Private Bus Accidents
Injuries and fatalities stemming from trips on private buses, from airport shuttles to large commercial transport operations to smaller, chartered tours, are on the rise. There are approximately 4,000 private motor coach companies in the U.S., meaning the industry has expanded by about seven percent over the course of the last year.
There has been a proliferation of fly-by-night operations that lack the proper resources to train employees and maintain safe equipment. But even in larger operations, drivers often work long, irregular hours, are pressured to get to destinations quickly and with as many passengers/cargo pieces as possible. All of this contributes to the risk of a deadly bus crash.
Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, has been representing the injured in Southwest Florida for more than 45 years. We know while federal regulators have taken a heightened interest in private bus safety in recent years, standard safety regulations and guidelines aren’t always followed.
A few instances of private bus crashes in recent years include:
- A bus crash in Atlanta involving an airport shuttle in which 17 people were injured when the shuttle was struck by a tractor-trailer. Authorities say the driver of the tractor-trailer made an illegal U-turn, but the tires on the bus were in poor condition, as were the rear brakes, both of which were factors in the crash. Authorities also said the bus driver did not have a proper license.
- In Chicago, 14 people were injured when an airport shuttle bus crashed into a concrete median on its way to the terminals. Subsequent lawsuits filed against the private shuttle service allege the driver failed to stay in the proper lane of traffic, failed to avoid collision and failed to have a proper driver’s license.
- In Miami, two passengers were killed, three were left in critical condition and 29 others seriously injured when the driver of a private tour bus smashed into a concrete overpass near Miami International Airport. Most of those on board the double-decker bus were elderly passengers on a trip with their church. Many passengers sustained facial injuries, owing to the nature of the front-end crash. The three-fleet transportation firm received three citations relating to driver fatigue in the year prior to the crash.
Although we trust that private bus companies are going to provide a qualified driver and a well-functioning bus, these examples show that is unfortunately not always the case. On average, a tour bus crashes every month in Florida.
In these situations, it’s imperative to hire a team of professional, experienced bus accident lawyers to handle your case. Although liability in such accidents may seem fairly straightforward, it can in fact be more complex than it might first appear.
Depending on the business and insurance arrangements the private bus company had, liability can vary. Each case is going to be different. Some potential entities our firm would look to hold responsible would be:
- The tour company. This is the firm that would typically be responsible for planning accommodations, destinations, scheduling and other tour specifics. Tour companies often contract with another business for use of their rental buses/contracted drivers.
- The bus company. This would be the firm that owns the fleet of commercial passenger vehicles and either employs the drivers directly or contracts independent drivers. This is the firm that would be expected to maintain proper care and maintenance of the bus and its equipment. Employers are also considered vicariously liable for the negligent actions of employees (in this case, drivers). However, in many cases where the company claims the driver is independent, the court decides they are in fact employees and as such, the company can be held responsible for driver negligence.
- The driver. Direct liability of the driver. If the driver was not properly licensed, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, fatigued or operated the vehicle with carelessness or recklessness, he and/or his insurance company may be held responsible.
- Destinations. This could include the airport, hotel, theme park, casino – or any location that was a destination of the bus. Liability will depend on the degree of control over incoming and outgoing buses on site, as well as any contract details between the destination and the bus company, including commissions or other financial incentives.
- GPS device manufacturers. These devices are restricted for use on commercial vehicles because they fail to note or take into account height restrictions. There are certain systems the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has approved for use in commercial vehicles, and these systems alert drivers to height-restricted overpasses, bridges and other road features. However, the cheaper models continue to be sold to commercial vehicle operators.
Our experienced legal team is prepared to launch a thorough investigation into the causes and factors in each case we take on. We are dedicated to securing fair compensation for those injured in bus or motorcoach accidents in Southwest Florida.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation