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INJURED BUS PASSENGERS & NO FAULT INSURANCE

Recently, a client of mine brought this issue to my attention, and I thought it was worth blogging about. I know that it's an issue that has been decided & slightly over blogged, but I figured what's one more informative blog if it helps answer at least one person's question. Moreover, if you're not a no fault geek like me, and haven't yet encountered the situation, than you probably don't know the law when it comes to passengers of a bus.

When a passenger on a bus is injured in an accident, whose insurance company foots the bill; the bus' or the passenger's?

First, Section 5103(1) of the Insurance Law provides the following:

In the case of occupants of a bus, other than operators, owners, and employees of the owner or operator of the bus, the coverage for first party benefits shall be afforded under the policy or policies, if any, providing first party benefits to the injured person and members of his household for loss arising out of the use or operation of any motor vehicle of such household. In the event there is no such policy, first party benefits shall be provided by the insurer of such bus

At first glance you're probably thinking, what exactly does that mean? Don't worry, without years of law school & experience, I wouldn't know either. Luckily, you have this very informative blog to explain it to you.

A bus is not required to pay first-party benefits for personal injury sustained by any person in New York State while occupying a bus or school bus, as defined in Sections 104 and 142 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, but only if such person is a named insured or relative under any policy providing the coverage required by the New York Comprehensive Motor Vehicles Reparations Act.

Basically, if you a passenger on a bus involved in a car accident, and you or someone in your household has no fault coverage, that insurance company will have to cover your first party benefits. Seems odd, since the no fault insurance is bought as to a specific car that wasn't involved in the accident; however, this is the law. If you don't have any no fault insurance, as many bus riders do not, then the bus' insurance company will cover your first party benefits

A second interesting issue involving no fault coverage has arose from passengers entering or exiting the bus; are they covered under no fault? For example, in Manuel v New York City Transit Authority, 2011 NY Slip Op 02362 , a bus passenger fell as she exited the bus and stepped into a hole in the street. She asserted that the bus driver had parked on an angle, and the hole was located on the street between the bus and the curb. Had the bus driver not parked on an angle, she would have stepped off the bus onto the curb; so is she covered under no fault?

The Second Department thought so: For the no-fault statute to apply, the vehicle must be a proximate cause of the injury (see Walton v Lumbermens Mut. Cas. Co., 88 NY2d 211, 215). Here, the negligent operation of a motor vehicle was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. Moreover, this is not a case in which the plaintiff was completely outside of the vehicle when the accident occurred (see Walton v Lumbermens Mut. Cas. Co., 88 NY2d at 215). Although this was not accident, no fault still covered her medical treatment, as the accident was a result of a negligent vehicle, just like in a car accident.

The issue again came up whether a passenger is entitled to No-Fault benefits for injuries sustained in an accident that allegedly occurred while she was attempting to board a Transit Authority bus. Again, it was held that a passenger entering a bus is entitled to first party benefits. Moreover, "occupying" is defined as "in or upon or entering into or alighting from." See, 11 NYCRR 65-2.1 (d)." For more questions, please don't hesitate to call me (516) 478-0237.

By: Candice Deaner, Esq.

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