More than 3,000 carriers provide tour bus services in the U.S., with nearly 39,000 of these buses transporting members of the public to destinations all across the country, often by contract to public and private organizations. While riding a tour bus may seem like an efficient way to spend time taking in the country’s favorite sights, a large tour bus lacks maneuverability and poses other unique hazards related to its size. Additionally, as a federal investigatory agency noted this summer, the government has fallen far behind in developing and enforcing safety standards on passenger buses.
If you sustained an injury in a tour bus crash, an experienced bus crash attorney from Jacoby & Meyers LLP can help you obtain compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury.
We’ve helped injured individuals recover damages after traffic-related accidents for 30 years, producing case results that include:
- $5.7 million jury verdict for the family of an eight-year-old child who died after a runaway school bus struck the child.
- $5 million settlement for a client involved in a multi-vehicle accident with a commercial truck.
- $2.5 million settlement for a client who sustained serious injuries when a commercial vehicle making a wide turn at a traffic light struck his vehicle.
What Makes Tour Bus Accidents Dangerous?
Recently, members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report about a tour bus crash in Utah that highlights the dangers of the tour bus industry. The accident occurred after a tour bus driver drifted off the edge of the roadway near Bryce Canyon National Park. He then overcorrected, which resulted in a rollover crash that caused all 30 people aboard to sustain injuries and four fatalities.
The NTSB determined during its nearly two-year investigation of the accident that that 10 bus passengers failed to use their seatbelts. Several other passengers failed to tighten their seatbelts sufficiently. Less than half of the 30,000 buses on the road today—which provide 600 million passenger trips a year—have seatbelts, though federal transportation agencies encourage tour bus companies to all have seatbelts and require that all buses built after 2016 have at least a shoulder belt.
The fact that the tour bus roof caved in during the accident also contributed to the severity of occupants’ injuries. The NTSB noted that the weakened roof resulted from a failure of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop and issue standards requiring tour bus manufacturers to strengthen the roof of commercial vehicles to provide maximum survivable space. NTSB also called for stronger standards for window glazing that can prevent the ejection of bus occupants through windows.
Aside from weak roofs and windows, and the failure of drivers to ensure that all passengers wear their seatbelts, other factors that increase the risk of a tour bus accident pertain to the massive size of the vehicle.
Those factors include:
- A longer stopping distance. It takes any vehicle a certain amount of distance to come to a complete stop after the driver depresses the brakes. The heavier and larger the vehicle, the more distance it needs. The speed of the vehicle when the driver brakes also changes the distance needed to come to a safe stop.
- A high center of gravity. The taller profile of a tour bus makes it more likely to overturn, particularly when going around a steep curve or corner, or when attempting emergency maneuvers to avoid an accident.
- Significant blind spots. All vehicles have a blind spot, an area—generally around the sides of the vehicle’s rear—that the driver cannot see in either the rear or side-view mirrors. Instead, the driver must look over his or her shoulder to check the blind spot. Like other large, commercial vehicles, tour buses have significant blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle that pose a risk to other drivers who may have slipped into that area without the tour bus driver noticing.
Common Causes of Tour Bus Accidents
Human error causes most of the accidents on U.S. roadways, including accidents involving tour buses.
Some types of errors that can result in a bus accident include:
- Improper loading: Because buses have a high center of gravity, they face more risk of overturning when attempting a sharp maneuver. Having an imbalance of the passengers and cargo inside the buses increases this risk.
- Driver inexperience: Drivers of larger tour buses must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate the vehicle, and companies tasked with hiring drivers must also train drivers to handle the day-to-day rigors of the job.
- Poor maintenance: Federal regulations require companies that offer motorcoach services to the public for a fee to regularly inspect and maintain the vehicles. Failing to do so can result in a vehicle malfunction that can cause an accident.
- Overcrowding: Overcrowding a tour bus doesn’t just make the customers uncomfortable, it also creates weight imbalances, slip and fall or trip and fall accident risks, and the risk of passengers struggling to access the emergency exits.
- Distracted driving: Driving distractions are a major factor in all types of traffic-related accidents. Tour bus drivers face the same temptations as other drivers to engage in distracting activities, such as texting or other cell phone use, eating or drinking, or adjusting vehicle controls. Tour bus drivers have the added distraction of unruly passengers or those that want to converse with the driver while operating the bus.
- Fatigued driving: Driver fatigue causes mental or physical exhaustion and impairs a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Tour bus drivers face a heightened risk of fatigue, as employers often expect them to drive hundreds of miles in a day and work at night when the body instinctively wants to sleep.
- Inclement weather: Tour bus drivers often must operate their buses in inclement weather, including snow, rain, and fog. While human error doesn’t contribute to inclement weather, slippery roadways and poor visibility can cause drivers to make errors, such as traveling too fast for conditions.
Seeking Compensation After a Tour Bus Accident
If a tour bus accident injured you, you can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury.
Tour bus companies, also known as common carriers, provide bus transportation to the public for a fee. Often, private or public organizations that charter the bus for use by their membership through a contract for services pay the fee. Because of the large size of many tour buses, and because the public can access the vehicles for a fee, tour bus companies and their drivers must follow the regulations put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and NHTSA. Several states and municipalities also have laws that impact tour bus companies and their drivers. Needless to say, the task of determining all sources of liability and all insurance resources often proves more complex than in other types of cases.
Many different parties may face liability in a tour bus accident, including:
- The bus driver, who must obtain the proper license and training to operate the vehicle and comply with all other federal requirements, including random drug and alcohol screenings, hours of service requirements that require the driver to take regular breaks, and lower legal limits for operating the bus while impaired.
- The tour bus company, which can face vicarious liability for the actions of its employees and must ensure that the drivers the company hires possess the qualifications necessary for the position. The hiring process should include obtaining the potential employee’s criminal background check and driver history.
- The individual or entity tasked with providing maintenance and repair on the tour bus.
- The manufacturer or distributor of defective parts used on the bus or on other vehicles that contributed to the accident.
- Other drivers, whose reckless or careless actions caused an accident involving a tour bus.
To prove that another party caused the tour bus crash that caused your injuries, you must prove the elements of negligence:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care refers to the actions that reasonable individuals would have taken in similar circumstances to avoid causing harm to other people or property. For example, a reasonable tour bus driver has the duty of care to operate the tour bus safely and legally, ensuring that passengers take their seats and buckle their seatbelts (if applicable) and that the bus aisle remains clear.
- The at-fault party breached the duty of care. The breach refers to the actions that the at-fault driver took that contradicted the duty of care. Using the tour bus driver as an example, a breach in the duty of care could involve a fatigued bus driver who fell asleep behind the wheel or a bus driver driving too fast for the conditions of the road.
- The breach resulted in the accident, which caused you to incur an injury that resulted in expenses and psychological impacts.
In the legal arena, recovering damages means obtaining compensation for the expenses (known as economic damages) and impacts (known as non-economic damages) of your injury.
Examples of the types of expenses and impacts that an injured individual may claim in a tour bus accident claim include:
- Medical expenses, such as ambulance transport, hospitalization, diagnostic testing, surgical or physician services, prescription medication, physical therapy and rehabilitation, and the provision of assistive devices, such as a wheelchair or crutches.
- Lost wages from injuries that prevent individuals from working, or lost income from missing work to attend an injury-related medical appointment.
- Loss of future earning capacity, if your injuries result in permanent disabilities, and you can no longer earn an income in the same capacity as you did before the accident.
- Property damage, such as the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle if it sustained damage in the accident.
- Physical pain and suffering as a result of the injuries themselves or particularly intense procedures used to treat the injuries.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life if your injury prevents you from participating in activities or events that you previously enjoyed.
Injured in a Tour Bus Crash? Jacoby & Meyers LLP Can Help
Tour buses evoke images of national treasures and fun times with friends and family. However, in an instant, a tour bus crash can turn that happy image into a scene of destruction and despair. Individuals who sustain injuries in a tour bus accident may have to adjust to a completely different lifestyle, whether during a prolonged recovery or permanently. An experienced bus accident attorney from Jacoby & Meyers LLP can ensure that you take full advantage of your right to seek compensation for injuries caused by another party’s carelessness or recklessness.
- Determine liability and accessible insurance resources.
- Establish a value to your claim based on the expenses and impacts you have already experienced because of your accident, as well as those you will likely experience in the future.
- Obtain the evidence and witness testimony needed to prove your claim.
- Negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance provider in an attempt to obtain compensation on your behalf.
- In lieu of a settlement, litigation services include the presentation of evidence and examination of witnesses.
- Collect your award or settlement.