Who Pays When a City Truck Hits a City Bus?

Eleven people went to hospitals with injuries after a city work truck rear-ended a public transit bus near downtown Norfolk, Virginia (VA), on the morning of April 18, 2018. Injured victims were taken from both vehicles, potentially creating insurance liability for the city government, the regional transit agency, and the state workers’ compensation system.

 

 

The rear-end collision happened at the intersection of 26th Street and Waverly Way. At around 9:10 am, according to a press statement from Hampton Roads Rapid Transit, the bus had stopped to board a passenger and remained parked while the person looked for a seat. The dump truck then struck the bus from behind, scraped long the side of the bus, caught and ripped off the front bumper of the bus, and continued on until it collided with a monument in front of a church.

Eight people in the bus were hospitalized, with some possibly suffering cuts when the windshield shattered. Three of the five work crew members in the dump truck also required hospital treatment.

The city workers should have their medical expenses covered by their city-sponsored health plans and may also have grounds to file workers’ comp claims. Even though the driver of the dump truck appears to be a fault, neither the bus the passengers or the truck driver’s co-workers would be unlikely to succeed with personal injury lawsuits.

This is true for two reasons. First, the driver’s personal car insurance policy would probably not apply to his operation of a work truck. Second, drivers employed by a city and engaged in city business have broad protections from personal liability.

The city itself would also enjoy a great deal of immunity from personal injury lawsuits. While the strong type of sovereign immunity that applies to federal government and state government employees does not extend to city workers, cities can deploy many legal arguments that make themselves and its employees difficult to sue.

That conceded, both the City of Norfolk and, possibly, HRT have some obligation to compensate the people hurt in this crash on 26th Street. A complete investigation and detailed police report will be needed to determine which organization has a financial duty to the crash victims. For instance, the city would be on the hook if the dump truck driver was speeding, distracted, following too closely or attempting to pass unsafely. HRT would share liability if its driver failed to signal the stop or parked in a way that unnecessarily blocked traffic.

Partnering with a knowledgeable and experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer will help the people who got hurt in this legally complicated crash in Norfolk understand and exercise their rights to have their medical bills paid.

On a final note, unlike with school buses, passing a stopped city bus is legal in Virginia. Drivers who make the choice to move around HRT buses in Norfolk, Virginia Beach or elsewhere should probably do so while following the procedure spelled out in section 46.2-838(c) of the Virginia Code for passing parked garbage trucks:

 

Proceed with caution and, if reasonable, with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, yield the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the stationary vehicle or (ii) if changing lanes would be unreasonable or unsafe or on highways having fewer than four lanes, proceed with due caution and decrease speed to 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit and pass at least two feet to the left of the vehicle.

EJL

Richard N. Shapiro
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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