Earlier this month, February of 2011, 22 church members were trapped in a serious church bus accident near Twin Peaks where the bus descended down the mountain approximately 50 feet, crashing into a large tree and finally coming to rest at a 45-degree angle. There were many injuries and unfortunately, the bus driver died in the accident. What a terrifying experience this must have been for the passengers aboard the bus as they crashed through the snow covered embankment. As a California bus accident law firm, we share in their sorrow and understand the legal complexities many of the passengers and families will experience following the accident.
“Common carriers” are held accountable for their duties to maintain public safety of their passengers and others.
Public transportation in California is an important mass transit alternative for commuters, school children, and travelers. Mass transit options are essential in relieving California’s congested roadways. Handing over control as a passenger of a bus requires an individual’s believe they are safe in doing so. Bus companies and public entities operating bus lines are known in the law as common carriers are responsible for the passengers they transport by driving safely, maintaining strict adherence to passenger seat belt laws, and making sure all vehicles are properly maintained to avoid accidents and injuries.
Buses are large and difficult to maneuver, increasing the risk of driver error and potential accidents. Drivers must be properly trained, licensed, and diligent in their duties as an operator of a large vehicle. Drunk, distracted driving, and speeding is not tolerated by law. In addition to hiring and maintaining well trained bus conductors, bus operators are responsibility as “common carriers” to ensure their fleet is well maintained and devoid of equipment defects, scheduling safe routes and avoiding dangerous road and weather conditions to prevent malfunction and accidents.
The Higher Standard of Utmost Duty of Care
Whether an owner of operator of an escalator, bus, elevator, or train is deemed a common carrier is an important issue as common carriers are held to a higher standard and duty of utmost care. The heightened duty of care standard makes owners and operators vulnerable to negligent suits for which non-carriers are not held liable. Bus operators are responsible for negligent hiring of bus drivers, adhering to hours of service guidelines to avoid drowsy driving.
Public vs Private Bus Entities
The bus company, whether public or private, owes you the “utmost duty of care” associated with being a common carrier. There are many important differences between public and private bus entities. Claims for damages against public bus entities, due to the government’s interest in immunity from private suits, are complex and often shielded by complicated negligence standards, such as strict time limitations.
Regardless of public or private bus operator, if you or a loved one is involved in a bus accident, you need a California bus accident attorney specializing in personal injury matters to navigate and advise you through the complicated legal issues involved with California’s common carrier related accident laws.