Breaking Down a Tour Bus Crash
The number of fatal charter bus crashes has increased over 40 percent since 2009. From both a factual and legal perspective, these claims are quite complex.
Since tour bus occupants never wear seat belts, their injuries are usually quite severe. Head injuries, internal wounds, and spine injuries are quite common. Furthermore, the victims are usually from County A, the wreck usually occurred in County B, and the driver may be from County C.
Due to these complexities, only a highly experienced Port St. Lucie personal injury attorney should handle these claims. An inexperienced lawyer may not be able to obtain maximum compensation. Generally, this compensation includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme cases.
A claim for damages begins with the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) legal duty. Generally, drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road.
But tour bus operators are common carriers in Florida. Since these individuals transport passengers for a few, they are virtually insurers of safe passage from pickup to dropoff.
Part of this duty involves behavior behind the wheel. Responsibility at traffic control signals is a good example. Most noncommercial ways can proceed through intersections if they have green lights and not stop to look. But that’s arguably not true with regard to common carriers. These individuals cannot assume that other drivers will stop for a red light or a stop sign.
Common carriers also have other duties in terms of on-board passenger safety. That duty includes cleaning up wet spots on the floor, breaking up verbal fights between passengers before they turn physical, and not allowing passengers to bring dangerous weapons onto the bus.
Establishing Bus Driver Negligence
Largely because of this elevated duty, drowsy driving and distracted driving are two of the most common causes of tour bus crashes.
Many charter bus drivers are behind the wheel late at night and early in the morning. Most people are naturally drowsy at these times, no matter how much rest they had the night before. That’s especially true if they recently changed work schedules.
Biologically, drowsy driving is a lot like drunk driving. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level.
Furthermore, as discussed above, many tour bus drivers have responsibilities far in excess of driving the vehicle. They are also expected to serve as safety monitors and tour guides. That’s a dangerously high amount of multitasking.
Liability for Damages
The company which owned the bus is usually responsible for damages in these incidents. The respondeat superior rule applies if:
- Employee: Even if the driver is an owner-operator, independent contractor, or an unpaid volunteer, the driver is probably an employee for negligence purposes. Employers control all these individuals in terms of things like hours worked or routes travelled.
- Scope of Employment: In much the same way, any act which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. That includes things like driving an empty bus back to the garage.
Third party liability theories like respondeat superior are especially important in catastrophic injury claims. Many times, individual tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in these situations.
Team Up with a Savvy Lawyer
Negligent tour bus drivers often cause catastrophic injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Port St. Lucie personal injury lawyer, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury cases.