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Bus Accident Injury Attorney
Although many personal injury claims involve a car-on-car collision, bus accidents are often far more devastating due to the vehicle’s larger size and greater passenger capacity. And unfortunately, the number of fatal bus crashes has significantly increased over the past few years — in 2017 there was a nine percent increase in the number of large trucks and buses that were involved in fatal crashes.
Both the passengers in a bus and those on the outside can be injured due to a driver or bus company’s negligence. Children are the most prone to serious injury and trauma since school buses have a high rate of crashes. As one of just two percent of attorneys who are certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization to practice personal injury law, Juan Hernandez of Hernandez Law Group, P.C. is an expert in litigating several types of car accident cases. Contact us if you or your child was injured in a public transit or school bus accident.
Common Causes of Bus Accidents
Each accident is different, but just like car accidents, bus accidents can often be attributed to a few common causes. These include:
1. Driver Fatigue or Hours-of-Service Violations
Federal law has strict rules regarding the number of hours a commercial bus driver may spend behind the wheel in a day. Studies have shown that there is a steep decrease in reaction time and attentiveness when a person spends too much time driving. However, some bus drivers may skirt these hours-of-service laws in an attempt to boost their paycheck.
Some bus and trucking companies have begun to install fatigue warning devices in their fleet vehicles. These devices closely monitor the driver and can set off a warning alarm as soon as the driver begins to blink too frequently or close their eyes for long periods. But these devices can be expensive and aren’t yet widely used.
School bus drivers can also become fatigued – especially if they have long routes or must make a long drive to a faraway field trip location. This is incredibly dangerous and can lead to the children onboard getting injured.
Bus drivers are often on a tight schedule and may run into delays beyond their control (like weather, traffic, and unexpected road closures). As a result, drivers may be more likely to speed. But because buses require much more braking power to stop than other passenger vehicles, speeding buses can pose serious dangers — especially in stop-and-go traffic where vehicles can quickly go from highway speeds to a dead stop. This makes buses more likely to be involved in serious rear-end collisions where excessive speed is a factor.
Some buses are equipped with speed monitors that prevent the bus from traveling over a predetermined speed. But these monitors don’t often work well on buses with routes that keep them within city limits. And, like fatigue sensors, they can be expensive and aren’t always used in large fleets.
3. Passenger Disruption
Distracted driving greatly increases the risk of being involved in an accident. This problem usually involves cell phones, but another type of distraction is common in buses — passenger disruptions. From a medical emergency to a fistfight in the back of the bus, bus drivers often have their attention divided while they need to maintain attention on the road in front of them. This is especially common on school buses where children tend to be unruly.
Because bus drivers owe a duty of care to their passengers, these drivers must have passenger rules clearly and visibly posted. And if a passenger begins to become disruptive, the bus driver should step in as soon as safely possible to either eject the offender or issue a stern warning. This can prevent injury to other passengers while allowing the driver to go about his or her duties without distraction.
4. Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence is incredibly dangerous. It slows reaction times, which is especially dangerous when driving a large vehicle that takes longer to stop. When a bus driver takes to the road while under the influence, they put their passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians at risk.
A school bus driver who drives under the influence is especially hazardous. Since they often drive around schools, they have to be careful not to hit children. A child that darts into the road is at greater risk of being hit when the bus driver has slowed reaction times.
Are Buses Riskier Than Cars?
The United State’s “car culture” and the sheer volume of car miles driven each year means that buses are statistically safer than cars. Because fewer people travel by bus each year than by car – and because bus drivers tend to be more experienced than the average auto driver – buses aren’t involved in as many fatal collisions as other vehicles.
However, when an accident does happen, being inside a bus (or being struck by a bus) can be far riskier than being struck by a car. Buses don’t have the safety mechanisms featured in many modern cars (like seatbelts, airbags, and backup sensors) and are much heavier than cars. And if passengers inside a bus panic after an accident and attempt to speed to the exits, they can cause further injury to other passengers inside. At Hernandez Law Group, P.C., we have years of experience investigating vehicle accidents, determining the precise cause of injury, and pinpointing the party (or parties) ultimately responsible for damages.
What Responsibilities do Bus Drivers Have?
Auto drivers owe a general duty of care to other drivers on the road – as well as pedestrians – to operate their vehicle safely. But bus drivers, as common carriers, owe an elevated duty to their passengers: the duty to safely get these passengers to their destination. Because bus drivers are taking on the responsibility of ferrying others, for pay, they have a greater duty of care to their passengers than they would if they were just transporting themselves.
Contact an Attorney After a Bus Accident
If you’ve been injured in a bus accident, you should seek medical treatment and following the doctor’s recommendations. It’s also important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney – before talking to the insurance companies. The attorneys at Hernandez Law Group will make sure that the insurance companies don’t manipulate you or convince you to take a lower settlement than you deserve. We will fight for your rights and make sure that you get the compensation you deserve.
The experienced vehicle accident attorneys at Hernandez Law Group, P.C. can help you decide your next steps. Contact us to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation or visit our website for more information on the services we offer.