Bus accidents are rare compared with other traffic accidents. However, when they happen, they are usually catastrophic since buses have the most significant people carrying capacity compared with other vehicles. If you are involved in a bus accident or your loved one is a victim, you deserve to get fair compensation and recover all related damages.
Unfortunately, it is challenging to achieve such expectations due to the lack of enough legal knowledge. Seeking the help of a professional personal injury attorney would be the best solution for these instances. We at San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm will provide the best legal services needed when you or your loved ones are involved in a bus accident.
California Bus Accident Statistics
Before going too far with statistics about bus accidents in California, it is necessary to acknowledge the kind of vehicles that fall under the bus category. There are different types of buses that one should know about. The vehicle options that are considered as buses include:
Coach or Motor Coach
A coach bus is a type of bus used to travel for long distances. It offers much comfort and more space compared with other types of buses. It also has a carrying capacity for the passenger’s luggage.
A school bus is a type of coach that transports people in learning institutions. In the United States, school buses are painted yellow and have black lines running across the side.
A shuttle bus operates between various places and makes a lot of stops to drop and collect passengers. Shuttle buses are common in places where there are a lot of people, such as airports.
A mini-bus is a semi- coach that carries a carry between eight to twenty-five people. The mini-bus can also move between long distances.
Also known as transit buses, the hybrid bus is a type of bus that operates within towns and cities. Most of them have fuel and electric engines and have a large carrying capacity.
Also known as open-top buses, tour buses are used in city sightseeing. The buses can either be custom made without the roofs or have a double-decker bus roof removed. There are others with half a roof, whereas others do not have any roof at all.
With knowledge about the type of buses in California, it is easier to consider their accident statistics for accidents over the past few years. Here is a summary of bus accident statistics in California.
- Based on reports provided by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, an average of 1,282 people died out of school bus-related crashes between 2007 and 2016
- 70% of the people involved in the school bus accidents were occupants of other vehicles involved in the accidents
- Between 2007 and 2017, intercity buses accounted for 23% of the accident, while school buses and transit buses accounted for 40% and 35% respectively in all the buses involved in accidents between these years
- More than 50% of the injuries sustained are head injuries
Based on the statistics provided above, it is evident that there is a considerable risk of sustaining injuries from a bus accident. The level of fatalities in bus accidents is quite high, especially when there are small cars involved. The safety of the buses is a collective responsibility that starts with the owner, the driver, the insurance company, and the state government. Unfortunately, due to one thing or another, you cannot miss hearing about bus accidents.
Common Causes of Bus Accident in California
It is necessary to know the cause of a bus accident since it defines who is liable for your damages. Considering the cause of the accident is the first thing that an attorney would do soon after you seek legal help from him or her. Here are the common causes of bus accidents in California.
- Bus Driver Fatigue
If the bus driver is tired, he or she can lose focus or start falling asleep while driving. Drivers who suffer from conditions such as insomnia, accumulated sleep deficit, and sleep apnea are restricted from getting behind the wheel. Besides that, the bus company has the responsibility of ensuring that its drivers do not spend a long time on the road without getting rest.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides the following hours of service rules.
- 10-hours driving limit. The driver can drive continuously for ten hours as long as he or she had 8 hours consecutive hours of rest
- 15-hours limit. The driver is not supposed to drive after being on duty for fifteen hours following 8 hours of rest. Note, the 15 hours period does not include the off-duty period.
- 60/70- Hour Limit. The driver should not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days
- If the driver is using a sleeper berth provision, he or she must take eight hours in the berth and has the option of splitting the sleeper into two periods as long the time is not less than two hours.
Bus drivers must maintain a speed that is relative to the weather conditions and traffic. Even in clear traffic, they should maintain the recommended speed as well. There are various restrictions provided in California based on bus speeding. The requirements are as follows:
- The maximum speed in California is 70mph when posted. However, if the maximum speed is not posted, the bus driver should maintain 55mph on a two-way undivided highway.
- Drivers should consider factors such as the number of vehicles on the road, weather conditions, presence of pedestrians and the condition of the road when considering the speed to maintain
- Bus and truck drivers should maintain the lanes marked for slower vehicles. If one is driving on a two-lane highway, he or she should maintain the furthest right lane that is close to the road
- While driving around places that are common with children, a driver should maintain 25mph unless posted otherwise
- A driver should maintain a speed of 15mph while approaching a railway crossroad, on an alley and in a blind intersection
If a bus driver fails to observe the speed limits provided above, there is a likelihood of crushing with other vehicles on the road, hitting a pedestrian, or overturning while trying to make an emergency stop.
- Aggressive Driving
It can be stressful to be a bus driver. Most of the bus drivers work under a lot of pressure and stress and can end up behaving carelessly or recklessly. In that case, bus companies should ensure that their drivers observe the Federal hours of services and do not break them. On the other hand, drivers should maintain their work logs, which include their work and rest hours.
- Poor Vehicle Conditions
It is unfortunate how bus companies cut corners trying to avoid doing necessary repairs and inspections to their vehicles and fail to be accountable for their wrongdoing. The federal law requires bus companies to maintain a log of their vehicle maintenance based on the period provided. Therefore, if an accident occurs as a result of poor vehicle maintenance, the bus company is fully liable for all damages sustained by the victims.
- Distracted Driving
Under California law, it is illegal to use a mobile phone to call, write a message, or read while driving on a public road. However, drivers can use their cell phones for calling or texting as long as they are using a hands-free installed system. According to California laws, a hands-free system should be mounted on the windshield or the dashboard in a manner that does not distract the driver’s view of the road. Also, the driver should be able to activate or deactivate the device using a tap or a single swipe.
Failure to consider the regulations provided on distracted driving may put the driver at risk of a $20 fine for a first offense and $50 for a subsequent offense. Besides the fines, the driver might be required to pay an additional amount for the assessment, which increases the fine to a total of $60-$150.
Apart from using a cell phone, there are other distractions such as computers, eating, drinking, looking to the GPS monitor, and conversing with the driver, which might lead to a serious crash.
- Driving Under the Influence
Drivers are highly prohibited from operating a bus or any other vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any other drug. Under California laws, commercial drivers should maintain maximum blood alcohol content ( BAC) of 0.04%. For a driver carrying passengers on board, the limit is 0.08%. If the driver is drunk, he or she might cause an accident and puts his or her employer accountable for the damages incurred in the accident. As a thumb rule, bus companies have the obligation of checking the criminal and drinking history of their drivers to ensure that they remain sober.
If a driver is apprehended driving under the influence beyond the recommended limit, some penalties result. The penalties depend on circumstances such as whether there were injuries sustained in the accident or not. Generally, the bus driver risks hefty fines that can reach to a maximum of $ 5,000, imprisonment for twenty-five years if considered as a three-strike conviction and license suspension for a maximum of five years.
- Bus Driver Negligence
Contextually, bus driver negligence involves disregarding the requirements and regulations provided by the state or federal agencies regarding bus driving. For instance, the driver might neglect the laws addressing hours of service, bus speed, turning, and use of cell phones, resulting in an accident.
Also, an accident might occur due to poor training of the driver or being just a bad driver. In such a case, the bus driving company is recommended to re-train their drivers from time to time, conduct various tests, and review their history before hiring them to ensure that they get responsible people.
- Bad Weather
It is rare for a bus accident to occur due to bad weather or poor roads. The hazardous weather, with the addition of the heavyweight of the bus, can quickly affect the maneuvering of the bus leading to an accident.
As mandated by the law, there are particular precautions that bus drivers should observe to avoid a possible accident. Even so, they need proper training to learn how to maneuver such weather conditions despite the precautions provided by the law. Therefore, in an accident, the driver becomes liable for the accident, but of course, the blame lands on the bus company or owner.
The driver is deemed responsible for the accident due to his or her negligence. The only possibility where the bus driver is not liable is when there are multiple vehicles involved in the accident. In such a case, all parties involved in the collision are responsible. Particular circumstances make the bus driver responsible for the accident include:
- Driving at an unsafe speed
- Failure to use headlights in poor visibility conditions
- Trying to accelerate the vehicle on a slippery road
- Poor vehicle maintenance, such as poor brakes, non-functional lights, and worn-out tires.
- Left Turns
One of the most common causes of bus accidents is the left-turn. This is one of the most challenging operations that a driver can incur. The most challenging factor about a left turn is the “A” pillar, which obstructs the driver temporarily when making a turn. The driver should learn back and forth to avoid blind spots.
If the driver does not lean forward, left, or right, this might raise the question of whether the driver is properly trained and whether the bus company took time to assess the driver while hiring him or her.
- Bus Fire
Bus fires are quite dangerous compared with other bus accidents. It is hard to escape such an accident, especially passengers sitting on the rear of the bus. Also, smoke can overcome passengers, which delays their exit.
There are two areas that fire can arise on a bus. This includes the engine compartment and the wheels. Fires in the compartment areas occur due to poor maintenance of the engine, grease on the engine, oily substances, and leakage. On the other hand, tire fires result from under-inflation since the heat builds up faster due to the friction between the outer tire and the inner tube. In case you end up being a victim of a bus fire, the bus employer or owner of the bus should be held liable for the damages.
- Negligence of the Other Driver on Road
Sometimes the bus driver would incur an accident while he or she does not have any fault. The large size of the bus makes it hard for other drivers to see around, especially those driving small vehicles. Therefore, they end up engaging in reckless and careless driving which includes behaviors such as:
- Sticking too close on the rear of the bus due to impatience. In case the bus driver makes an emergency brake, the other driver ends up crashing on the back of the bus. Therefore, the bus driver loses control of the bus leading to a crash
- Trying to overtake a bus in the same direction or trying to make a turn in front of the oncoming bus. Such mistakes result from poor misjudging of the distance, which causes a head-on collision or a rear collision if the driver does not manage to overtake the bus
- Driving under the influence where one travels in front of the bus, which is moving in the opposite direction, leading to a bus accident
In such a situation, a claim of compensation can be complicated. Still, through thorough investigation, it is easier to ascertain the circumstances of the crash and determine which parties are responsible.
- Negligence of the Bus Company
There are a lot of aspects associated with the negligence of the bus company. For instance, if a bus is poorly maintained, it means that the bus company has neglected its responsibility of ensuring that their vehicles are well-maintained. Also, the bus company has the mandate of training their drivers and ensure that they comply with all safety regulations in place.
The company should also ensure that all safety features in their buses are in good condition, such as seat belts and the buses’ emergency brakes. If an accident occurs due to the negligence of the bus company, the company becomes responsible for the accidents.
- Weight Distribution
Vehicle stability can be easily affected by the improper distribution of weight on a bus. Rollover accidents are common as a result of improper weight distribution and can lead to multiple injuries if the vehicle has poor seat belts. If the bus company allows a lot of luggage and passengers more than the recommended weight, such a situation might lead to a potential crash. The problem might be exaggerated if the improper distribution is combined with issues such as worn suspension and under-inflated tires.
- Urban Location
It is hard to maneuver a large bus in a limited space, such as in an urban location. Such places have a lot of congestion, which includes pedestrians and other vehicles. Most of the accidents that result from this occur to buses that do not operate on guided tracks and move freely like other vehicles.
Duties of Care in a Bus Accident
Under California Civil Code section 2011, a carrier of persons must provide the necessary care and diligence to ensure that they maintain a safe carriage and must exercise a reasonable degree of skills. Also, they should give their passengers all accommodations, treat them with civility, and give them reasonable attention.
Therefore, any slight deviation of their obligation to transport their passengers makes them liable for the injuries sustained by the passengers, according to Civil Code Section 2103. Note, California laws define a common carrier as someone involved in the transportation of the general public at a given fee. It includes MTA buses, taxi cabs, and airline companies.
Even though the bus driver is liable for his negligence, the blame falls on the company that he or she is working for unless one owns the bus. Therefore, for a school bus accident, the school owning the vehicle is responsible for the accident. However, if the school had contracted a company to offer transportation services, the respective company becomes liable for the accident.
Also, for a tour bus company, the tour company that the driver is working for is liable for the accident unless they have contracted a different company to offer transportation services. The operator or company responsible for the accident should be directly involved in hiring and supervising the bus driver.
Finally, for a public transportation bus accident, the state or government is responsible for the injuries sustained by the victims. However, such cases allow a statute of limitations for two years for the victim to be able to recover the damages.
Compensations that are Available in a Bus Accident
No enough money suits an injured victim after a bus accident. However, the victim can get compensatory damages to cater for the economic and non-economic losses that one incur. Economic damages include the costs that the victim could have spent after the accident and includes lost wages and medical bills. Non-economic damages include losses that do not have a fixed cost such as loss of limb, pain, and suffering, and emotional pain.
Hire a San Diego Injury Attorney Law Firm Near Me
There are quite a lot of procedures involved when one is seeking compensation after a bus accident. Unfortunately, most victims are under-compensated since they are not familiar with the process that they should take and are ignorant of most legal aspects that are involved. That’s why it is necessary to seek a personal injury attorney to handle the case on your behalf. We at San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm is the best option to consider if you are living in San Diego, CA. With our level of skills and experience, we are guaranteed to offer the best services to our clients. Reach out to us at 619-478-4059 and get a free and comprehensive consultation.