Injured bus passenger should have been allowed to present his case to the jury

A person who suffers injuries in a motor vehicle accident due to the negligence of others deserves compensation. However, if an accident leads to a trial, it is crucial that enough evidence is presented to support the injured person's case. The recent Massachusetts Appellate Division case of DeStefano v. Sanchez provides an example.

A car collides with a bus

The victim and his girlfriend were riding a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus on Market Street in Lynn. The victim was sitting in the last seat on the bus driver's side, next to the window. As the couple rose to exit the bus, a car collided with the bus as it approached the Central Station.

There was only one lane approaching the station, and any bus pulling into the station had to make a wide turn in order to avoid parked cars and taxis. The driver said he first noticed the bus just as the impact occurred, while the bus was turning. The driver's car was damaged on the driver's side and across the side of the car.

At the moment of the accident, the victim reached out with his arm to protect his girlfriend, but hit his chest on the seat in front of him, before bouncing backwards into another seat. The victim felt dizzy and injured his back and neck. The MBTA called an ambulance, and the victim later required treatment for his injuries.

At the close of evidence at the trial, the driver and the MBTA asked for a "directed verdict"-a decision that would end the case before even giving the victim a chance to present his case to the jury. Unfortunately, the trail court granted this motion, although the judge acknowledged it was a close question. The victim appealed.

Contradictory evidence

Under Massachusetts law, a jury should have been allowed to determine whether the driver was negligent if, in the evidence, there was some combination of circumstances from which could be drawn a reasonable inference in favor of the victim.

On appeal, the Massachusetts Appellate Division noted that it might have been difficult for a jury to find the bus driver negligent in this case. However, it was entirely possible that the driver of the car that struck the bus could have been found negligent.

The jury might have drawn inferences against the driver based on the amount of damage to his car, the speed of the car or the fact that the driver purportedly did not even notice the massive bus until the moment of the collision. In addition, there was some contradictory evidence regarding whether the car driver was attempting to pass the bus on the right or left at the time of the accident.

Therefore, the trial court erred when it denied the victim his chance to present his accident case to a jury. The decision was vacated, with instructions to provide the victim with a new trial.

The compensation you deserve

If you or a loved one are injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is important you have experienced representation to ensure you get your day in court. Work with an attorney who will protect your interests and aggressively seek the compensation you deserve for your injuries.