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Cleared jurisdiction hurdle doesn't bring closure on crash cause

Last month, we provided a glimpse into how investigations into some fatal motor vehicle crashes can present significant challenges. It is not only family members who have lost loved ones that face these difficulties. At times, investigating agencies with competing interests can face hurdles. What results is that an already slow process for pursuing compensation for personal injury and damages takes even longer.

The crash highlighted in that previous post stands as the nation's deadliest single transportation tragedy since 2009. And while it happened in another state, we feel it's worth keeping a focus on developments so that Alabama readers can learn and benefit from the situation.

Final report on cause still a year out

The issue in the earlier post was a dispute over wreck access waged between New York state officials and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) relating to an accident last October that claimed the lives of 20 people. Eighteen victims were aboard a chartered modified stretch limousine. Two pedestrians also died.

The NTSB has an interest in investigating to determine the actual cause and to make recommendations for avoiding such a tragedy in the future. But state officials refused to let federal team within 15 feet to the limo wreck in a bid to protect the state's developing criminal case against the limo operator.

Late last month a judge told the two sides to work out their differences and agreement was reached. Since then, the NTSB has been able to issue an initial report. Unfortunately, it offers little in the way of new information.

The NTSB does cite a witness statement indicating that the limo barreled through a highway intersection and crashed into a business's parking lot. Investigators say they are looking into issues related to the overall safety and condition of the vehicle as well as regulatory oversight by the state. But officials say there won't be a final report for more than a year.

In the absence of official determinations of cause, the families of the victims of this kind of an accident might feel they can do nothing but wait. That is not the case. To get a full understanding of rights and options, it is always wise to consult with a skilled attorney.

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