Verdicts and Settlements:
School Bus vs. Minivan Accident Results in $750,000 Settlement
A routine day of errands turned out to be anything but routine for a 44-year-old mother, who found herself in the emergency room after being cut off by a school bus. The accident occurred on a beautiful, sunny June day. The plaintiff was proceeding straight in the right-hand lane of a two-lane roadway. A full-size school bus was proceeding in the left lane, slightly ahead of her minivan. As the plaintiff approached a side street on her right, she turned on her directional arrow, indicating her intention to turn into the side street. What the plaintiff did not realize was that the school bus was also intending to turn right onto the side street, despite being in the left lane and not having any turn signal on. The school bus driver clearly did not see the plaintiff's vehicle in the right lane, and as he turned the large bus to the right, he sandwiched the plaintiff's car up against the curb. As a result of the impact and despite wearing a seat belt, the plaintiff's body was thrust about, causing injuries to her neck. She was transported by ambulance to Huntington Hospital in Suffolk County with complaints of neck pain. She was treated and released that day.
The plaintiff had experienced prior neck pain and had been treated sporadically by a chiropractor. However, this time the pain was much more severe and the plaintiff endured several years of treatment, including steroid injections and physical therapy, before finally deciding to proceed with cervical fusion surgery.
Mr. Sitinas sued the school bus company as well as the school bus driver. To complicate matters, the school bus driver died shortly after this accident (completely unrelated to the accident itself); therefore, Mr. Sitinas had to proceed against the driver's estate. The defendants denied liability for the accident, claiming that the plaintiff was solely responsible for the accident in that she was traveling too fast and failed to see the school bus's directional arrow indicating the driver's intention to turn right. These claims by the defendant school bus driver were contained in numerous accident reports prepared by the school bus company's safety department, and because they are considered to be business documents under New York law, they would be admissible at trial as an exception to the Hearsay Rule. This put Mr. Sitinas at a disadvantage, since he would never be able to depose the school bus driver and ask him about his assertions. Instead, Mr. Sitinas took the deposition testimony of the school bus company's safety director, and after extensive questioning, was able to prove that the school bus operator violated the vehicle and traffic laws of New York by failing to make sure it was safe to make his right turn before commencing his turn. The parties ultimately agreed to attend a mediation session in an effort to resolve the matter prior to trial. After several hours, the parties agreed to a $750,000 settlement.