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Alabama Bus Accidents Can be Complex: Lyons v. Lancer

May 27, 2012 - Bus Accidents by

More often than not, personal injury lawsuits last several years. However, a recent Second Circuit Court of Appeals case was decided regarding a 1989 bus accident.
If you are involved in a car accident in Tuscaloosa, it is important to have the guidance of an experienced Tuscaloosa injury attorney.

Lyons v. Lancer insurance Company deals with the complex areas of personal injury lawsuits. The case arose in 1989 when a school bus driver, Michael Thomas (Thomas), collided with a passenger vehicle being driven by Mr. Lyons (plaintiff). Thomas was employed with T.F.D. Bus Company (TFD), a commercial transportation company based out of New York. The majority of TFD’s business came from their school bus services for children. The school buses in the TFD fleet were also used on occasion to transport small parties for day trips.

On the day of the collision, Thomas was supposed to be picking up a party from upstate New York. In order to pick up this party, the route was to go through Connecticut. However, Thomas was instead picking up school children on a different route. With a bus full of children, Thomas was driving negligently. He crashed into Lyons car which was stopped at a red light. Lyons suffered serious injuries as a result of this accident caused by Thomas. Lyons sued Thomas and TFD for negligence.

Most personal injury cases deal with negligence. Negligence is a civil wrong caused by the defendant’s recklessness or carelessness. In order to prove a case for negligence, the plaintiff has to prove the four elements of negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. The four elements of negligence are: defendant owed a duty of care; the defendant breached this duty of care; the defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries; and the plaintiff suffered damages.

The plaintiff proved each of the elements of negligence and was awarded a very large jury award in Lyons’ case against Thomas and TFD.

This Second Circuit case arose because the plaintiff did not receive his jury award. Plaintiff then sued TFD’s insurance companies for damages under the Bus Act (Act). This Act was created and codified in some states to provide injured plaintiffs with damages where they are involved in an accident with a passenger vehicle that seats sixteen passengers or more. This Act places financial responsibility on insurance companies and sets a minimum award of $5,000,000 on accidents that involve larger passenger vehicles. The only way that this minimum would be imposed was if the insurer directly stipulated that its coverage was consistent with the Bus Act.

Lancer Insurance Company (Lancer) was the commercial insurer for TFD, and the policy stipulated that the coverage was consistent with the Bus Act. However, this Lancer policy only covered accidents that occurred while the TFD buses were on a route that would travel interstate.

Although Thomas was suppose to be on an interstate trip, he was only delivering children from school in New York. Therefore, the trip Thomas was on when he collided with the plaintiff was not interstate in nature. For this reason, Lancer was not responsible for paying damages consistent with the Bus Act to the plaintiff.

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