Liability Can Be Unclear In Bus Accidents

by : Katie Kelley

Buses generally thought to be a safe method of travel; after all, they are significantly larger than other vehicles on the road and many buses do not even come equipped with seat belts.

A study by the National Bus Safety Council between the years 1987 and 1996 found 4.3 bus rider fatalities per year compared to 44,000 passenger vehicle fatalities over the same time frame. However, buses are involved in an alarming number of crashes, many of which prove fatal. In the last week, school bus accidents causing injury have occurred in Massachusetts, New York, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Public transportation buses also frequently are involved in accidents leading to injury and death; a Washington, D.C. woman recently was hit and killed by a Metro bus, becoming the fifth fatality in eight months in the D.C. area from bus accidents.

Accidents involving school children have prompted many school districts to re-outfit school buses with seat belts, even though many states still do not require school buses to have seat belts. Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) reveals that 5,212 deaths in 2005 were caused by crashes involving large trucks and that 91,824 injuries were a result of crashes involving large trucks.

Who is at Fault for Bus Accidents?

Because buses can carry large numbers of people and often are cumbersome to drive, it is important that bus drivers are well-trained and qualified for the job. A bus driver can be held at fault for causing an accident. However, bus accident lawsuits are not always clear because state and federal laws differ in who they say is at fault for such accidents.

"Common carriers" are defined as being someone whose business is transporting people or material items from one place to another for compensation; such services typically are open to the public.

Common carriers, which include commercial bus companies, are governed federally and by most state governments, and the drivers of these vehicles are required to have adequate training and equipment to complete their duties.

Bus drivers consequently are subjected to strict standards for their performance and can be found at fault in bus accidents. However, the involvement of insurance companies and contractors in accident legal proceedings make questions of who is at fault much more complex. Because state governments are involved in establishing their own common carrier regulation, bus accident litigation action can vary widely from state to state.

Finding an experienced lawyer who is familiar with the common carrier laws of the area in which the accident took place and insurance policies regarding bus accidents is highly advisable.

What Should Be Done in the Event of a Bus Accident?

* If no law enforcement is present at the scene, immediately file an accident report with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol.

* Be sure to record the name, address, insurance information, vehicle license number, and driver's license number of everyone who was involved in the accident. Also obtain names and contact information from any witnesses.

* Take photographs of the accident scene, of all vehicles involved, and any injuries to victims of the accident.

* Do not discuss the accident or any injuries you suffered with anyone other than your doctor or lawyer.

* Do not agree to making a recorded statement or sign any document that you have not first reviewed with your lawyer.

* Immediately seek medical treatment and be sure to tell your doctor how your injury occurred and about any pain from which you may be suffering.

Should I Contact an Auto Accident Lawyer?

In the event of a bus accident, it can be incredibly beneficial to have the counsel of an experienced bus or auto accident attorney. If you or someone you know has been injured in a bus accident and believe someone else may be at fault, it is advisable to contact an auto accident attorney.