Party Bus Accident Injury Lawyer
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Every day, evening, and night thousands upon thousands of passengers board party buses to enjoy occasions such bachelor's and bachelorette parties, winery tours, tailgate parties, and "pub crawl." Furthermore, each passenger has a reasonable expectation of returning from their excursion without having suffered a catastrophic injury.
In the vast majority of cases, these excursions cause little harm (other than the occasional bout of self-embarrassment or hangover). This is not always the case, as party buses are developing a reputation as an unsafe mode of transportation due to the fact that many party bus accident injuries could have prevented.
On this portion of our website the party bus accident injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm will give a short a review of the development of the party bus industry, from its origins to its current state. He will then discuss how unscrupulous party bus operators are more concerned with profits rather than with the safety of their often-young passengers, concluding with an explanation of the legal options that may be available to party bus accident victims and their families.
Who regulates party buses?
Any multiple-passenger vehicle operated on a "for-hire" basis in interstate commerce is regulated by the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of federal regulations that may apply to party buses, stretch limos, and similar vehicles.
Among the more important regulations are:
- drivers must possess a valid commercial driver's license (CDL) and maintain a digital or paper logbook
- drivers must undergo drug and alcohol testing prior to employment, and upon demand by a law enforcement officer
- if the party bus seats 15 passengers or less, the operator must carry a minimum of $1.5 million in liability insurance coverage, if the party bus seats 16 or more passengers it must carry $5 million in coverage
- the party bus must be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and, if applicable, with state and local regulators
- all maintenance must be recorded in a logbook, and that logbook must be made available to MCSA inspectors upon demand
If a party bus operation, or its agents (e.g. drivers and/or mechanics) does not comply with the above regulations and an accident occurs, most courts will accept such failures as evidence of negligence.
As to state regulation of party buses, most states delegate responsibility for inspecting and/or monitoring the safety of party buses to some branch of its own Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety, or some similar agency. The level of monitoring provide by these agencies varies from annual detailed inspections to cursory checks of vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
What are the causes of injuries on party buses?
If you make a few Google or Bing searches, you will find that prices for a used party bus or stretch limo can run from between $12,000 to $50,000 depending on model year, condition, seating capacity, and installed amenities. A new party bus/stretch limo can run between $60,000 to over $200,000. It shouldn't be hard to understand that many startups and small fleet operators will opt for a used vehicle or even a truck or bus that they will convert to a party bus.
The problems that you can run into buying a used car are similar to those encountered by party bus operators that either 1) want to start small and then move up or 2) are already established operators that want to expand their fleet but don't want to spend $100,000 doing it.
Regardless of the age or condition of the bus itself, certain factors seem to recur more than others when you examine accident or maintenance inspection reports. These factors include:
- falls from vehicle
- old, defective equipment
- lack of proper maintenance
- poor supervision of passengers by driver or chaperone
- deliberate misconduct by passengers
Let's take a look at each of these in more detail.
Falls from Vehicle
In the past, passengers falling from a party bus accounted for the majority of all injuries and fatalities related to party buses. In no particular order, the portals where these falls occurred are 1) the passenger entrance, 2) the emergency exit at the rear of the vehicle, 3) windows designed as emergency, "push out," exits, and 4) emergency exits located on the roof of the bus.
In many cases, injuries of this type are due to the deliberate actions of a passenger or passengers. Another frequent cause of such falls in an abrupt change in the vehicle's direction of travel, its velocity (speed), or a combination of the two. A relatively infrequent cause of falls is the failure of the air compressor unit that opens and closes the large passenger door at the front of the bus, causing it to fail without warning.
Old, Defective Equipment
This problem is frequently encountered in older vehicles, particularly those that are purchased as "used" or those that being refurbished. In the latter case, it is not uncommon that a dishonest mechanic or vehicle refurbisher will use older or "rebuilt" parts but charge the party bus operator for new components. Of course, party bus operators may routinely use substandard products as well.
Lack of Proper Maintenance
Lack of proper routine maintenance seems to be rampart in the party bus sector of the transportation industry. Rather than attempt a summary of such multiple violations, we present an example.
In May, a 20-year-old University of North Carolina - Charlotte was killed after she fell through an unmarked emergency exit window of a party bus and was then struck by two cars that were in the normal flow of traffic. The bus was inspected later and was found to have multiple violations of North Carolina law. None of those violations were directly linked to the death but could indicate that the bus's owner was indifferent to safety issues.
Poor Supervision of Passengers by Driver or Chaperone
On a party bus, the driver has roughly the same moral duties as the captain of a ship. Of those duties, the most important is to protect his or her crew (in our case, the passengers) from danger. Thus, the driver is the captain and any chaperone that may be present is the "first mate.
If a passenger's actions could pose a risk themselves or others, the driver is obligated to inform that passenger to "cease and desist" whatever the passenger was doing. Each bus operator has its on policies for dealing with unruly passengers, but the driver usually can order such passengers off the bus. The driver is, however, responsible for leaving that passenger in a safe location.
Some states require a chaperone to be present if alcohol is to be served and anyone under the legal age to drink will be among the passengers. In most cases, the chaperone will be required to sign a document stating the he or she is responsible for keeping alcohol away from underage drinkers. Should an underage passenger consume alcohol and sustain an injury, the chaperone can be held liable.
As mentioned in the previous section, many injuries on party buses are "self-inflicted" by passengers. In general, these injuries can complicate a personal injury lawsuit because an injured passenger "contributed" in some way to the injury. Personal injury law demands that this fact be considered when determining liability and the amount to be awarded, if any, to the victim.
This is known as contributory negligence and may have a significant impact on your case. In some states, and depending on the extent that the party bus's passenger's conduct contributed to his or her injury, you may not be able to file a lawsuitt or any damages that you might recover may be substantially reduced! This aspect is quite complicated and is best explained by a personal injury lawyer who is familiar with the civil rules for lawsuits in the state where the injury occurred.
Injured in a party bus accident? Contact The Doan Law Firm to protect your legal rights!
As you have seen, party buses tend to have a less-than-enviable safety record. In the vast majority of party bus injury cases, at least a portion of the factors that led to the injury can be traced back to some act of negligence by the party bus operator. When you work with our firm, our investigation usually uncovers facts or conditions that were missed or ignored in the original accident investigation!
If you, or a family member, have been injured in a party bus accident, we invite you to contact the party bus accident lawyer at The Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury and wrongful death law practice with offices located in major cities throughout the country to arrange a free, no-obligation, review of the circumstances surrounding your party bus accident injury case and the legal options that we feel may be available to you.
At our firm your first consultation with us is always free and never creates an obligation to hire us to manage your party bus injury case. Should you decide that we should represent you in court, we are glad to assume responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for a previously-negotiated percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.
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