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Analysis of Fatal Bus Collision in Baltimore – Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Lawsuits Seem Likely

Posted on: December 9, 2016

Six people were killed and many others were injured on November 1, 2016 when two buses collided in early morning rush-hour traffic in Baltimore, Maryland. The Baltimore Police Department called the crash “catastrophic,” as first responders were continuing rescue efforts more than two hours after the 7 a.m. incident. One bus was operated by the Maryland Transit Administration, and the other was a school bus that carried a driver and an aide; there were no children aboard. According to the Baltimore Sun, the driver’s of each bus were killed along with multiple other passengers. Baltimore law enforcement and the National Transportation Safety Board continue their investigation, so additional details are expected.

The Accident Details

The collision occurred along a bend on Frederick Avenue in Irvington, as the school bus was on its way to Dallas F. Nicholas Sr. Elementary School. According to police, the school bus was traveling east at what is believed to be a rate higher than the posted speed limit. The school bus struck a passenger vehicle and then continued in motion until striking a pillar, at which point it crossed over into oncoming traffic and smashed into the MTA bus. The entire left side of the transit bus was ripped off in the collision.

Injuries Ranging from Minor to Critical

At least ten people were injured in the bus crash, eight of which were passengers on the MTA bus. Other victims included the driver of the car the school bus hit first, and the school bus aide. Five of the injured were admitted as patients to the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Various news sources report that three of the injured were discharged within a week after the accident. As of November 7, two of the victims remained in serious condition.

School Bus Driver’s Medical Condition

As authorities pursued their investigation, some information emerged about the pre-accident health of the school bus driver. The man had been on medication for seizures in the past, raising questions about whether he had suffered a medical emergency that led to loss of control over the vehicle before the accident.

Officials have indicated that they have ruled out mechanical failure as a cause of the school bus careening into oncoming traffic. Plus, there were no skid marks on the roadway at the scene of the crash and no indication that the school bus driver had attempted to apply the brakes to avoid the accident. The man’s medical history will be scrutinized to determine if a catastrophic medical emergency, such as a seizure, was a factor in the crash.

School Bus Driver’s History

The driving records of the school bus driver may also be a a factor in determining fault in the collision. Apprarently, the driver was employed by AAAfordable Transportation, Inc., which has a contract with the school district for providing transportation services. Both the school district and the company had a current medical examiner’s certificate on file stating that he was qualified to drive.

However, reports indicate the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration had revoked the school bus driver’s commercial driving privileges in September because he failed to submit a health certificate to support his capabilities.

In addition, the school bus driver had a history of medical problems while driving. In 2014, the vehicle he was driving crossed a median into traffic after coming into contact with a number of other obstacles. The man’s wife told police at the scene of that incident that he was on medication for seizures, and police indicated that he was believed to have suffered a medical condition.

Grounds for Wrongful Death Actions in Maryland

The family members of the six people who died in the bus crash may have grounds to file a lawsuit for wrongful death, which is a legal action intended to compensate for the losses that result when a person dies due to someone else’s wrongdoing. Spouses and minor children must prove that:

  • The actions of another person directly caused the death;
  • That person’s actions were intentional, reckless, or negligent;
  • The deceased person left behind close relatives that are affected by the death; and,
  • The person’s death caused monetary losses, for which these relatives are entitled to compensation.

Potential Personal Injury Lawsuits in Baltimore Bus Accident

The people who were injured in the bus crash may also have a personal injury claim, which is another type of lawsuit to compensate them for the losses they suffer. These individuals will have to prove:

  • The existence of a duty of care owed to them;
  • That there was a breach of that duty;
  • That the breach of duty caused their injuries; and,
  • That they suffered losses due to the injuries.

Potential Defendants in a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Case

Under the circumstances, there are multiple theories of liability that the deceased’s family members and injury victims may use as grounds to take legal action.

The school bus driver’s medical condition may have contributed to the crash, and he was aware that he suffered from seizures because he was taking medication. There was also a prior collision that may have been caused by a seizure or other medical incident. Together, these facts may establish negligence or recklessness necessary to support a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against his estate.

AAAfordable Transportation, Inc. could be sued for the school bus accident as well, as a company may be legally responsible for harms caused by its employees. If an employee was acting in the course of his or her employment and caused injuries to others, an employer may be liable for the worker’s negligence. There are exceptions to this theory of liability, so it remains to be seen whether the facts support a claim against AAAfordable for the actions of the school bus driver.

The full details of the Baltimore bus collision may not be known for some time, but it is clear that there are complicated legal issued involved for the injured victim and family members of those who died. Those impacted by the crash may have claims for personal injury or wrongful death against different parties, and may be entitled to financial compensation for their losses.

Limitation of Liability and Seeking Counsel

The above case may be further complicated by applicable Local Government Tort Claims Acts which limit the liability of education boards, transportation administrations, counties and other local government enties as well as their their agents, who are acting in the scope of their employment with the county. Claimants seeking redress against a state, city, county, school board, or school bus (government entity) should always consult with a lawyer to determine what rights they may have, if any, under the circumstances unique to their case. Under certain circumstances, local goverments may waive immunity up to a certain dollar threshold. In any event, the above complicated case particularly highlights the multiple and various legal complexities and challenges that may be faced by claimants.

by Justin Katz  
Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
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