Unfortunately, bus accidents are a fairly common occurrence in Orange County, and they often involve serious injuries. Because of the difficulty maneuvering such large, heavy vehicles and sometimes because of the inexperience of the driver, bus accidents happen with some frequency. The seating arrangements and lack of seat belts can contribute to severe injuries, or even death, being suffered by bus passengers.
California Bus Accident Law
Under California law, generally bus owners and operators must “use the utmost care and diligence for their passenger’s safe carriage, must provide everything necessary for the purpose, and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill.” Bus companies and public entities operating bus lines are known in the law as “common carriers”. When they engage in the business of transporting the general public they obligate themselves to carry safely those whom they take into their vehicles, and owe both a duty of utmost care and the vigilance of a very cautious person towards their passengers. These duties and responsibilities are imposed by law. Consequently, bus companies are responsible for any, even the slightest, negligence and are required to do all that human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under all the circumstances.
Moreover, if a bus operator voluntarily accepts an ill or disabled person as a passenger and is aware of the passenger’s condition, the operator must exercise as much care as is reasonably necessary to ensure the safety of their passenger, in view of his mental and physical limitations. Under California statutes, “individuals with disabilities shall be entitled to full and equal access, as other members of the general public, to accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of all common carriers, modes of transportation, places of public accommodation, and other places to which the general public is invited.” “Full and equal access” is defined as access that complies with the regulations developed under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or under state statutes, if the State imposes a higher standard.
When there is a violation of the rules above and an accident results, the injured passengers (or their surviving family members) have the right to be compensated for their injuries and damages.
Examples of Bus Accident Cases
If a bus driver fails to act in a reasonably safe manner while behind the wheel, and an injury-accident occurs, the bus operator can be held liable for all of the injuries and damages that result. This is essenitally the same rule that applies to any driver on the roadways of California. Even when an emergency situation arises, through no fault of the driver, the bus operator’s failure to safely deal with that emergency may give rise to liability.
Fall While Trying to Board a Bus
A nearly 50-year-old woman living in the greater Los Angeles area used the bus system (MetroLine) for her daily travel to and from work. After she finished her shift as a hospital receptionist, she walked to the bus stop located just a short distance from her place of employment. As she attempted to board the bus, the bus driver suddenly closed the door, knocking the victim to the ground and pulling her into harm’s way. The would-be bus passenger ended up being crushed by the rear wheels, resulting in “degloving” of her skin and significant soft tissue loss, as well as broken bones in her legs and ankles.
In spite of witnesses who said the accident did not or could not have happened as described (some claiming the woman ran for the bus, slipped and fell underneath), the case settled for $1,000,000.00.
Charter Bus Accident After Tire Blow Out
A charter bus that had been on a leisure trip to San Diego was heading northbound on Interstate 215, with a total of 24 passengers and the driver aboard, when it crashed into a wall. The majority of the passengers on board the bus were elderly and on their way back from a trip by a City in the Inland Empire. The firm's client was a City employee (recreation leader) in the course and scope of her employment when the accident occurred. She was seated near the front of the bus as the vehicle traveled north on the freeway.
According to the Traffic Collision Report, the bus driver had been operating the bus in a reckless manner prior to the happening of the accident and, even more importantly, after a sudden deflation of the right front tire. A witness to her driving just before the incident recalled seeing the bus traveling approximately 80 miles per hour while in the San Diego area. That same witness (who was following the bus in another lane) was so alarmed she contemplated calling 9-1-1. The bus speeds fluctuated between 70 and 80 miles per hour for some time, and once it merged onto the northbound 215, the bus pulled away and out of sight from the witness. Shortly thereafter, she drove past the accident scene.
From the investigation performed by the California Highway Patrol Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT), the bus driver drove the bus over an object in the roadway causing a sudden tire deflation and delamination of the right front tire. Thereafter, a host of additional, nearly fatal mistakes were made by the driver, including but not limited to: making an unsafe turning movement, failing to promptly disengage the cruise control (set at 68 miles per hour), applying full throttle acceleration throughout the accident sequence and failing to apply the brakes at all. As a result, the charter bus struck a retaining wall, traveled over 700 feet along that wall and then into a block wall (at nearly a 45 degree angle) protecting a private residence. The firm's client suffered a skull fracture, broken arm and a number of internal injuries. Her lawsuit against the bus company was settled for $1,100,000.00.