Bus accidents, whether they involve school buses or other buses, are governed by complex laws and rules. Those laws and rules affect how these buses operate. Any lawyer handling these types of claims must know these rules and laws.
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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) define a bus in a very broad way. They then proceed to narrow down how a bus is defined. A bus may be designed for the transport of more than 8 people for a fee or it may be designed to transport more than 15 people without a fee.
U.S. law governs most buses that are on the road in terms of fitness, driver training, qualification and supervision. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates many of these crashes. They issue a lengthy report. Although that report cannot be used at trial, it does provide helpful leads.
In those cases where the bus is not in commerce between states then the U.S. rules do not apply. However they should be your starting point for research. States sometimes follow the U.S. rules. Moreover those U.S. rules may be followed at the local level. To the extent that the bus is a common carrier, then it must exercise utmost care and skill. On the other hand, a private carrier must only exercise reasonable care.
There are several types of buses that may exist:
The parties at fault in a bus accident include not only the driver and the bus owner but also the tour company for the trip if one exists. Where there is an issue of faulty service then that person may be at fault. Anyone who contracts to refer people to the bus service may be at fault. The manufacturer or distributor may also be at fault.
In looking at a bus accident case, there are several things to keep in mind:
Drivers who are government employees may be immune. The driver’s employer may also be immune. These governmental buses may also be protected by special laws. Those laws may limit the amount of money the party being sued can be forced to pay. In addition there may be certain notices that must be given before you can sue. If that notice is not given, your claim is barred. Call or contact us for a free consult.
Common carriers are held to a high degree of care. This is different than the care that applies to a non-common carrier. Being a common carrier does not mean that the carrier insures the safety of the riders. It does mean that the carrier is held to a very high standard.
There have been some pushes in the U.S. Congress to improve bus safety. Seat belts, stronger roofs, better windows and controls to keep the bus stable are all on the table. There is also a lot of push back from the industry. The primary causes of death in bus crashes are rollovers and riders being ejected.
The buses across the U.S. are run by a complex network. Many of these bus owners come and go. Sometimes they come and go with crashes. They may simply fold up with a big crash. Thereafter they form under another name and resume doing what they had been doing. Following this trail of owners may be helpful. Proof of a series of crashes with new companies being formed after each crash may help tip the scales in your favor.
Federal preemption has been discussed elsewhere on this site. When the U.S. steps into a particular field then they may fully occupy that field. The states then cannot pass rules or laws that differ from the U.S. rules or laws. This concept is designed to prevent any conflict between what the U.S. is doing and what the states are doing. You need to look at whether this applies in your case. It may apply in regard to bus seat belt issues and also other safety issues.
In a 2011 case of Doomes v. Best Transit Corp., the New York Court of Appeals noted that this state law claim based upon the absence of seat belts in this bus was not preempted by U.S. law. The U.S. law that required the driver’s seat to have a belt but did not require seat belts for the riders did not preempt this state law claim. U.S. law does not address whether state law claims are preserved in this case.
A bus crash in early March 2011 killed 15 passengers in the Bronx, NY. It was carrying Chinese workers to out of town gambling places. Chinese culture views gambling as a mode of relaxing. As a result, many Chinese workers, after a day’s work, travel to nearby casinos. They then return home the next day for work.
In addition many Chinese workers travel long distances overnight for work. They then return home after the end of their shift.
This niche Chinese bus business was involved in this deadly crash killing 15 people. The case is of interest because it shows how some owners skirt the law in order to cater to large groups.
If you or a loved one has been a injured by a bus accident in Virginia or Washington DC, contact Brien Roche today for an experienced, aggressive attorney.
For more information about vehicle accidents see the pages on Wikipedia.