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A fatal party bus accident last year has shed light on some unscrupulous companies that have figured out a way around safety regulations and federal safety requirements by insuring their buses under less expensive insurance policies.

The family of a 26-year-old single mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the woman’s then 5-week-old daughter.  A recent ruling found that the owners and operators of Midnight Express were negligent and responsible for the woman’s death on May 4, 2013.

While celebrating a friend’s bachelorette party, the woman fell out of the side double doors of the party bus onto Interstate 35 in Kansas City, Kansas where she was then struck by three vehicles.  The suit alleged that after purchasing the bus in 2010, the Midnight Express made “extensive modifications” that included removal of some of the vehicle’s safety features.  A post-accident inspection of the bus found that Midnight Express was not in compliance with federal safety standards, removal of the wheelchair lift created a safety hazard, and the doors were not properly latched on the night of the accident.  Additionally, it was determined that the bus was not registered with the DOT and was not carrying the proper insurance.  The suit settled for an undisclosed amount. The case against other defendants resulted in judgments of $6.78 million. Part of that amount has been satisfied from Midnight Express’ insurance coverage. The family is considering further legal action against the insurance agency and the broker who allegedly insured Midnight Express for less than the amount that federal trucking regulations require.

This fatal accident could have been avoided if the bus had been properly registered and insured; routine safety inspections would have identified any problems and the bus would have been pulled from the fleet until it met federal compliance. A one-year-old child will never see her mom again, but hopefully this case has brought awareness of companies who try to skirt around the law, and more importantly, brought awareness to ensure that corrective action is taken to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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