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Bus accident laws fall under the common carrier law. Common carriers refer to commercial, school, or tour buses that provide transportation services to people. Because they must exercise a higher degree of caution, they often have lower liability thresholds. Like other vehicle-involved accidents, liability hinges on determining the circumstances which led to the accident and the party that caused the collision.

Bus accidents occur for various reasons, such as distracted driving or speeding, effectively influencing the at-fault party in a lawsuit. For instance, if the behavior of an unruly passenger causes the bus to swerve, the commuter may be at fault.

Common Causes of Bus Accidents

Establishing liability in a bus accident suit depends on the situation. For example, legal charges can be brought against a bus company or manufacturer, especially if the crash was due to mechanical failure or defective parts. The following are among the most common causes of bus accidents: 

Inadequate Driver Training

Bus drivers must possess a clean driving record, pass a background check, meet physical requirements, and hold a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). A CDL is earned training on the job for approximately 1 to 3 months. Federal regulations also impose random drug and alcohol testing while on duty and require interstate bus drivers to pass a physical exam every two years.

Unfortunately, negligent hiring is common. A shortage of qualified drivers forces bus companies to employ inadequately trained drivers who don’t measure up to the highest standards. This leaves the safety of bus passengers significantly compromised, which also exposes the bus company to potential liability.

Bus Company Negligence

Despite serving a large proportion of the US population, bus inspection protocols are less stringent than in the railroad or airline industry. Most bus companies ignore federal regulations and turn a blind eye to training drivers or keeping well-maintained fleets. They knowingly sacrifice public safety for a better bottom line.

Bus Driver Negligence

Drunk driving, consuming drugs, talking on the phone, texting or making a call on their mobile phones, speeding, etc., are acts of negligence that can lead to accidents. A bus driver can be at fault if caught breaking laws that regulate bus speed, turning, and overtaking.

Bad Weather

In some instances, hazardous climate can lead to a bus accident. Poor road conditions, the bus’s weight, and perhaps a driver’s inability to quickly maneuver risky situations can result in weather-related crashes.

Driver Blind Spots

A blind spot is an area where a driver can’t see objects in his peripheral vision or mirrors. Due to buses’ increased height and length, blind spots in common carriers are extensive. Most bus accidents happen because a driver cannot see pedestrians and vehicles.

Bus Fires

Electrical malfunction, wheel level friction, or engine component failures can cause a bus fire. This can allow toxic fumes and flames to spread into the engine and passenger compartment. Many of these incidents can be prevented with regular inspection and bus maintenance.

Other Drivers

Bus accidents can also be caused by the negligence of other motorists, especially with increased cases of distracted driving, driving under the influence, speeding, and disobeying traffic rules, among others.

Who Can Be Held Liable Following a Bus Accident?

Public transportation injury law is based on negligence, and common carriers owe their passengers a much higher duty of care than the average vehicle. To that end, the city or county council may be found responsible if an accident involves a public transportation bus.

Based on the circumstances surrounding the collision, a bus company is held legally responsible if the crash is due to a preventable mechanical failure. If a school bus safety violation leads to an accident, a victim can file a lawsuit against a school district if found to be engaged in negligent practices. 

While no law bans passengers from traveling in buses after consuming alcohol, passengers can be found legally responsible if their distracting behavior, like public intoxication, causes a crash. A drunk and unruly passenger can bring about disruptions and compromise the safety of the driver and passengers.

Ways a Passenger Might Cause an Accident

There’s no question that a drunk driver who causes an accident is responsible for damages, but there’s an exception to this rule. California’s comparative liability statute allows impaired victims to be held partially accountable for their injuries even if they were not driving. An intoxicated passenger could be found to have contributed to the accident if the following behaviors distract a driver from the safe operation of a bus:

  • Brandishing a weapon
  • Arguing with the driver
  • Striking the bus driver
  • Opening the bus door while in motion
  • Touching or grabbing the steering wheel
  • Stepping on the brake, accelerator pedal, or clutch
  • Displaying concerning forms of alcohol or drug-induced behaviors
  • Blocking the driver’s line of sight by showing them images or texts on a cell phone

A driver is responsible for ignoring the passenger’s distracting behavior and operating the bus safely because failure to do so is negligence. But when the actions of an unruly passenger don’t subside, the driver must pull off the road until it’s safe to drive again. If an intoxicated passenger touches the steering wheel or operates the gearshift, brakes, accelerator, or clutch, they’re effectively considered a motorist.

Should they be found liable, the passenger may be subject to prosecution for DUI and asked to pay any damages caused by a bus accident. A lawyer can assist by using an accident reconstructionist to determine what happened, obtain video footage, interview the bus occupants, and much more.

Hire a Seasoned California Bus Accident Lawyer from Kash Legal

If you’re concerned that your actions may have led to a bus accident, the first thing to do is hire a Kash Legal accident lawyer. Victims injured in a bus accident may be able to bring charges against the bus driver’s employer under vicarious liability.

Additionally, a bus driver who doesn’t take action against an alcohol- or drug-impaired passenger might be partially culpable. At Kash Legal, we’ll research your case to determine the percentages of fault among occupants. Complete our contact form or call us at (888) 527-4128 for a free initial consultation.

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