The Trial Lawyer Winter 2018 - Page 92

school in interstate commerce, (iii) school bus contractors providing transportation of pre-primary, primary, and secondary students in interstate commerce, and (iv) school bus operations transporting only school children and school personnel in interstate commerce from home to school and school to home. D. An employer that transports employees in interstate commerce operating a vehicle designed to transport 15 or fewer passengers, if a company collects no fees from its employees for transportation, or if an employer organizes a company retreat. E. A faith-based-organization that transports members with its buses in a private capacity and collects no compensation for the passenger transportation, organizes a retreat, or if all transportation of passenger for compensation is within a commercial zone (geographical areas in and around municipalities that are designated by regulation). Who is Responsible? Unlike a car accident, determining liability in a bus accident can be difficult. A. Liability caused by Third Party: In some cases, bus accidents may be caused by a third party. Potential liable parties include other drivers on the road, pedestrians, motorcycles, or bicyclists. Victims must prove that the third party had a duty to prevent harm, breached that duty in some way, and that they were harmed as a result. B. Liability caused by Government/Municipality: In some cases involving buses that are owned by government/ municipalities or drivers employed by government/ municipality, your claim has to be against the municipality. They typically have protections that can impact what steps you can take to recover damages in your case. The statute of limitations in personal injury cases against the municipality is generally much shorter than other personal injury lawsuits. In some states, this statute of limitation can expire in as little as six months after an accident. C. Liability caused by Private Company: Tour companies must enter into a contract with a bus company and it has a duty to hire a company with a clean safety record. When injuries occur on a bus-operated by a company cited for multiple safety violations, the tour company may share liability with the owner of the bus. The bus company, which owns the vehicle, must have reasonably safe buses in its fleet, must only hire properly licensed drivers who meet the driver requirements, and typically must prove its fitness as a common carrier to the other parties in the contract. Even if these criteria are met, a negligent driver exposes the bus company to liability. D. Liability caused by Bus Driver: Bus drivers have a greater responsibility than other drivers to operate the vehicle safely. Buses are considered common carriers, which imposes a greater duty of car on operators. As told in the“Liability Following a Bus Accident” article on BestLawyers.com, rather than exhibiting reasonable care, common carriers must exercise “the utmost caution…or highest degree of vigilance, care, and precaution.” (Arzani, S., 2017) What are the Four Main Causes of Bus Accidents? A. Companies fail to ensure their drivers are qualified or fit for the job according to the FMSCA regulations (or specific state regulatory requirements if intrastate). According to the article “Put the Brakes on ‘Curbside’ Bus Abuse” at Trial Magazine, Medical offices and commercial driving “schools” rubber-stamp, and even cheat, to provide Commercial Driving Licenses (CDL) to drivers who often do not speak English, have insufficient qualifications, or may be medically unfit. (Harvey-Lee, K., 2013) B. The Federal Highway Administration stated, “Fatigue is considered the most important road safety factor for large trucks.” As told in the “Driver Fatigue and Electronic Logging Devices” article of The Lawyer’s Logbook, The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that over 50 percent of single vehicle accidents with heavy trucks involved fatigued drivers. Of this percentage, 18 percent actually admit to falling asleep. According to Parker v. Crete Carrier Corporation, 2016 WL 5929210, Crete Carrier relied on the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) recommendations and required sleep apnea testing for any driver with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or more. The Court held that the reasons for requiring sleep apnea testing were not pre-textual and that Crete had a legitimate business reason for requiring the testing, which is not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The hours of service rules for drivers of passenger- carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are different from the rules for property-carrying CMVs. (B)(1) Under the FMSCA Regulations §395.5, no motor carrier of passengers shall permit or require any passenger-carrying CMV driver to drive more than 10 hours following eight consecutive hours off duty, or for any period after having been on duty 15 hours following eight consecutive hours off duty; as well as for any period after the driver has been on duty for 60 hours in any seven consecutive days if the carrier does not operate CMVs every day of the week; or 70 hours in any eight consecutive days if the carrier operates the CMVs every day of the