The LaMarche Safranko Law family wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to all those affected by the devastating limousine crash of October 6, 2018. Here we offer some information on the legal issues that inevitably arise from a tragedy of this magnitude, as investigators try to determine what went wrong, and victims’ loved ones struggle to cope with shock, grief, and eventually, their potential recourses for justice.
On October 6th, seventeen friends traveling to a birthday party in Cooperstown, New York, were killed when the stretch limousine they hired to transport them barreled through an intersection in Schoharie and crashed into an unoccupied SUV in the parking lot of a popular country store. The crash also killed two pedestrians in the parking lot, as well as the driver of the limo.
In the grim aftermath, we have learned the names and life stories of the victims; we know that among the deceased are four sisters, a pair of brothers, and three married couples, at least one of whom left behind young children.
As the investigation into the crash unfolds, we also are learning things that may affect the liability and damages claims that inevitably will be filed. We know that the safety of the T-shaped intersection of state routes 30 and 30A has long been a concern of area residents; about four years ago, trucks were banned from the downhill span of Route 30 leading to the site of the limousine crash. The vehicle, a 2001 Ford Excursion, had been “modified” since leaving the factory (cut and extended to fit more passengers), thus requiring a federal certificate that the operator, Prestige Limousine, apparently did not possess. We know that the limo failed a recent inspection, and legally should not have been on the road. And the driver did not have the required license—a commercial driver’s license with a passenger endorsement—to operate the vehicle.
Investigators have not yet identified specific factors that caused the crash, which could include such things as vehicle equipment failure, inherent safety flaws created by the vehicle modification, or driver error due to excessive speed, inattention, intoxication, or even a sudden health event such as a heart attack. Once the investigation is complete, attorneys will begin the long process of seeking compensation for the victims and their families.
Given the intricacies of the crash, the public may have several questions on how automobile accidents are handled in New York state. Therefore, our auto accident attorneys have compiled some information regarding how auto insurance coverage may respond and what lawsuits may be filed for this case.
How NYS Automobile Insurance Coverage Works
In New York state, operators of buses and limousines with a capacity of more than 12 people are required to carry a minimum of $500,000 in liability insurance. We don’t have information on Prestige’s policy, but hypothetically, if the limo is covered to the minimum, and eventually pays out to the families of all 20 decedents in equal amounts, that would be a grossly insulting amount of merely $25,000 per victim. That is not necessarily how it will play out, and Prestige might have more than the minimum coverage, including excess or umbrella coverage. When the available insurance coverage is deemed insufficient to pay the losses incurred, plaintiffs may seek available unencumbered assets from the company to satisfy a judgment or verdict.
There is another insurance recourse for claimants: what is known as SUM (supplemental uninsured/underinsured motorist) insurance, which essentially is added protection when the insurance limits of the at-fault party are insufficient to compensate for the victims’ financial losses, pain, and suffering. SUM insurance of at least $25,000 is required on auto insurance policies in New York state; families can file claims for SUM insurance on any policy carried by a decedent, or a relative of a decedent who shared a residence.
Damages and Lawsuits for Automobile Accidents
The losses and damages that could be claimed by families of the decedents are considerable. For starters, the pecuniary losses include funeral and burial costs, as well as any future losses suffered by dependent children and surviving spouses. Families of the decedents almost certainly will claim additional damages for their lost loved ones’ pre-impact terror and conscious pain and suffering prior to death.
Beyond what they are able to collect from Prestige’s insurance, it is reasonably certain that families will file lawsuits against any of several parties who may be deemed to have culpability in the crash. These include the on-site operator of Prestige Limousine, Nauman Hussain, who was arrested by state police Wednesday and charged with criminally negligent homicide; his father, Shahed Hussain, who owns the company and currently is in Pakistan; and perhaps even the estate of the deceased limousine driver, Scott Lisinicchia. The lawsuits should help reveal assets held by these parties.
Litigants also are likely to name New York state in lawsuits, as the Department of Transportation is responsible for the design and upkeep of the intersection of state routes 30 and 30A, whose safety has been questioned by area residents for years. As of this writing, we have not seen information on the company or persons who did the aftermarket modifications to the Ford Excursion, but that party or parties conceivably could be named in lawsuits for vehicle modification flaws that allegedly contributed to the crash.
LaMarche Safranko Law wishes comfort to the families who have lost loved ones as they struggle through this difficult time.