Commercial, public, and school buses weigh many tons. So, when a bus is packed to the brim, its weight alone can turn a minor accident into a mass tort event or cause a crash with serious injuries and many deaths.
The roster of those who may be liable for bus accidents includes bus drivers, other
drivers involved, and the owners of the buses.
The Bus Driver
Bus accident claims start with scrutinizing the driver’s conduct. When a bus accident occurs, the injured person has to prove the driver operated the vehicle in a negligent way.
If you’re the injured party, you look to see if the bus driver violated traffic laws or the rules of the road. These negligent acts — which commonly appear in motor vehicle crashes — include:
- Running a stop sign or red light
- Passing in a no-passing zone or otherwise in an improper manner
- Driving too fast for the weather conditions, including fog, rain,
- Failing to keep a proper lookout
- Not using the turn signal when changing lanes
With buses, distracted driving means more than texting or watching videos on smartphones. Even short conversations with passengers can draw bus drivers’ attention away from traffic, pedestrians, and potentially dangerous road conditions.
The Bus Owner
In many cases, the bus driver is the main culprit of the crash. However, a crash
accident victim’s injuries and damages likely will exceed the driver’s ability to pay. As such, lawyers look to the bus companies to compensate bus crash
victims for their injuries.
When a bus accident occurs because of the driver’s carelessness, the driver’s employer may face “vicarious liability.” Under this concept, the bus company assumes responsibility for the crash because of the employer-employee relationship
between the company and the driver. Significantly, you do not need to prove the
bus company itself was negligent in causing your injuries if you cite vicarious
As with any attempt to establish vicarious liability, you must prove that the employee acted within the scope and course of employment. As a general rule, the fact that the driver was operating the bus at the time of the crash will supply at least a presumption of acting within the course and scope of employment.
However, you don’t get the benefit of vicarious liability if the driver injures you
while taking a personal junket. In such a circumstance, the driver does not
advance the interests of the bus company. Vicarious liability also normally
doesn’t apply if the bus driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
when the crash occurred.
Aside from the employer-employee relationship, you may recover if the bus company negligently employed or engaged the driver. In a negligent hiring suit, a
plaintiff’s lawyer seeks to prove that the driver should not have been selected
in the first place.
Typically, the bus driver either did not hold a valid commercial driver’s license or had a poor driving record. The latter, which often comes from public records or a motor vehicle agency, includes a history of at-fault wrecks, impaired driving convictions, speeding, and other moving violations.
You may pursue the owner of the bus for placing a dangerous bus on the road. Defective condition claims may arise from:
- Malfunctioning brakes
- Worn, under-inflated or over-inflated tires
- Blown headlights, taillights, brake lights
- Stuck emergency doors and push-out windows
The bus company may have failed to perform the required inspections prior to allowing these buses to carry passengers on public roads.
A Note on Suing Schools and Public Transit Companies
If your claim stems from a school bus accident or a city bus crash, you’ll have to
overcome hurdles not present when a commercial bus company owns the bus. Generally, government bodies and school boards enjoy immunity from lawsuits
except to the extent they have insurance for the buses.
Depending on the jurisdiction, injured parties must submit claims to the government before filing suit. Deadlines for these pre-suit demands run shorter than the time limit (i.e., the statute of limitations) for filing a lawsuit.
The Other Driver
Bus company lawyers also look to the drivers of other vehicles to assign blame.
Perhaps the third-party driver did not yield the right-of-way, attempted to pass a stopped bus and hit passengers leaving the bus, or ran a stop sign or red light.
These negligent acts may combine with the bus driver or bus companies’ own negligence so that you have additional resources for compensation for your injuries.
Bus crashes usually involve multiple parties who may be at fault, so there’s plenty
of room to get compensation if you or your child was injured in a bus crash. Let the experience and skill of a bus accident lawyer guide you through the legalities of a bus accident to the compensation you are rightfully due.