We share the roads every day with school and tour buses, taxis and trucks. While operators of these vehicles are expected to comply with the very same rules of the road as other motorists, they actually have a greater obligation to drive safely. This is because they fall under a specific category of vehicles called "common carriers."
Common carrier vehicles are those that transport people and products in exchange for money. Because of this designation and the added responsibility that comes with carrying passengers, operators of buses, trucks and taxis are held to a higher standard of safe driving. This could certainly affect how negligence is established in the event of an accident involving a common carrier.
Many people have several questions regarding liability after being injured in these types of accidents. In order to answer some of these questions, let's take a look at a couple hypothetical situations.
Imagine a bus driver slamming on the brakes to stop for a line of traffic. If a passenger inside the bus or motorist in a vehicle behind the bus is injured as a result of this decision, who is to blame? The answer can depend significantly on why the driver had to slam on the brakes. For instance, if the driver wasn't paying attention and suddenly noticed backed up traffic, he or she may be considered negligent. If there was no way to anticipate the sudden slow-down, it can be much more difficult to establish negligence.
In a second situation, let's imagine a bus driver swerving out of his or her lane and crashing into another vehicle. If the decision to swerve was made in an attempt to avoid a more serious accident, that could be considered a reasonable decision and not an indication of negligence. But if the swerving is the result of a poorly maintained bus or a reckless driver, the bus company and the driver may ultimately be held accountable.
Determining liability often comes down to examining whether a bus driver and/or company took reasonable considerations to operate a vehicle safely. As we mentioned above, these drivers are held to a high standard when it comes to keeping passengers safe, so establishing negligence can be crucial. Victims of a bus accident who wish to file a claim for damages may want to seriously consider working with an attorney familiar with the challenges of these cases.