The number of tour buses on American roads has roughly doubled since 1975, greatly increasing the odds of bus wrecks like one that occurred recently in the remote desert at the Arizona-Nevada border.
In that collision, a Dallas Cowboys’ bus that was taking non-player personnel and between fifty and seventy-five fans to a promotional event in Las Vegas, and then onto the team’s training camp facility in California, crashed into a passenger van; four occupants in the van, who were all foreign tourists, were killed. Investigators determined that the van failed to yield the right-of-way to the bus.
No one on board the team bus was seriously injure and none of the victims’ names were released.
First Party Liability in Bus Wrecks
Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care, which essentially means that they must be sober, concentrate on driving, obey traffic laws, and otherwise do their utmost to avoid collisions while they are behind the wheel. But in Louisiana and most other states, bus drivers, van drivers, taxi drivers, truck drivers, Uber drivers, and other operators who transport people or property from one place to another for a fee are common carriers. These professional drivers have a much higher duty, especially to their passengers. In fact, the Louisiana Supreme Court has likened it to “’the highest standard of care,’ ‘highest degree of vigilance, care and precaution for the safety of those it undertakes to transport,’ [and] ‘the strictest diligence.’”
Just like a professional football player is expected to play much better than someone in a weekend pickup game at a public park, a professional driver is expected to be much more careful than a non-commercial driver. Momentary lapses that are tolerated for non-commercial drivers – like talking to passengers instead of watching the road – are breaches of duty when it comes to common carriers.
Third Party Liability in Bus Wrecks
Respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) nearly always applies in common carrier crashes, so the employer or company owner may also be responsible for the plaintiff’s damages. Third party liability theories like this one are very important in many cases, because the tortfeasor (negligent driver) often does not have enough insurance coverage to pay all the economic and noneconomic damages that the plaintiff sustains.
For this theory to apply, the tortfeasor must be:
Both these elements are very broadly defined. Anyone who performs any work for another person, regardless of how much money changes hands or how the worker is classified for other purposes, is typically an employee. Similarly, any employee who is doing anything that benefits the employer is operating within the course and scope of employment.
Tour bus wrecks involve unique legal issues. For a free consultation with a Lake Charles personal injury attorney who knows the law, contact Hoffoss Devall. We routinely handle cases in both Texas and Louisiana.