities. Officials from Maryland, Prince George’s County, and municipal police have vowed to address the issue of traffic safety and determine why so many Maryland traffic deaths occur in this county so they can fix the problem.

The county also recently registered the largest amount of Maryland pedestrian deaths over the past decade. For example, of the 111 Maryland pedestrian deaths that occurred in 2007, a significant number of the fatalities occurred in Prince George’s County:

Prince George’s: 28 pedestrian fatalities
Baltimore: 17 pedestrian deaths
Baltimore County: 17 pedestrian fatalities
Montgomery: 15 pedestrian deaths
Anne Arundel: 8 pedestrian fatalities

There were 115 Maryland pedestrian deaths in 2008—and the fatalities keep coming in 2009. Just last month, in Prince George’s County, two young pedestrians, 19-year-old LaRenta Vondale McFarland and 7-year-old Richard Young, died after a Jeep hit them while they were crossing Central Avenue in Upper Marlboro.

According to Maryland Highway Administration spokesperson David Buck, driver error seems to be the leading cause of traffic deaths in Prince George’s County. Common types of driver error include:

• Driver fatigue
• Speeding
• Drunk driving
• Driving under the influence of drugs
• Failure to obey traffic rules
• Talking on cell phone
• Failure to use seat belts
• Text messaging

More 2008 Maryland Traffic Facts:

• About 100,000 Maryland motor vehicle crashes occur annually.
• 196 drivers died in Maryland auto accidents last year.

• 65 of these motorists were not using seat belts or were riding in cars that lacked airbags.

Too Deadly a Place to Drive, Washington Post, May 10, 2009

Maryland State Highway Administration

Related Web Resources:
Maryland Traffic Information, Federal Highway Administration

Prince George’s County, Maryland

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