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New Jersey passenger dies after motorcycle crash into bus door

Even momentary carelessness in traffic can lead to a crash. Defendants in accident liability cases often claim they never meant to hurt anyone, but harmful intent and negligence are not the same.

Negligence is as much what a Bergen County driver does as what he or she doesn't do. In both cases, an injury or death is caused by a disregard for someone else's safety. The party responsible for an avoidable accident is often ordered to compensate an injured victim or surviving family members.

A jitney bus was stopped along a Jersey City road when a motorcycle with two riders approached. Witnesses said the bus driver quickly opened the driver-side door into traffic. The motorcycle crashed into the door, sending both riders airborne.

Neighbors said the motorcycle operator didn't stir for several minutes. Eventually, he got up and limped toward the unmoving woman passenger. Witnesses said the man was the only one who seemed to be wearing a helmet.

According to local residents, the bus driver appeared upset but physically uninjured. Reports did not say whether the driver was cited or charged by police for the motorcycle accident.

Both motorcycle riders were hospitalized. Observers said it looked like the man's hip was injured. The passenger later died.

New Jersey drivers may forget the duty of care they owe to the motorists around them. Under liability laws, each driver is responsible for preventing others from suffering harm by using "reasonable care." Negligence becomes a broken contract when a driver breaches that duty by acting carelessly or recklessly.

Juries decide whether negligence applies by comparing a defendant's actions with the behavior of a "reasonable" person. Compensation is ordered when a driver's unreasonable action creates harm and a loss for a plaintiff.

Civil litigation and damage awards may occur independently of criminal investigations. A driver can escape citations or criminal penalties and still be found guilty of negligence.

Source: The Jersey Journal, "Motorcycle passenger dies from injuries after crash with jitney in Jersey City" No author given, Jan. 20, 2014

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