Commercial Motor Vehicles

Party Bus Accidents and Injuries


A Party Bus is a Commercial Motor Vehicle with a Night Club

Party Bus accidents and injuries require knowledge of commercial motor vehicle laws, premises liability laws and alcohol serving laws.

Party Buses owe the Highest Duty of Care to Customers

A Party Bus is a Common Carrier

50 young adults including several armed violent felons, dozens of bottles of liquor, disco lights flashing, disco lights flashing, and a full-time dump truck driver trying to make extra money driving an old bus modified with perimeter seating circling the beltway at 1 in the morning, what could go wrong?   That factual scenario occurred and it is outrageous.  Unfortunately, it takes a skilled party bus lawyer to uncover these facts.  Party buses are often the most dangerous commercial motor vehicles because they are frequently owned and operated by companies whose primary business is providing limo services.  Limo companies are often asked to service larger events that a stretch limousine is unable to accommodate.  These party bus events are almost always on the weekend.  The limo company is probably not owned and operated by person that has driven a full size bus in their career.  The party bus market is often supplied by small limo companies that take the following steps:

  • The company buys an old bus and converts into a party bus by replacing standard seats with perimeter seats and adding a sound system.
  • The limo company most likely does not have a trained bus mechanic on staff.
  • The party bus is often the only vehicle in the fleet that requires a CDL.
  • The party bus is almost exclusively used on the weekends so the company hires a CDL driver that probably has a full time job as a CDL driver.

This business model increases the chances that the bus is poorly maintained, inadequately inspected and prone to mechanical failures.  The driver is hired on a contract basis by a company that is expecting the driver to be the expert on safety.  Hiring a driver to work part-time on the weekends increases the chances that the driver is exceeding the maximum number of safe driving hours permitted under federal law.  The removing and reconfiguring of seats increases the chances that the company will accept paying guests up to the buses stated capacity before the seating was changed.  The installation of a sound system and disco lights coupled with a fatigued driver impairs the ability of the party bus company to monitor passenger behavior.  As a result of this dangerous mix a party bus lawyer has to bring together multiple areas of law to find the safety violations that led to an accident or led to a passenger being violently attacked.

A party bus sells excitement and fun. A party bus is still subject to a historic legal duty that goes all the way back to English law. Well before America was colonized the English legal system grappled with people that were injured while staying at an Inn or while be taken by a horse drawn carriage. The English courts recognized that customers were essentially surrendering their freedom and placing their safety in the hands of an innkeeper or a driver. This led to the inn keeper and common carrier heightened duty.

Maryland has adopted this common carrier law and applies it to anyone who engages in public transportation of person’s for hire. A common carrier is required to use the utmost degree of care, skill and diligence in everything that concerns its passenger’s safety. The application of the common carrier duty is premised on transporting passengers. If a party bus stays at a fixed location these duties would not apply. The typical party bus trip involves transportation from or to an event. This triggers the heightened duty.

Patterson Law offers free consultations to discuss your party bus accident injury case.  Maria or George Patterson are available for consultations at our Bowie or Annapolis offices.

Party Buses are not Designed for Safety

A Moving Night Club will never be as Safe as a Stationary Night Club or Passenger Bus.

The Party Bus industry developed because limousines could only handle so many passengers. Limousine companies typically are not well versed in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act that applies to party buses but does not apply to may limousines. Large passenger busses are designed for safety with rows of padded seats. Party bus companies often buy these buses from large bus companies that are retiring buses from their fleet. The party bus company then redesigns the bus to include built in music systems, party lights and often perimeter seating.

Commercial busses list maximum seating capacities that are based on the manufacture’s design. Once seats are removed the maximum safe capacity decreases. Party bus operators frequently rely on the listed bus capacity when booking events. This often results in passengers not having a place to sit. The use of perimeter seating also creates a large open area for passengers to walk and to move about the bus. With party lights turned on and music playing it is foreseeable that passengers will bump into each other and will sustain serious injuries if a crash occurs.

Every state has unique laws pertaining to the responsibility of those that serve alcohol to others. This is an area that should be explored in every party bus case involving alcohol consumption. A party bus is essentially a mobile night club that usually does not have security and procedures in place for the safe consumption of alcohol by customers.

Common carriers owe passengers a duty to take affirmative action to protect them from violence or assaults by a third party if, in the exercise of proper care, the driver knew or should have known such acts were imminent, and could have prevented them with the force in it command. Maryland Pattern Jury Instruction – Civil 8:5.

The Bus driver is responsible for enforcing the common carrier duties

Party Bus drivers are often not properly trained to operate a party bus.

There is a shortage of trained commercial motor vehicle drivers. To operate a full-sized party bus the driver must have a CDL. Party bus and limousine companies are busy on the weekends and during special events. Party bus companies often hire commercial drivers that have full time employment during the week. It is possible that the driver of your party bus drives a dump truck or a delivery vehicle during the week. A bus driver has unique obligations to monitor the conduct of passengers and at times to take steps to protect passengers from foreseeable assaults by other passengers. A transit bus driver or a driver for a motor carrier undergoes training for these obligations.  “[The duty] springs from a condition, not of the carrier’s but of a third party’s creation, coupled with a knowledge by the carrier’s [driver] that the condition exists, and with time enough between the acquisition of the knowledge and the infliction of the injury to enable the [driver] of the carrier to protect the passenger from the third party’s misconduct.” Todd v. Mass Transit Admin., 373 Md. 149, 158 (2002).  The party bus has this obligation for the entire time that the passenger is in the care of the party bus company.  Leatherwood Motor Coach v. Nathan, 84 Md. App. 370 (1989).

Premises law requires a buildings and other structures to be free of dangerous conditions such as tripping hazards. A party bus is often redesigned with a focus on the party and not safety. The installation of loud music systems and party lights compromises a bus driver’s ability to monitor passenger conduct and to make sure that passengers are not acting in a dangerous fashion. The installation of stripper poles or perhaps slick dance floor flooring creates other dangers.  Maryland has found that a special relationship between a business owner and a customer, obligating the business owner to protect the customer arises when three elements are present:

  • the owner controlled a dangerous condition,
  • the owner knew or should have known of the injury causing condition; and
  • the harm suffered was a foreseeable result of that condition.

Troxel v. Iguana Cantina LLC, 201 Md. App. 476, 496 (2011).  A party bus lawyer will investigate the conditions on the party bus and assess whether the party bus company had a duty to protect a passenger from being injured by another passenger.

George Patterson is one of the best attorneys that I have ever worked with!!!!! I found him on AVVO and the reviews are so true about him. I am very pleased to have worked with him!! I would recommend him to anyone that needs a great attorney!!! He will work for you and with you!!!

Thanh-Le

Accident Client

I have handled party bus cases where simple premises liability violations resulted in a passenger falling into another passenger. This cascaded into a dispute among intoxicated party bus passengers that ended in the death of a passenger and two that suffered potentially fatal injuries. Had the party bus company engaged in safety practices utilized by night clubs, motor carriers and safety engineers this tragedy could have been prevented.

George Patterson, Board Certified Commercial Vehicle Accident Attorney

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The Bowie and Annapolis based party bus accident lawyers at Patterson Law serve clients in Prince George's, Montgomery, Calvert, Charles, St. Mary's, Howard, Anne Arundel, Queen Anne's and Baltimore Counties. Our clients are from Silver Spring, Upper Marlboro, Bowie, Forestville, Prince Frederick, Leonardtown, Annapolis, Edgewater, Rockville, Mayo, Bethesda, Germantown, Olney, Beltsville, Deale, Bethesda, Severna Park, Largo, Landover, Oxon Hill, La Plata, Waldorf, Crofton, Columbia and Riverdale.

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If you or a loved one was injured as a result of a party bus accident or injury, please contact a board-certified commercial motor vehicle accident lawyer with extensive experience in party bus accidents to evaluate your case. Patterson Law has offices in Bowie and Annapolis. Call 301-888-4878 for your free consultation.

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