Busses, airplanes, trains and subways are entrusted with the safety of their passengers when transporting them. Due to this entrustment, operators of mass transit vehicles have a heightened responsibility and level of care that is owed to their passengers. Failure to do so can result in severe injuries to multiple passengers and expose the operators and their employers to significant liability.
A bus driver who worked for New Jersey Transit for 25 years was recently indicted on a vehicular homicide charge pursuant to a bus injury. The charge stems from an accident involving the bus she was driving and a passenger who had just gotten off the bus. The passenger was walking in a crosswalk after leaving the bus when he was struck by it. The bus driver is alleged to have run a red light when she struck the man. The bus driver faces up to ten years in prison if convicted.
Busses, like other forms of public transportation, are known as common carriers. These forms of transportation are held to have a special responsibility to their passengers to apply the highest degree of care in their actions. Such care means using extra caution and doing everything possible to keep them safe. Any duty or responsibility owed by a driver may also extend to their employer under the legal theory of vicarious liability. To hold an employer liable, a victim must show that the employee caused the accident and it was the cause of their injuries. They must also show that it occurred during the course of the driver’s employment and that the driver was operating the vehicle within the scope of their authority. In the case above, the bus driver may have been negligent by failing to follow traffic signals or signs, and it appears that they were operating the bus pursuant to their employment and within the scope of their authority.
Victims injured by mass transit vehicles may be able to collect compensation for their injuries not only from the driver, but also their employer. It is important that victims and their families are aware of their right to compensation and all defendants from whom they may collect.