Who Is Liable for a Bus Accident?

Who Is At Fault in Bus Accident Claims? | Patrick Daniel Law
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From government agencies to school districts to private companies, many different parties operate buses in Houston and other metropolitan areas throughout the country. People from all walks of life ride the bus, from children to working professionals to senior citizens.

Accidents involving buses are devastating events. They frequently result in serious injuries and even fatalities. In the wake of a crash, the occupants of the bus as well as other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians may have claims against the party or parties responsible for the accident.

Liability is a complex issue in claims involving bus crashes. The bus accident attorneys at Patrick Daniel Law thoroughly investigate to identify all liable parties and pursue the compensation you deserve for your losses.

Who Is At Fault for a Bus Accident?

As with accident claims involving semi-trucks and other motor carriers, a number of different parties may be liable for collisions involving vehicles “used to transport persons and designed to accommodate more than 10 passengers, including the operator.” The Texas Transportation Code also defines a bus as “a motor vehicle, other than a taxicab, designed and used to transport persons for compensation.”

Given these legal definitions, bus accident claims may involve metro buses, school buses, intercity and regional carriers (i.e., Greyhound, Megabus, etc.), and many other types of vehicles, including:

  • Passenger vans
  • Shuttle buses
  • Minibuses
  • Party buses
  • Sleeper motorcoaches
  • Charter and tour buses

Regardless of the type of bus involved in the wreck, investigation of the driver’s actions leading up to and during the crash is the first step of building your accident claim.

Bus Driver Negligence

Bus drivers can (and do) engage in the same careless and dangerous actions as the drivers of other vehicles. The difference is that the vehicles they operate are much larger, carry many more passengers, and often lack the safety features of standard passenger vehicles.

As such, negligent acts like the following can be even more dangerous when a bus is involved:

  • Excess speed
  • Failure to use caution when turning or changing lanes
  • Distracted driving
  • Running stop signs, yield signs, and red lights
  • Following other vehicles too closely (tailgating)
  • Driving while fatigued
  • Aggressive driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Bus drivers face immense pressure to move passengers from point A to point B on time. These timetables are often unrealistic, increasing the risk for many reckless driving behaviors.

Additional issues, such as poor maintenance of buses, errors in manufacturing and design, and inadequate training of drivers, may also be a factor in bus accidents. Depending on the factors involved, fault for the crash may extend to parties beyond the bus driver.

Determining Liability for a Bus Accident

Complex liability is commonplace in bus accident claims. Although the bus driver is responsible for safe operation of the bus, the negligence of other parties may have played a role in the crash as well.

Thorough investigation of the bus accident may reveal wrongdoing on the part of the following:

A Bus Company

Private bus companies that transport people in exchange for payment (known as a for-hire arrangement) are subject to many of the same rules and regulations that apply to the operators of commercial vehicles. As with commercial vehicle accident claims, bus company negligence can take multiple forms, including:

  • Hiring unqualified and inexperienced drivers
  • Failing to provide proper training to bus drivers
  • Failing to supervise drivers; poor management can keep unsuitable operators on the road
  • Violating hours of service rules by forcing drivers to operate past what is legally allowed
  • Failing to inspect and maintain buses

In addition to crashes involving the bus, both the driver and the bus company may be liable for injuries sustained by passengers due to improper operation of the bus. For example, you may have a claim if you were injured by errors in the opening or closing of a door on the bus.

A Government Entity

In jurisdictions throughout the United States, mass transit (including bus lines) is generally operated by a government agency. For example, the METRO in Houston operates buses and light rail for all of Harris County and parts of Fort Bend and Montgomery counties.

As with all claims against government entities, accident claims involving public buses are subject to a number of special procedures and restrictions. In Texas, these rules include:

  • You must submit a notice of your injury claim to the appropriate government entity within six months of the accident; time limits may vary by jurisdiction
    • Ex: The City of Houston requires a notice of claim within 90 days of the injury
  • Liability is restricted to injuries and damages caused by the operation of a motor vehicle
    • I.e., liability does not apply for injuries sustained by passengers boarding or exiting the bus
  • The accident must have occurred in the course of the bus driver’s duties as a government employee
  • Damages in public liability claims against municipalities are capped at $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident

Claims against public transportation agencies and other government entities are complicated. An experienced attorney can investigate the accident promptly, ensure that your claim is filed on time, and protect your rights.

A School District

Buses are crucial for transporting students to and from school. Most school buses are owned and operated by the school districts. Despite the trust parents place in these vehicles and their drivers, the unfortunate reality is that school buses are often poorly maintained and lack safety features like seatbelts. In the event of an accident, children on the school bus can suffer a wide range of serious injuries.

Many of the rules and procedures for filing a claim against the government (see above) also apply in claims against the district for a school bus accident. One significant difference is the compensation claimants may be able to recover.

In Texas, school districts are considered “governmental units.” The maximum amount of damages that can be recovered in a liability claim against a governmental unit is $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.

Children hurt in school bus accidents may suffer injuries that can affect them for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, the limit on damages severely restricts the compensation families can pursue in a claim against the school district.

However, the district may not be the only party liable for an accident involving a school bus. It is important to contact a bus accident attorney to discuss all of your options for recovering fair compensation.

Vehicle and Parts Manufacturers

Mechanical issues on buses may arise because the owner/operator of the bus fails to inspect the vehicle regularly and perform maintenance and repairs. A third-party mechanic or maintenance provider may also be liable for failure to service the bus properly.

However, mechanical failures may also arise due to faulty parts and components on the bus, as well as flaws in the design of the vehicle.

If you were injured in a bus accident – whether as a passenger on the bus, the occupant of another vehicle, or as a pedestrian or bicyclist – it is important to consider the role a defective part may have played in causing the crash. Comprehensive assessment of the bus may reveal that one or more components were faulty.

In product liability claims, the manufacturer of the faulty product and other parties involved in the design, assembly, and sale may be liable for injuries and damages stemming from the defect. A bus accident attorney can work with experts to inspect the bus for defects, determine how they contributed to the crash, and identify all of the liable companies in your claim.

Contact a Bus Accident Attorney Today

Bus accidents involve a host of complex issues. In addition to the high probability of multiple victims suffering serious injuries, special rules and regulations apply to private and common carriers.

If you or a member of your family was injured (or you lost a loved one) in a bus accident, you need experienced legal counsel on your side. At Patrick Daniel Law, our attorneys and staff are Strategic, Meticulous, and Merciless in our handling of each client’s case. We perform comprehensive investigations of the bus driver, bus company, and other parties to the accident, develop a custom-tailored legal strategy, and ruthlessly pursue the compensation you and your family deserve.

Please call Patrick Daniel Law at (713) 999-6666 today for a free case review. Our bus accident attorneys serve clients throughout the Greater Houston area, all of Texas, and nationwide.

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