Charges may be brought against an Apex Coach Company bus driver after a fatal crash on I-95 last Sunday involving the bus he was driving and a car that was traveling in the opposite direction.
It is alleged that the bus driver, Eric Jimmerson, a 23-year-old New York City resident, fell asleep at the wheel of the bus that was carrying 48 passengers early Sunday morning. The bus was traveling south at around 4 a.m. when it veered out of control, crossed the median strip and hit a Ford Mustang driven by 68-year-old Wilfredo Ortiz.
It appears that Mr. Ortiz tried to avoid the bus and ended up hitting a tree on the side of the highway. The impact resulted in the death of his wife and injuries to Ortiz himself, as well as the two grandchildren in the car.
The bus driver was apparently ejected from the bus as a result of the impact, and a passenger on the bus tried to take control of it as it continued moving back across the median strip on to the southbound lanes. Jimmerson was taken to hospital as were five of the passengers. The bus driver remains in critical condition at a nearby hospital. The rest of the passengers were tended to in a nearby Burger King restaurant where they were understandably pretty shaken up by their experience.
The bus had been on the way to the Science of the Soul Study Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The center arranged transportation for the uninjured passengers to get to their destination.
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Police have reported that the bus has been inspected and so far no obvious defects have been discovered which could have contributed to the fatal accident. It is also not believed that alcohol was a factor. It has yet to be determined whether Jimmerson had been driving for longer than he should have been or whether there were any other factors that could have meant that he was particularly tired on that fateful morning.
Bus accidents do not happen that often, but are potentially deadly incidents because of the number of people who could be injured as well as the size and weight of the bus itself. As with truck accidents, the fault tends to be most commonly found with the driver. There are several other contributing factors in some bus accidents, such as poor maintenance, defective components, road and weather conditions, as well as the fact that not all bus accidents are due to the fault of the bus or its driver.
Common driver errors include fatigue, distracted driving and the effects of using alcohol or drugs. Even some medications can affect the way a bus driver concentrates, especially if it is dark or he or she has been driving for too long. Regulations are supposed to control how long a commercial driver is on the job at any one time, but there may be other reasons why a particular bus driver falls asleep behind the wheel, as seems to have happened in the I-95 accident.
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Whatever the result of the investigation, and whether or not formal charges are brought against Eric Jimmerson, the reality is that there is one fatality and several injured, one seriously, and families will be wondering who is to blame and whether there is anything they can do to lessen the emotional and financial impact.
If you or a member of your family is involved in any sort of road traffic accident for which you are not to blame, then you should contact an experienced accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.
Richard S. Jaffe Esq. can be contacted for a free consultation at the Law Offices of Cohen & Jaffe LLP, 2001 Marcus Avenue, Suite W295, Lake Success, NY 11042. Phone: 516-358-6900 or toll free: 800-483-6149.