In a geographical small, dense metropolitan area, the availability of a public transportation acts as a great and helpful asset to the population of that area. Public transportation, including public lines, buses, trolleys, and light rail transit systems, provides a convenient alternative to driving both within and from city to city. However, due to high populations, negligent drivers, carelessness or sometimes just unfortunate circumstances, accidents involving public transportation buses occur often. Additionally, because buses often lack safety features that are required in other automobiles such as seat belts, buses allow for many potential injuries to its passengers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that in 2011, an approximate of 56,000 bus accidents occurred leading to:
- Forty-seven thousand (47,000) instances of property damage;
- Nine thousand (9,000) instances of injury;
- and two hundred twenty-one (221) instances of fatal injuries due to bus accidents.
However, these statistics only include buses that transported ten (10) or more people, excluding a count for the drivers, so these statistics may actually be higher. Additionally, buses generally spend more time, and drive more miles on highways where legal speed limits are higher than within cities and towns. The increased speed of buses can cause an increase in collisions and makes for more dangerous and serious injuries. However, collisions at lower speeds occur often as well and can also cause serious injuries, and suffer a variety of injuries whether or not they make contact with a part of the busses’ interior.
Bus accidents can have many causes. Sometimes it can be due to pedestrian or rider carelessness. Other times, accidents occur because of driver negligence, defective equipment, or improper maintenance of buses. Many cases of pedestrians or bikers being hit by buses, and collisions between buses and cars, are reported, however sometimes they are not reported. In a city like San Francisco, a bus driver maneuvering the city streets truly may not even be aware that their bus has contacted another vehicle, a building, or a human being. For those who are onboard buses when accidents occur, injuries can be sustained when buses make jerking movements that cause passengers to be thrown to the floor or hit up against poles, and passengers can become projectiles. The effects of these can range from small skin lacerations to more serious injuries such as concussions or broken bones. The latter of these injuries can be especially dangerous to children and the elderly, who are generally more fragile.
When bus companies, or municipalities, such as San Francisco MUNI, AC Transit, or SAMTRANS, fail to maintain the busses they send out, mechanical failures, as well as human driver error, can lead to accidents and collisions. For example, old brake pads that are not replaced can contribute to a bus driver rear ending a vehicle in front of them. Worn out tires can cause blowouts of these tires, potentially leading to collisions, or strong jerking movements. Bus driver negligence has also been a cause for collisions when drivers attempt to multi-task while driving, doing things such as opening candy bars or texting on their phones.
Under California law, busses are considered “common carriers”, and owe a duty to use the highest care and the vigilance of a very cautious person in protecting the safety of their passengers. California Civil Code Section 2100 states that “A carrier of persons for reward must use the utmost care and diligence for their safe carriage, must provide everything necessary for that purpose, and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill.” A common carrier does not insure the safety of its passengers, but it must use reasonable skill to provide everything necessary for safe transportation.
If you have been a passenger on a bus involved in a collision, it is important to get as much information as possible about the bus, the driver, and the circumstances of the incident. While many busses contain video cameras that record the interior of a bus, those recordings are not always available when an injured person needs them. If you or a loved one was involved in a bus accident, call Willoughby Brod, LLP to receive a free case evaluation from our accident attorneys at (800) 427-7020 or contact us via e-mail. We handle cases involving injuries on a contingency fee basis, which means no legal fees are owed if we do not obtain compensation on your behalf.