Greyhound Crash Victims Wait on Investigation, Insurance
No passengers were killed in a wild Greyhound bus crash that left the bus laying on its side in an Ohio cornfield, but more than 30 were taken to area hospitals by ambulance and helicopter. All of the injured passengers have since been released, but it will take some time before they can assess whether they’ve been properly cared for by Greyhound Lines and its insurance carrier.
There were 51 passengers and a single driver aboard the bus as it traveled overnight between Cincinnati and Detroit. Just before 4 a.m. on Sept. 14, the bus veered off of Interstate 75 and struck a tree and a chain link fence before flipping onto its side.
A subsequent investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol found that the driver, 15-year Greyhound veteran Dwayne Garrett, 64, lost control of the bus due to a “medical condition” — he was drinking coffee when he started coughing and passed out.
Authorities said the investigation is ongoing and Garrett could ultimately face criminal charges.
Hefty Insurance Policy
Attorney Thomas Simeone says that because most of the injuries were minor, Greyhound’s insurance policy is likely to cover all of the passengers’ medical expenses.
“Greyhound, and most commercial bus companies, carry a commercial policy with $1 million or more in coverage,” Simeone said. “Even if that is insufficient to cover all 51 claimants, Greyhound will be legally responsible for the balance of any claims, assuming the claims are successful. In other words, you cannot limit how much you have to pay in a case by getting less insurance; instead, the claims are based on the injuries and damages to each claimant and if you do not have enough insurance, you will be personally responsible for the excess.”
Simeone said the passengers will need to file individual claims for damages with Greyhound’s insurance company, but warns that many insurers will wait to process and adjust all of the claims before making any payments. This is to ensure that the money is allocated in a way that minimizes the policyholder’s personal liability. Failure to do so would constitute “bad faith” on behalf of the insurance company, which could make it legally liable for the damages.
Any passengers who aren’t satisfied with Greyhound’s insurance payout can sue for additional damages, but this may begin yet another waiting game. Simeone said there’s a “good chance” a court will take time to consolidate all lawsuits from the bus’ passengers.
Awaiting Word on Criminal Charges
The possibility for criminal charges against Garrett may also have implications for any passengers considering a lawsuit.
“If the driver can prove that the coughing fit was not his fault, then he and Greyhound could avoid liability,” Simeone said.
Simeone said Garrett could argue that he was not negligent as long as there were no underlying medical conditions or other warning signs that such a violent and unexpected coughing fit was possible.
“This is a tough case because usually there is some opportunity to slow down and pull over, but that defense is available to him.”
If Garrett is charged, tried and found guilty of negligence, there’s a chance that his conviction could shore up any civil lawsuits filed by the passengers. Simeone said that if a matter is considered proven in a criminal case, it’s likewise considered proven in a civil case because criminal cases have a higher burden of proof.
Even if Garrett is tried and acquitted, there’s a chance it could benefit the passengers.
“If he beats the criminal charges, it will not help the civil case that much, but any statements made during the criminal proceedings may be usable in the civil proceedings,” Simeone said.
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