When a Bus Accident Occurs, Who Is Responsible?

When a Bus Accident Occurs, Who Is Responsible?

Where does a bus injury lawyer begin preparation for a case? Step one, of course, is simple and essential: Listening to the client. Long experience has taught us to learn the client’s story. We then understand what he or she experienced and revisit this perspective.

The real work begins at step two: the investigation. For an experienced bus injury lawyer, the investigation to determine who was really at fault for a tragedy will continue until the moment of trial. Using statements from the client, other witnesses, law enforcement officer, and others, the attorney will develop a complete picture of what actually happened.

Inevitably, the fact that the bus is a commercial vehicle will challenge the lawyer’s understanding. It will also change the nature of any lawsuit seeking a full and fair recovery for a motor coach accident victim.

“Deep Pockets”

Critics of personal injury lawyers—and trust us, there are a lot of critics out there—like to pretend that the lawyer is the enemy. “You always go after business,” they tell us. “Even when the accident was obviously the fault of a bad bus driver, you sue the business. And we both know why you do that.”

By this point, the guy is usually shaking his finger at our faces. “You do that because the poor bus driver is judgment proof. He doesn’t have the big bucks, so you go after the company that hired him. You destroy companies just because they have deep pockets, and you want to pick their pockets.”

Vicarious Responsibility

The charge isn’t true and it isn’t fair. Yes, we often bring the lawsuit against the bus company as well as its driver, but that’s not because we want to break up business. It’s because of a core legal principle called vicarious responsibility. In fact, the principle is so fundamental to our rule of law that it has a name in Latin: respondeat superior, which roughly translates as “Let the boss answer.”

The obligations of being a boss don’t end after you hire someone. When your employee is on duty at work, he represents the company. The employer has a continuing obligation to ensure that the employee can and does carry out his work in a way that presents no obvious threat to the general public.

When we consider the area of serious commercial motor coach and charter bus accidents, we can look at specific obligations on the part of the bus company, rather than the driver, which includes:

  • A duty to make sure the bus is properly maintained and can be operated safely.
  • An obligation to make sure the driver is professionally skilled and capable of responding appropriately to emergency conditions.
  • Safety in adverse weather and traffic conditions.
  • Well rested drivers who are not under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants.
  • A duty to ensure the bus driver follows safe-driving procedures, including not using distracting handheld devices while operating the vehicle.

State and federal rules are in place to impose strict regulations on operating tour buses and commercial motor coaches. But it’s not enough for the company to say that it obeyed the letter of the law. By choosing to employ a particular driver, the company makes itself potentially liable for every action or decision the driver makes during the course of his work. Government regulations provide minimum standards, but in the wake of an accident the company must be able to prove it fostered a climate of workplace safety that exceeded these minimums; otherwise, it may be held liable for any bus injury that happens.

Get a Free Case Review

Jon Ostroff has founded his career on getting vehicle accident victims the best recovery available for their cases. We have a nationwide network of legal professionals who can respond to your bus injury. Your initial consultation about your case is free. We will not accept any legal fee unless they can get you a settlement or a damage award.