School buses, city buses, tour buses, inter-city buses―buses are a prominent part of modern transportation. The vehicles are larger than most that travel our street and highways, presenting unique problems for drivers of the buses as well as the drivers of the vehicles that share the road with them. And when bus accidents occur, there tend to be many injuries due to the simple fact that each bus carries multiple passengers.
In 2014, there were over 7,000 private and commercial buses registered in Maryland; another 4,000 were publicly owned. The vast majority of the publicly owned buses belonged to states, counties and local governments. Many thousands of these buses were school buses. In addition to the preceding, of course, countless interstate passenger buses and out-of-state charter buses pass through Maryland all the time.
All these buses, traveling huge numbers of miles, are inevitably involved in accidents that cause injury or death involving drivers, passengers, pedestrians and other motorists. In the U.S. as a whole, there are over 20,000 people injured and killed in bus accidents each year. Federal data indicates that the types of buses most commonly involved in crashes that involved at least one fatality were, from 2004 to 2014, school buses (41 percent), transit buses (33 percent) and intercity buses (13 percent).
That’s an important and, frequently, very complicated question. The answer depends on:
For all intents and purposes, whoever causes the accident is legally responsible for the resulting injuries, and not every bus accident is the fault of the bus company or driver. Other motorists may collide with the bus, the roadway may be defective, freight may fall off a delivery truck causing the bus to crash, defective mechanics on the bus, and on and on. Someone other than the bus company and driver would be liable in each of those cases. The bus itself may have been defectively manufactured and/or designed, which would make the manufacturer liable.
When a driver or the condition of the bus is at fault, the organization responsible for hiring and maintenance may be liable. In the case of a tour bus, for example, not only might the bus company be liable for a driver with a bad safety record, but the group that put the tour together could be responsible for selecting a company with a known poor safety record.
This is a fundamental issue that deserves the attention of a very experienced lawyer who is familiar with the complex rules about legal liability, and extensive knowledge of both transportation in general and bus operations in particular.
This isn’t always immediately clear. Buses can be leased and operated by a company other than the actual owner. Drivers and/or buses can be hired on a contract basis with the contracts varying wildly from one case to another.
That pretty much determines which laws and regulations apply to the operation of the bus. School buses tend to operate under a different set of requirements than commuter buses, and both may well differ from the rules for a bus operated by an assisted living facility.
Federally regulated buses obviously need to comply with the extensive federal regulations. For example, federal rules prescribe minimum requirements for drivers of “interstate motorcoaches,” such as:
School buses transporting children are subject to many regulations on how they must operate, and traffic laws impose special caution on motorists who encounter school buses on the highway. Federal rules also impose stringent requirements on the construction of school buses.
The commercial arrangements behind bus operations vary widely, the rules to which buses are subject can vary widely, and the causes of bus accidents are far too numerous to list. Just deciding who to sue, and on what basis, takes time and some investigation. If you have been injured in a bus accident, your best protection is to obtain the services of an attorney with experience in unraveling the potential complications, and doing it efficiently. The sooner that occurs, the sooner you can obtain the compensation you need to really recover.
For experienced legal help, call the Baltimore accident attorney team at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice today and tell us what happened to cause your injuries. The consultation is always free. We’ll settle the case if that can be done fairly for you, and always remain ready to see the case through court if necessary. There is no fee until you recover. Maryland has statutory time limits on filing a law suit, so don’t delay; make that call now. 410.288.2900