Charter bus travel is one of the most popular and least expensive ways to travel. As a result, there are more than 4,000 registered, for-hire motor coach companies to choose from in the United States.
Recently, I’ve been following an increasing number of charter bus-related accidents in the news. For example: back in March, a charter bus filled with high school students crashed in Houston. Twenty people were seriously injured as a result. This past April, a charter bus carrying Canadian hockey players crashed and killed 15 people on Saskatchewan Highway 35.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), there were an estimated 67,000 bus-related crashed in 2015. Out of those crashes, 257 of them were fatal.
It saddens me to read news stories about the innocent lives lost due to charter bus accidents—especially when the vast majority of these are preventable. You may be wondering: “what’s causing all these accidents to happen?”
Causes of Charter Bus Accidents
We can categorize common causes of charter bus accidents into two main groups: driver negligence and company negligence. Oftentimes, charter bus accidents are the fault of both the driver and company, along with other possible outside factors.
Bus Driver Negligence: Negligence on the part of the bus driver can come in many forms, such as distracted driving, road rage or aggressive driving, driving under the influence, driver fatigue, violation of hours of service and more.
Company Negligence: Charter bus companies can be more concerned about their bottomline over the safety of their passengers. As such, the incentive to stretch every dime can be too tempting. Examples of company negligence can include poor employee training, improper or inadequate service maintenance and faulty equipment.
What is Common Carrier Liability?
Charter bus accidents involve a legal term known as “common carrier liability.” The law considers a common carrier to be any company that transports passengers from Point A to Point B for a fee. Taxi cabs, trains and airplanes are all considered common carriers. In Washington State, the law places a high burden on common carriers. This means charter bus drivers are held to stricter safety standards compared to regular motorists in exercising caution and preventing accidents.
Our law states that a common carrier has the duty to ensure the following (including but not limited to):
- A duty to exercise the highest degree of care consistent with the practical operation of its business.
- Common carriers must protect passengers from another passenger’s criminal acts or intentional misconduct.
- A passenger on a common carrier is entitled to absolute protection from assaults by employees.
- Once a carrier becomes aware that a passenger is in an infirmly condition, it must exercise special care and assistance as is required to safely transport that passenger.
Washington State has a simple three-part test to determine if a party falls under common carrier status. First, the carrier (vehicle) must a be part of the business. The carrier must be for hire. The carrier must represent to the general public that they are in the business of transporting people for a fee and they’re willing to serve the public in that manner.
Final Thoughts on WA Charter Bus Accidents
The cause of charter bus accidents are rarely clear-cut and may involve multiple parties. Due to the size and nature of charter busses, accidents often result in a major tragedy, with dozens of people injured or killed. This is why it’s imperative to consult with a Washington law firm who understands the intricacies of charter bus accidents and common carrier liability.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a charter bus accident, give my team and I at Evergreen Personal Injury Counsel a call at (253) 472-6000. We have the experience, dedication and resources to navigate the complexities of your charter bus accident case.