Bus accidents require a detailed knowledge of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act Regulations, common carrier law, and industry standards. Bus drivers and motor carriers are subject to safety rules that are meant to prevent accidents for the protection of the public. Some bus accidents that appear to be unavoidable are still preventable. A preventable bus accident is one that the bus company or driver could have prevented by taking or not taking a particular action. For example, a bus company under the FMSCA should not permit or order a bus driver to drive through an ice storm at highway speeds. If the bus company violates this rule and strikes a car that loses control on the icy roads the bus company may still be liable for the injuries caused in that crash. These safety rules are found in the Federal Carrier Safety Administration’s sponsored manual on Bus Safety Management Techniques.
If you were injured while a passenger in a bus you may have a claim even if your injury was due to the actions of a passenger. Common carrier law places a high duty of care on bus drivers to protect passengers from foreseeable attacks or injuries caused by other passengers. The bus driver must have notice of the potential danger and a reasonable opportunity and means to protect the passenger.
Bus accident cases involving buses that cross state lines are subject to many of the federal regulations discussed in the pages about truck accidents. In cases where a passenger on a bus or limo is hurt in an accident or by another passenger the applicable duties under Maryland law are very different from those applied to personal passenger cars. There is also a regional pact that governs bus travel in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. This pact provides another layer of regulations.
Bus drivers are required to adhere to a different pre-trip than tractor-trailer drivers. The additional requirements mainly focus on the safety of the interior for passengers.
BUS DRIVERS ARE GUARDIANS OF THEIR PASSENGERS’ SAFETY
Maryland Common-Carrier Law
Bus companies and their drivers are held to a higher duty as common carriers under Maryland law than the owners and drivers of most passenger cars. A common carrier owes its passengers the highest degree of care to provide safe transportation. The common carrier has a duty to use the utmost degree of care, skill, and diligence as to matters concerning their passengers’ safety. This duty begins when the passenger enters the bus and/or property owned, controlled, or maintained by the common carrier and ends when a passenger reaches a place of safety after exiting the bus. The Maryland Courts found that a bus driver has a duty to take reasonable actions to prevent a foreseeable attack by one passenger against another.
Most transit buses have cameras recording the exterior and the interior of the bus. This video should be promptly requested after a bus accident or a passenger assault.
Bus Accidents and Assaults
Bus drivers that are on notice of dangers to their passengers have a duty to safeguard passengers from those dangers. Party buses often supply or permit alcohol. Alcohol increases the dangers that customers are exposed to by other passengers. If passengers on a party bus are intoxicated and have threatened other passengers, then the bus driver should assess whether it is safe to drop off the passengers at a location without security.
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