Posted on October 27, 2016 · Posted in Brain Injury

One of the really interesting angles of the Palm Springs bus crash story covered by the media is the comparison to the March 2011 bus crash in New York. The two accidents, though separated by a few years, were eerily similar. The LA Times reported on this story.

The Palm Springs bus crash involved a tour bus traveling from a casino, and so did the bus crash in New York. The California crash happened near Palm Springs, the New York one happened on a highway in the Bronx.

The New York bus crash occurred when the bus was traveling 78 mph in a 55 mph zone. It hit the right hand guardrail and subsequently flipped over. Then it struck a support pole. The impact shoved the pole into the bus, and the roof came off just above the windows.

The California bus crash involved the bus ramming into a semi truck in front of it. The truck trailer came into the bus 15 feet, killing 13 people. The New York bus crash in 2011 killed 15 people.

The same questions that were asked after the New York bus crash are being asked again. In the California bus crash, they are waiting for an autopsy to see whether or not there was a medical emergency involved like a stroke or a heart attack. They also can see if the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The other cause could have been fatigue.

It seems that the bus arrived late the night before and left early the next morning, leaving four or five hours for gambling, in the California accident. According to reports, the passengers aboard the bus were sleeping. The bus crashed into the truck at 5:17 a.m. Sunday morning.

According to authorities, it is the driver’s responsibility to maintain alertness while driving, whether that be through supplements, coffee, or rest. After investigation, authorities learned that this was not the case in the New York bus crash, that in fact the driver was very tired.

In the New York bus crash case, the cause of the crash was driver fatigue and the company’s inadequate oversight policies. Phone records and the driver’s work schedule showed that he could not have slept more than three hours at a time in the three days before the accident, mostly napping on the bus while passengers gambled.

We also blogged about the driver’s “checkered safety record” in the California incident. It seems that the driver in the New York crash also had a record of safety concerns. He had been fired from two other companies and had 18 license suspensions over the twenty years before the tour bus company hired him. The California driver had been sued at least twice for negligence and had been cited in several counties for traffic violations.

The National Transportation Safety Board had ruled that the driver of the New York bus crash was at fault for the bus accident, blaming the driver’s drowsiness and the company’s poor oversight policies. The driver of the bus was found not guilty of manslaughter and negligent homicide in 2012. The difference in the California bus crash is that the driver did not survive. Authorities will have to try to find out what happened without speaking to the driver, just looking at the autopsy and other records.

These two cases are two examples of the deadliness of bus accidents. These types of accidents are so deadly because of the lack of safety belts on the typical bus. The California tour bus did not even have the option of buckling up, as it had no seat belts whatsoever, according to the LA Times. Those who did not die were injured. There were 31 of them, some of whom suffered horrific facial injuries.

The danger of being thrown around in a bus with no seat belts involves serious risk of traumatic brain injury. The kind of injury found frequently in motor vehicle accidents is called acceleration-deceleration injury. Damage to axons throughout the brain occurs, referred to as diffuse axonal injury. The degree of mechanical shearing may determine the depth of the brain lesion, which determines severity of injury. Deeper brain lesions point to more severe injury.

Contusions are a result of bruising on the brain. Coup-contrecoup injuries are commonly observed in motor vehicle accidents, where there is rapid deceleration of the brain in the skull cavity. Contusions are usually found in the frontal and temporal areas, regardless of site of impact. Memory problems are common with temporal lobe contusions, and executive functioning deficits are common following frontal injury.

In addition, cerebral hematoma is the result of a brain hemorrhage following a brain injury. This kind of condition can lead to an increase in intracranial pressure, which may need to be resolved with surgery in the most drastic cases.

Excessive blood loss can also cause hypoxic brain damage, where the brain is deprived of oxygen. The hippocampus, the memory center, is particularly susceptible to hypoxia, because it is located at the very end of the brain’s oxygen route. The cognitive impairments that can result include concentration problems, problems with new learning, and problems with executive functioning and planning.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447