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 that driver 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.
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.
When you 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.
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