Any accident involving a motor vehicle poses a threat of personal injuries, from minor scrapes and bruises to broken bones and even death. It's bad enough when only one or two cars are involved.
Things get much worse when a is bus involved. Buses carry dozens of people, all of whom face injuries or worse in an accident. A rash of accidents in 2011 shows us that, while traveling by bus may save us time, money and the stress of driving, there are risks that shouldn't be ignored.
Bus Accidents on the Rise
In late May 2011, a tour bus headed for Chinatown in New York City crashed in Virginia. The driver fell asleep at the wheel. The bus hit an embankment and flipped. All 58 passengers suffered injuries; four died. The driver was the only one wearing a seatbelt, and the only person not injured.
Aftermath of the Crash
The driver was first charged with reckless driving and released after posting bail. Later he was charged with involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of the four passengers. The charge means the deaths were unintentional - the driver didn't mean to kill anyone - but were caused by the driver's:
- Unlawful or dangerous act, or
- Serious recklessness or negligence
Driving recklessly or while severely fatigued satisfies both.
Sky Express, the company that owns the bus, is in trouble, too. Shortly after the accident, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shut the company down. It found the company had a history of safety issues and is continuing its investigation.
Not an Isolated Incident
Sadly, the Sky Express accident isn't the first or last tragic bus accident in 2011:
- Thirty-nine high school students in Iowa were injured on June 6 when their bus flipped after a tire blew out
- On June 5, 20 people were injured in Chicago when a tour bus and two cars were involved in an accident
- In New York City - and in May alone - one tour bus driver was charged with DUI after killing a pedestrian, and another was charged with trying to run down a police officer during a high-speed chase
Know Who's Behind the Wheel
One of the benefits of riding a bus is you don't have to worry about driving - sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. The downside is the lack of control. You can't control how fast the bus moves, how it changes lanes etc. Before trusting your life with a bus company:
- Check on the company's safety record with the FMCSA
- See if any complaints have been filed against the company with the Better Business Bureau
- Contact the Secretary of State's office where the company is based or where it operates to make sure it has the proper licenses and permits
Next Steps In Case of an Accident
You don't want to think about accidents occurring no matter where you are, but if it does happen, take these steps if you were riding in a commercial bus:
- Get the driver's name and license number
- Find out the bus company's contact information
- Let the medics at the accident scene check you over (you may want to do this first, depending on how hurt you are)
- Get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of other passengers, as well as other motorists who witnessed the accident
- Take pictures of the accident scene, if possible
- As soon as possible, write down everything you saw or experienced before the accident (erratic driving by the driver, speeding, etc.)
Proving negligence of the company or of the drive may be difficult depending on your situation. In some cases, like Sky Express, the company may have already had safety violations, but others may not have had any citations. Talking with a lawyer fairly quickly can give you a better idea if you have a case.
Most riders never have a problem traveling by bus. You can help make sure your trip is problem-free, too, by making sure the bus company and driver can be trusted.
Read this Next: FAQ: Suing After an Injury
Questions for Your Attorney
- Who's responsible for damages if I'm injured in a bus accident? The driver, the company or both?
- I live in Virginia but was injured in a tour bus accident in New York. Where do I file a personal injury lawsuit?
- What should I do if I suspect a bus driver doesn't have a valid driver's license?