Charter buses are convenient in many situations. Groups may rent a large bus to all travel together on excursions, to compete in athletic events, for social gatherings such as weddings, and more. Some people may also purchase tickets to ride charter buses as a form of long-distance transportation, as it can be more economical than flying, driving, or taking a train. While bus travel is known to be relatively safe, about 67,000 bus accidents happen each year, as reported by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). If a bus accident causes you injuries, it is important to recognize the potential causes of the crash to determine liability for your injury-related losses.
Bus Driver Errors
While not every bus accident is the fault of the bus driver, driver error is a common cause of crashes and passenger injuries. Buses are commercial vehicles, so every driver must have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) in order to operate any type of bus. Obtaining such a license involves taking a written test, passing a driving skills test, passing a medical examination, among other steps.
Once licensed, a commercial bus driver must then obey all of the relevant traffic laws in Illinois as well as an extensive set of FMCSA regulations. Buses are also known as “common carriers,” which means the bus owners and operators have a higher duty of care to keep passengers safe than other drivers on the road. Despite all of these requirements, bus drivers are only human and can make careless or even reckless decisions that lead to crashes.
Examples of driver errors include:
- Driving while intoxicated
- Driving while overly fatigued
- Distracted driving
- Taking turns too fast
- Ignoring traffic signals
- Driving with a serious health condition
Any of the above, among many other possible mistakes, can cause a bus to crash and cause serious injuries to passengers and other motorists.
Bus Companies Also Have Responsibilities
While people may look directly to the negligent bus driver after an accident, you should realize that bus companies can also have significant liability for an accident. Bus companies can be automatically liable for the negligent acts of employees and they also may be negligent in their own right, as well.
Bus companies have many legal duties of their own, such as the duty to inspect and maintain buses and the duty to follow FMCSA regulations. One highly important duty is to hire qualified drivers. First and foremost, every driver who is allowed to operate a bus should have an active CDL. The most basic thing a company can do during the hiring process is check to make sure an applicant has a valid and current license to drive the bus. If a bus company allows someone without a CDL to drive, it can lead to liability for negligent hiring.
Negligent hiring can also involve many other missteps on the bus company’s part. This may include:
Driving and criminal records – A bus company should carefully check every applicant’s driving and criminal record. If the applicant has convictions for driving under the influence (DUI) or other severe driving offenses, there may be the risk of a repeat offense while they are operating a bus full of people. In addition, if someone’s driving record shows multiple speeding citations or other traffic violations, it may be a sign of a pattern of dangerous driving that may continue behind the wheel of the bus, and the company should carefully consider whether the driver is qualified.
Substance abuse – Even if a person does not have DUI convictions, they may still have a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse. Such a history may be an indication that impaired driving may occur in the future. Because impaired driving is so dangerous when it comes to bus driving, any bus company may want to rethink hiring someone with a known history of substance abuse.
Health conditions – In order to obtain a CDL, an applicant must undergo a thorough medical evaluation to ensure they have no major health conditions that may make driving unsafe. However, some bus driver applicants may have already had a CDL for several years and, in the meantime, may have developed new health conditions that make them risky drivers. Such health conditions may include arthritis, vision problems, conditions that may cause seizures, and more.
Previous work experience – A hiring bus company should also examine the past work experience of an applicant. For example, if the applicant was terminated from a previous bus driving job because of FMCSA violations or other misconduct, they may repeat their past conduct. If a driver lost their job after causing accidents, they may be prone to making errors that could cause future accidents.
Surprisingly, some bus companies hire unqualified or potentially dangerous drivers and allow them to drive around hundreds of people per day. If a driver is not properly qualified to operate the bus, a skilled attorney should examine the hiring practices of the bus company that employed the driver. If the company knew or should have known about the driver’s risks or lack of qualification, the company can be liable due to its negligent hiring.
In addition to negligent hiring, a company may also be held responsible for negligent supervision or retention of drivers. A company should carefully oversee every driver to ensure they are in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. If a company fails to adequately supervise employees or fails to take disciplinary action against drivers who violate safety rules, the company should be liable for its negligent actions.
Call Our Chicago Bus Accident Lawyers to Discuss a Possible Case Today
Dangerous bus drivers and bus companies can cause severe and life-changing injuries. The law firm of Abels & Annes, P.C., knows how to hold negligent parties accountable so that injured bus accident victims can recover for their medical expenses, lost wages, and more. If you would like to discuss your legal options, please do not hesitate to call (312) 924-7575 or contact us online for a free consultation today.