Causes of School, Charter, and Commercial Bus Accidents
Although not as popular as in the past, buses are frequently the best method
of transporting relatively large numbers of people to a common destination
such as an amusement park, a casino, or for general sightseeing. Unfortunately,
when a bus is involved in a traffic accident there is the possibility
that there could be dozens of passengers suffering injuries that range
from minor "cuts and scrapes" to life-threatening and even fatalities.
On this page, the bus accident lawyer at the
Doan Law Firm will review some of the more commonly-cited causes of bus accidents and
then review the legal options that may be available to those who have
suffered a bus accident injury or have lost a family member in such accidents.
The many causes of bus accidents
According to data gathered and published by agencies such as the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), it is estimated that there are between 120 to 150 accidental deaths
involving a bus each year. Surprisingly, only about 10% of these deaths
involve a bus passenger or the bus driver, with most deaths occurring
when an individual is struck by a bus or was killed when the vehicle in
which she/he was a passenger or driver collided with a bus.
As in any motor vehicle accident, bus accidents are usually due to a combination
of factors rather than a single critical event. In bus accidents, the
following are usually present to some degree:
- Driver fatigue / distraction
- Reckless driving
- Traffic and roadway conditions
- Poor weather conditions
- Poor vehicle maintenance
Driver fatigue / distraction
Bus drivers, like other commercial vehicle drivers, are subject to "on
duty/off duty" regulations that are imposed by the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration. These regulations establish, among other
things, the maximum number of hours that a driver may operate a bus before
must take a mandatory rest break.
Drivers are also required to devote all their attention to the actual act
of driving rather than talking on their cellphones or listening to music
via headphones. If it can be shown that a driver was "out of hours"
or was not concentrating on traffic / road conditions, the driver and
the driver's employer could be found liable for any injuries or deaths
in an accident.
All drivers, and especially bus drivers, are required by law to obey both
statewide and local traffic laws such as speed limits, no passing zones,
and yielding the right of way to other vehicles. Failure to follow these
"rules of the road" can result in a driver being cited for "reckless
driving" or some similar charge. Reckless driving is
always seen as act of negligence and exposes the driver, and the driver's
employer, to liability if an accident occurs.
Traffic and roadway conditions
Even under the best of conditions, there will always stretches of roadway
that are in worse physical than others. When driving on these less-than-ideal
sections of highway, it is always best to let local road conditions determine
how fast a vehicle can be safely driven. If an accident occurs, the investigating
police officers will make note of the local road conditions and their
opinions regarding what a safe driving speed would have been at the time
of an accident.
Poor weather conditions
Like roadway and traffic conditions, weather is beyond the control of even
the most careful of drivers. This means that a driver must always be prepared
for sudden changes in visibility due to fog, rain, or snow as well as
dust or smoke. If an accident occurs and sudden changes in local weather
conditions may have played a role in that accident, it is the vehicle
driver's responsibility to drive at a speed that is safe. If the driver
does not do so, the driver and his/her employer may be held liable for
the consequences of an accident.
Poor vehicle maintenance
The companies that operate commercial buses are required to inspect each
bus at regular intervals in order to detect problems such as uneven wear
on its tires, hydraulic fluid leaks, electrical problems, and to ensure
that emergency exits are functioning. Furthermore, bus companies are required
by state and federal law to document both routine and special maintenance
procedures in log books that are unique to each vehicle. If there is no
record in the log book of a repair being made, the courts will assume
that the company was negligent in properly maintaining the vehicle and
will probably allow the log book to be used as evidence in a lawsuit.
Liability and damages in bus accidents
In law, the term
liability is often used in the sense that someone is "responsible" for
the consequences of their actions. Thus, if someone is injured in a bus accident
and it is determined that the accident was caused by a mechanical defect or
by an error in judgement by the driver, both the driver and the bus company
could be sued and ordered to pay
Damages, usually in the form of money, are awarded to the injured parties
in accidents to 1) pay for any
losses (such as medical expenses, lost income, or repair of damaged property)
and 2) to punish the party responsible for the accident. The available
types of damages, and their amounts, are discussed on other pages of this
website and are best explained by a bus accident lawyer who is familiar
with the facts of a given accident.
Contacting a bus accident injury lawyer
If you, or a family member, have been injured in a bus accident, we invite
you to contact the bus accident injury lawyer at the
Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury law practice with offices in major cities
throughout the country to arrange for a free, no obligation, review of
your potential bus accident injury case.
contact our firm, your initial consultation with our bus accident lawyer is always free
of any charges to you and does not obligate you to hire our firm to represent
you in court. Should you later decide that we should act as your legal
counsel, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects
of preparing your case for trail in exchange for a previously agreed-upon
percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.