Intercity and municipal bus travel has increased significantly over the past 10 years. To accommodate more passengers, buses have also become larger over the past several years. Even experienced drivers have a hard time controlling such vehicles. Safe operation is even harder because, in most cases, drivers have multiple safety responsibilities. More on that below.
As passenger travel and vehicle size increase, the potential for serious injury increases, as well. Bus crash and other large vehicle injuries are often complex, usually because the victims live in different counties and even different states. So, only an experienced Marietta personal injury attorney should handle such claims. That is the best way, and often the only way, to ensure maximum compensation for your serious injuries.
Bus drivers are common carriers in Georgia. When people haul passengers and/or cargo for money, they have a duty of utmost care. Common carriers are not quite insurers of safe conduct. But they are close. Common carriers must take affirmative steps to avoid accidents whenever possible.
Vehicle speed exemplifies the difference between the duty of reasonable care, which applies to most noncommercial drivers, and the duty of utmost care. The posted speed limit is a presumptively reasonable speed for noncommercial vehicles. Large and heavy vehicles have a duty to travel slower, especially if traffic is heavy, the road is wet, or conditions are otherwise poor.
Mostly because of the high duty of care, compensation is usually high in these cases as well. As the old saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. On top of compensatory damages for items like medical bills and emotional distress, Cobb County jurors often award additional punitive damages in these cases.
Usually, the shipping, transportation, or other company that owned the bus is financially responsible for these damages. The respondeat superior doctrine applies if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was an employee working within the scope of employment at the time of the wreck.
Georgia law defines these key teams in broad, victim-friendly terms. For example, many drivers are independent contractors for tax purposes. But they are usually employees for negligence purposes.
In terms of collision risk, fatigued operation might be the biggest danger for bus drivers. Many people are naturally drowsy at certain times, like early in the morning and late at night. Bus drivers are often on the road at these times.
Bus drivers also have a duty to keep their passengers safe while they are aboard. Specific responsibilities include keeping aisles clear of debris and breaking up fights before they become violent.
This responsibility extends to pick up and drop off. Buses must load and unload passengers at safe locations. Dark crossroads in residential areas might be convenient pick up and drop off locations. But they are not safe locations.
The aforementioned respondeat superior doctrine usually applies in such injury cases. But some passenger injuries are different. Sometimes, the drivers themselves are responsible. Assaults are intentional torts as opposed to negligent torts. However, the employer is normally financially responsible for damages in these situations as well. Possible theories include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.