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Passenger seeks damages after bus hit by unidentified SUV. Guity v. Cnty. of Westchester 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 34310 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2019)


In Guity v. Cnty. of Westchester 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 34310 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2019), Plaintiff Beron Guity sought damages for injuries sustained in a bus accident on June 1, 2016, involving an uninsured motorist. Uninsured motorist coverage is a type of car insurance designed to protect drivers and passengers from financial loss when involved in an accident with a driver who is either uninsured or cannot be identified, such as in a hit-and-run incident. This coverage steps in to pay for damages like medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering that would normally be paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance. It helps ensure that individuals receive necessary compensation even when the other party fails to carry adequate insurance, providing a layer of financial security in many unpredictable driving scenarios.

Background Facts
On June 1, 2016, while traveling on the northbound Sprain Brook Parkway in the Town of Greenburgh, New York, a Liberty Lines Transit bus, operated by Yeritza Vasquez and owned by the County of Westchester, was involved in an accident. The onboard video system recorded the incident. The bus was in the center lane when an SUV, moving faster than the bus from behind, swerved from the left lane to avoid a stopped vehicle and collided with the bus. The SUV driver fled the scene, making this a hit-and-run accident. The plaintiff, Beron Guity, a passenger on the bus, sustained injuries during this incident and filed a lawsuit seeking damages, attributing negligence to the bus driver and seeking uninsured motorist coverage from Liberty Lines Transit. The County Defendants acknowledge the accident but contest the negligence claim arguing that the accident was solely caused by the unidentified hit-and-run SUV, not by any action of the bus driver.

Whether Guity was entitled to Uninsured Motorist (UM) benefits under Liberty Lines Transit’s insurance policy and whether the defendants were liable for negligence, given the involvement of an unidentified hit-and-run driver, formed the central legal issues of the case.

The court held that Guity was entitled to Uninsured Motorist (UM) benefits under Liberty Lines Transit’s insurance policy. However, the court did not find the defendants liable for negligence, concluding that the unidentified hit-and-run driver was at fault for the accident.

The court’s rationale for granting Uninsured Motorist (UM) benefits hinged on the clear evidence that Guity was involved in a hit-and-run accident, which under the policy terms, entitled him to coverage. Despite Liberty Lines Transit’s argument regarding the policy’s intent to provide only state minimum coverage, the court found that the policy’s excess coverage clause allowed for a broader coverage, justifying the award for UM benefits to Guity.

On the issue of negligence, the court determined that the defendants were not liable because the accident was primarily caused by the actions of an unidentified third-party driver, who suddenly changed lanes and collided with the bus. This act, deemed a hit-and-run, absolved the defendants of direct negligence, as they could not foresee or prevent the third party’s illegal maneuver, focusing fault solely on the unidentified driver.

Hit-and-run accidents present significant challenges in securing full compensation for victims because the at-fault driver, who flees the scene, remains unidentified and thus, unreachable for financial liability. Without knowing the identity of the perpetrator, victims cannot file claims against the driver’s insurance for damages incurred. This anonymity complicates the legal pursuit of compensation and often shifts the financial burden to uninsured motorist coverage, which may not fully cover all losses.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a bus accident, especially one involving complex issues like uninsured motorists or disputed insurance coverage, it is crucial to seek legal expertise. An experienced New York bus accident lawyer can help navigate the legal system, advocate on your behalf, and ensure that your rights are protected. For professional legal counsel and to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve, do not hesitate to contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates today. Our dedicated team is prepared to assist you with every aspect of your case, from initial claims to potential court proceedings.

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