New York City has a huge and convenient public transportation system that includes MTA buses running 24/7. Although bus travel is generally thought of as safe (otherwise we wouldn’t send our children to school on them), accidents do happen to passengers riding the bus.
One common accident is unseated passengers falling while the bus is in motion. We’ve all run into situations, especially during rush hour, when we board a bus and find all the seats taken, forcing us to stand in the aisle and hold on for dear life. Suddenly the driver will throw us off-balance by:
- Making a sharp turn
- Jumping a curb while turning
- Braking suddenly
- Picking up speed to make a green light
While an able-bodied adult can usually avoid injury under these circumstances by holding onto a safety support inside the bus, when the driver knows or ought to know that a passenger is elderly or handicapped, a higher standard of care is required because they are more likely to be injured in a fall.
The New York Common Carrier Law holds that bus companies owe their passengers a duty to use reasonable care in preventing accidents and injuries. For example, if passengers fall because a driver swerved to avoid a car cutting into traffic, then the transit company is not likely to be held responsible. On the other hand, if people on a bus are injured because the driver was texting and crashed into a stopped car on the road ahead, then those people may have a claim.
On April 2, 2012, 72-year-old Apolonia Castillo boarded a city bus in Queens. She later claimed that after paying her fare, the driver pulled away from the bus stop before she had the chance to take a seat, causing her to fall and injure her spine and left knee.
Ms. Castillo sued the bus company, but its attorneys motioned for summary judgment before trial, claiming that she had in fact been seated when the driver moved back into traffic and her injuries did not meet the statutory threshold under Section 5102 of New York’s No-Fault Law, meaning that they were not legally “serious.”
The court denied the motion, and after the trial, the Queens County jury found that the bus driver was fully at fault. It also agreed that Ms. Castillo had indeed suffered serious injuries and awarded her $1,500,000 in pain and suffering damages. An appeals court affirmed both the verdict and MTA’s liability.
If you are injured on a bus owned or operated by the New York City Transit Authority, then contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. To protect your right to compensation, you are required to file a notice of claim within 90 days of being injured. Your attorney will help you hold the company liable for its failure to provide you with safe transportation and seek compensation for your injuries. You may be entitled to a large cash compensation that pays for lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering. Jayson Lutzky is an accident and personal injury attorney with more than 35 years of legal experience. Call 718-329-9500 to set up your free initial in-person consultation. Home and hospital visits are available in the event of a serious injury.