Rights of Bus Crash Victims
Bus crashes are an alarmingly common occurrence in California. Just this past weekend, yet another fatal bus crash happened here in Southern California, and it took the lives of three women. Eighteen other victims were injured and hospitalized as a result of the accident. If you are a passenger in a bus crash, you have a number of rights that do not exist in other types of automobile accidents.
Commercial Bus Operators Are Considered Common Carriers
Under California law, a bus company operator "must use the utmost care and diligence for their [passengers'] safe carriage, must provide everything necessary for the purpose, and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill." (California Civil Code § 2100). This is called the common carrier doctrine, and it requires the operator of a bus for hire to use more than simple or reasonable care. Under this rule, the driver of a bus must use "the utmost care and diligence" to keep their passengers safe. Any violation of this rule that causes an accident, and the bus company is going to be held liable for the injuries and damages sustained. By way of example, in the recent case above, the bus rolled off a highway and onto its roof. It was raining outside and the roadway was wet, but that only imposes a greater duty on the part of the bus driver. Simply stated, a bus being driven at a safe speed for the rainy conditions does not roll off the road unless the driver failed to use the utmost care.
Unique Bus Accident Issues
In nearly all bus accident cases involving injury to a passenger, there will be more than just one person hurt who will ultimately be entitled to compensation. In the case above, there were apparently 21 passengers who were either injured or killed in the accident. If all of those surviving passengers present personal injury claims and the surviving families of the deceased pursue wrongful death claims, the amount of insurance money available to pay all of those claims will likely prove inadequate. So, it will be up to the court and/or the parties to reach a fair settlement for everyone. The policy proceeds must be divided in such a way that basic fairness is achieved for everyone. Such a division nearly always requires the expertise of seasoned injury lawyers.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a bus accident, you should know your rights. The best way to obtain fair compensation in these situations is often by consulting an experienced bus accident attorney.