Passengers on mass-transit vehicles understand there are risks involved in taking these modes of transportation. Yet people also have a right to assume that the vehicles will be operated cautiously and safely. If they fail to do so, and a bus injury or other type of mass transit injury occurs, more than one party could be held liable for any damages that result.
The driver of a tour bus carrying passengers to New York City was recently acquitted of manslaughter and negligent homicide charges stemming from an accident in which the bus struck a guardrail, rolled over and struck a signpost.
In all, 15 passengers were killed in the accident and nearly all of the surviving passengers suffered injuries, some of which were very serious. The National Transportation Safety Board determined the mass-transit accident was likely caused by driver fatigue and a lack of safety oversight by the driver's employer. The driver claimed that another vehicle cut him off, which caused him to swerve and hit the guardrail.
Busses, along with airplanes and subway trains, are aggregately known as common carriers. Operators of these vehicles have a special responsibility to all of their passengers and must exercise the highest degree of care. A failure to exercise such care may result in liability for operators of these vehicles, as well as their employers. Although the driver was cleared of criminal wrongdoing, the bus company and driver may still face civil action.
Through the theory of vicarious liability, an employer may be liable for an accident caused by its employee while operating a company vehicle. In this case, the company operating the bus may have not exercised enough oversight to ensure the driver was adequately rested before taking the wheel.
The surviving accident victims and the families of those who passed away will be forever changed by this accident. Between the emotional and financial toll of the crash, it may take many years for the families to recover without the proper support.