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Your Legal Rights After an MTA Bus Crash in New York City

For anyone reeling from an MTA bus crash, it is important to know your legal rights and what you can expect from a personal injury lawsuit against the MTA or NYCTA. Injury victims may be able to collect financial compensation from the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) or other parties through a personal injury lawsuit. Suing a municipal agency like the MTA calls for unique procedures to be followed throughout the duration of a lawsuit.

Need to know:

  • If you are a bus passenger, stay on the bus – if possible – until your name is recorded by the authorities.
  • The Metropolitan Transit Authority can be held legally responsible for the mistakes of their drivers due to a legal concept called “respondeat superior.”
  • It is strongly recommended that you have a lawyer present while talking to representatives of the MTA or insurance companies.

The New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) is a division of the MTA, and all legal information regarding suing the MTA can be applied to the NYCTA. Whether you were harmed as a pedestrian, a bus passenger, a driver, a cyclist, or another passerby, you can empower yourself by understanding the basics of MTA bus accidents and the legal processes that could lead you to financial recovery.

In This Article:

Crucial Next Steps After an MTA Bus Crash

The small actions you take in the aftermath of an accident can significantly impact your personal injury case. Sadly, this is not commonly known. Being informed about what to do after an accident can protect your right to financial compensation.

Seeking Medical Care

If you need emergency medical care, it is in your best interest to call an ambulance. Your health comes first, and calling an ambulance does not pose any legal complications. In fact, if an ambulance picks you up at the site of a bus crash, the ambulance report may even help your case. How? The report may contain contemporaneous accounts of your physical complaints and limitations.

If you do not need emergency medical attention, but feel pain and/or discomfort, then you should seek medical attention once all of the proper accident reports have been taken by the MTA and police department. The sooner you receive medical attention, if injured, the better.

In a court, it becomes more difficult to prove whether an injury was caused by a particular incident when the injured party failed to seek treatment immediately. If you wait two weeks or even two days after the accident to go to a doctor, a jury could reasonably assume that your injuries could have come from any event within that period or that your injuries are less severe than projected.

Stay on the Bus

If you have been non-critically injured as a bus passenger, try to stay on the bus until your presence is documented by the MTA or police. The driver should ask all passengers to stay until a representative shows up, but in the case that the driver is incapacitated, be sure to stay on the bus. After a bus accident, a supervisor from the MTA will arrive and conduct an MTA accident report. This document lists every occupant of the bus when the crash happened.

All too often, injury victims exit the bus before their names can be included in this report. While passengers might have very valid reasons to leave—it can be a long wait until authorities arrive, familial or work obligations are calling, or they want to seek medical care on their own—this can become a major obstacle in a lawsuit.

Without any written proof, the MTA’s legal team is much less likely to accept that someone was on the bus when it crashed. Camera footage inside buses is not always available or usable, meaning that the strongest evidence of your presence on the bus will be the MTA report. But camera footage can be an invaluable tool in proving how an MTA Bus accident occurred and what injuries people sustained as a result. Your lawyer should be vigilant in getting their hands on this footage as soon as possible and make sure that the video evidence is not discarded or destroyed.

Take Legal Action as Soon as Possible

As a municipal agency, the MTA has a tighter deadline for legal action than a private company. Within 90 days of the accident, you should file a “notice of claim” with the NYCTA. A notice of claim is a document that gives the MTA a basic description of the accident.

Once your notice of claim is complete, you generally have one year and 90 days to file a lawsuit. For wrongful death cases, this is extended to two years after the date of death.

What To Expect When Suing the Metropolitan Transit Authority

After a notice of claim is filed, the MTA can summon you to answer questions at a hearing called a 50-H hearing. In this meeting, you will give witness testimony about the accident under oath. You are entitled to have a lawyer help you prepare for this process. For many injury victims, a lack of legal guidance before a 50-H hearing becomes an unfortunate roadblock to justice.

Without proper legal representation, injury victims can easily give answers that may seem well-intentioned and conversational (e.g., politely suggesting that the accident might have been their fault). Unfortunately, this can later be used against them, despite the facts of the case. Therefore, it is helpful to have an attorney by your side during these examinations.

After a collision, an MTA bus operator is obligated to call their supervisor and describe what happened. Too often, their version of the story is a hasty and inaccurate explanation of the accident that avoids blame. Alarmingly, this can prevent injury victims from being compensated by the MTA. These plaintiffs deserve for the truth to come out, and the only way to disprove a bus driver’s report is through evidence.

When it comes to evidence, there is much to lose—but also much to gain—within the first week or two after the crash. For both witness testimony and video evidence, timing is key. Buses tend to run along routes in high-traffic areas, which means that many people might have witnessed the incident: pedestrians, other motorists, store owners, etc. An experienced plaintiff attorney will canvas the area for every potential witness, including commuters who may reappear in a given time slot every week. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, these witnesses can give clear and compelling statements about what they saw.

In a case we settled for $9.5 million, our client was tragically hit and dragged behind an MTA bus. The MTA tried to argue that because the plaintiff’s shoes were found outside the boundaries of the crosswalk, he had been crossing the street in an irresponsible way. Block O’Toole & Murphy used witness testimony to disprove this falsehood.

Surveillance footage can also be a great asset. Many commercial areas in New York City have surveillance cameras, but some of these systems automatically erase footage after a limited time frame (sometimes, in as little as 48 hours). To strengthen your case, a veteran lawyer will make sure that every piece of evidence is protected.

How To Determine Liability in an MTA Bus Accident

Determining liability in any accident can be difficult at first glance. The best way to determine fault in a personal injury lawsuit is to consult an experienced attorney. In the meantime, there are a few liability scenarios you can explore and compare to your experience.

MTA Bus Driver Error

Individual drivers can be held responsible for their own actions, but any lawsuit against a licensed MTA bus driver is also a valid case against the MTA. This is based on a legal concept called “respondeat superior.” It means that once a company or contractor hires someone to do a job, they become liable for their mistakes.

The MTA is required to thoroughly screen, train, and test each bus driver. Their initial exam to become a bus operator covers foundations like problem solving, communication, and map-reading. A commercial driver license (CDL) is also required, which involves multiple tests. The written test includes passenger safety, vehicle controls and maintenance, and a section on air brakes (special brakes for large vehicles). The CDL road test also demands higher standards for driving skills and safety protocols than a regular license. With these qualifications, every MTA driver should perform their job with an elevated sense of care.

In addition, MTA drivers must pass a physical exam, a drug test, and an employment history assessment. Finally, at least 6-8 weeks of training should be complete before any driver goes on duty.

Regardless of experience, bus operators driving under the influence is a massive cause for concern. To protect passengers and the public, the MTA is expected to enforce random tests for substance abuse.

Driver of Another Vehicle

If another driver on the road is at fault for an accident with an MTA bus, the driver of that vehicle will likely be considered liable (either fully or partially) for the injuries of those on the bus.

If you believe this could be a possibility, filing a report with the MTA as well as the driver’s insurance company is a key step in beginning a personal injury lawsuit against them.

MTA Bus Maintenance Failure

Yes. Sometimes, a New York bus crash happens because the MTA did not properly maintain one of its vehicles. In this context, anyone injured by the crash, including the driver, may have a case against the MTA.

If you were the MTA driver in a collision, the accident might have happened because you were put in a situation beyond your training. In this case, your employer, the MTA, is at fault for the accident, because it was unreasonable of them to create this problem.

Other Factors

If another driver, hazardous road conditions, or some factor outside the MTA’s control contributed to the accident, other defendants can be sued.

Sometimes, the city of New York is at fault for road hazards like ice, snow, inadequate traffic signs, or negligent city-owned vehicles. If so, injury victims may be able to sue the city. One case we settled for $3.5 million involved an MTA bus driver who sued the Department of Sanitation (a part of the city) after a garbage truck rear-ended the bus he was operating.

Comparative Negligence Between Multiple Parties

In other cases, two parties may share liability for an automotive accident. In a Brooklyn case, a flatbed truck collided with an MTA bus at an intersection. Our client, a 34-year-old bus passenger, suffered knee, shoulder, and spinal injuries requiring multiple surgeries as a result. The owner of the truck was liable for the accident (even though he was not the person driving it at the time). The MTA argued that the truck driver caused the crash after being distracted by his cell phone; the truck owner’s defense team argued that the bus driver had turned into the intersection too quickly. Block O’Toole & Murphy leveraged this dispute into fair compensation for our client. The truck owner’s insurance carriers paid our client $2.1 million, while the MTA paid him $3.9 million, resulting in a $6 million settlement in total.

How No-Fault Coverage Can Benefit You in an MTA Accident

Before a lawsuit, the first route to compensation for a bus accident is often through your own insurance carrier. Some people are surprised to learn that they can make a claim with their auto insurance company after being hurt as an MTA passenger or a pedestrian, because the situation did not involve them as a driver. Fortunately, in many cases, auto insurance coverage does apply.

However, the window of time to take advantage of this opportunity is extremely narrow. New York is a “no-fault” state, which means that regardless of fault, injury victims can be compensated up to $50,000 if they file a claim within 30 days of an auto accident.

Sometimes, injury victims need more expensive medical care than their insurance carriers are initially willing to cover. In these cases, the public transit accident attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy are proud to advocate for the needs of our clients, helping them get vital procedures like surgeries.

An experienced lawyer can also recover any lost income your injuries may have caused, starting from the day of the accident and heading into the future.

Legal Help After an MTA Bus Accident

In the wake of a serious accident, it can be difficult to consider legal steps. However, every injury victim should have an experienced bus accident attorney to help them obtain justice. The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have legal insight, compassion, and a track record that is undisputed.

Our team of knowledgeable professionals can answer your questions, help you determine liability, assist you with filing a notice of claim, and develop a strong personal injury case on your behalf.

Some of our results for cases involving MTA buses include:

To speak with one of our bus accident attorneys today, call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form online.

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