What you need to know
Large tour busses are much more common in Cobb County than they used to be, and tour bus crashes are much more common as well. In fact, these accidents have increased 42 percent since 2009.
These collisions are incredibly complex. A serious collision may affect dozens of victims, and most of them are probably foreigners. That is, they reside outside Cobb County or perhaps even outside Georgia. Different victims have different needs and different expectations. An attorney must manage these expectations and keep the case moving forward.
Furthermore, both the tortfeasor (negligent driver) and the company which owned the tour bus are probably located outside Georgia as well. Out-of-state evidence is difficult to obtain, and out-of-state defendants are difficult to sue.
So, if you or a loved one was seriously injured in a tour bus crash, you need a highly-qualified Marietta personal injury attorney to deal with all the financial, legal, and other ramifications of this wreck.
What Causes Tour Bus Crashes?
These incidents are hardly ever unavoidable accidents. Instead, negligence, or a lack of care, usually causes tour bus crashes.
Distraction is a serious problem among tour bus operators. They often multitask at a dangerously high level. For example, under Georgia law, tour bus companies are responsible for passenger safety during transit. As a result, in addition to driving the bus, the tour bus driver must break up fights before they become violent, make sure the center aisle has no obstructions, and so on. Furthermore, many companies expect their tour bus drivers to handle tour guide duties as well.
Operating a large tour bus is difficult enough. When these extra tasks are added on, the burden simply becomes too much and something has to give.
Many tour bus operators are dangerously fatigued as well. Especially for day trips, tour buses typically leave early in the morning and return late at night. Intense activity at such times, like driving a large commercial vehicle, disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm. That’s the body’s internal biological clock, and it is impossible to reset this clock. Most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning and late at night, no matter how much rest they had the night before.
Since they are inactive for long periods of time, sleep apnea is an issue among many commercial operators. People with this condition never lapse into a deep REM sleep. They basically nap all night, and they wake up frequently. That kind of sleep does not give the body enough rest. In other words, the clock may say a person with sleep apnea got eight hours of sleep. But in reality, the person was basically up all night.
Finally, excessive speed causes many tour bus crashes. Added velocity increases the risk of a collision as well as the force in a collision.
Speed multiplies stopping distance. That’s the distance a vehicle travels between the time a driver sees an oncoming hazard and the time the driver safely slows the vehicle. At 30mph, stopping distance for a passenger car is about six car lengths. At 60mph, stopping distance triples to eighteen car lengths. Large vehicle stopping distance is much greater at any speed.
Furthermore, according to the laws of physics, speed multiples the force in a collision. Since they have no passenger seatbelts, high speed tour bus wrecks are often catastrophic.
Distraction and fatigue usually involve ordinary negligence claims. These two things clearly constitute a lack of ordinary care. Speed usually involves the negligence per se doctrine. Even if the tortfeasor did not exceed the posted speed limit, the vehicle’s velocity could still be dangerously high.
Injuries in Tour Bus Crashes
As mentioned, when tour buses veer off the road or collide with another vehicle, the injuries tens to be catastrophic. Some common wounds include:
- Serious Burns: Diesel fuel burns at a different temperature from ordinary gasoline. So, many large vehicle crash victims sustain third and fourth-degree burns over much of their body. These wounds always require intense treatment at designated burn centers as well as long-term physical therapy. Even after all that, these wounds often leave disfiguring scars.
- Head Injuries: Large vehicle crashes cause head injuries in several different ways. Obviously, head trauma causes head injuries. Furthermore, the sudden violent motion causes the brain to slam back and forth against the inside of the skull. Finally, the loud, explosion-like noise often produces a shock wave which disrupts brain functions.
- Internal Bleeding: These same intense forces cause internal organs to grind and bump against one another. Since these organs have no protective skin layer, any contact usually causes serious bleeding. Many times, doctors do not see and stop this bleeding for several hours.
Damages in a tour bus crash claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Especially in fatigued driving cases, additional punitive damages may be available as well. Very often, these operators know they should not get behind the wheel, but they do so anyway.
Third Party Liability
Because of the multiple numbers of victims and the serious nature of the injuries, many individual tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation to all victims.
As a result, vicarious liability theories, like respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) are very important in these claims. The most common employer liability theory has two basic prongs:
- Employee: An “employee” is anyone who does anything which benefits the employer in any way. Tour bus drivers certainly fall into this category, even if they are unpaid church or other volunteers.
- Scope of Employment: Similarly, any act which benefits the employer is within the scope of employment. For example, in workers’ compensation claims, an employee softball game is an employment activity. Healthy and happy workers benefit the boss.
Other employer liability theories, which are very common in assault and other intentional tort cases, include negligent supervision and negligent hiring.
Contact a Hard-Hitting Lawyer
Tour bus accident victims need aggressive legal representation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.