Similarities and Differences Between Public and Charter Bus Liability

Whether you use public buses through the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to go to work, or chartered tour buses while on vacation, bus transportation is generally an efficient and safe way to travel. However, as with any type of vehicle accidents can occur, potentially resulting in property damage, injury, or even death. Factors that may contribute to such accidents include defective equipment, questionable weather conditions, distracted drivers, insufficient vehicle maintenance, lack of proper driver training, and driving under the influence. In each of these cases, there are unique elements that help determine how to proceed with a lawsuit. Although there is overlap in circumstances surrounding public transportation accidents and charter bus accidents, there are also a few legal differences.

Common Carrier Liability

Any business entity that charges customers to transport people, merchandise, or property is legally considered a “common carrier” in the eyes of the federal and state governments. Passenger trains, commercial airplanes, cruise ships, all buses and even certain trucks fall under this category. In liability cases involving common carriers, four factors must exist in order to prove negligence:

  • The defendant – whether it’s the driver, supervisor, or company – owed a duty of care to the customers. This means the highest level of caution and care must be taken to ensure the safety of all passengers.
  • The defendant breached their duty of care in some way. This could be anything from improper driver training to poor vehicle maintenance.
  • This breach of duty caused the injured party to suffer damages, such as lost income, pain and suffering, or medical expenses.

Eyewitnesses that can verify alleged incidents, and expert witnesses that can explain factors from a professional perspective, are immensely helpful when trying to prove common carrier liability.

Charter Buses: Levels of Liability

In the case of charter buses, liability may lie with one or more parties involved:

  • The tour company is responsible for employing a safe, respectable, and reliable bus company. If the bus company has a history of violations, the tour company may be deemed partially responsible.
  • The bus company hired must meet specific standards and requirements for ensured safety as a common carrier. Negligent drivers may cause the company to share liability.
  • Specific tour locations may be responsible for injury to passengers. Slips, trips, falls, and other types of injuries may be suffered due to poor property maintenance and other forms of negligence.

Public Transportation: Sovereign Immunity and the State Tort Claims Act

In public transit liability cases, the question of the injured party’s ability to sue the state government often arises. Originating in early American history, legislation called sovereign immunity prevents both the federal and state governments and their employees from being sued without the consent of Congress. However, the State Tort Claims Act, enacted in 1946 to ensure government accountability, provides the ability to waive government immunity in certain circumstances. For example, while Massachusetts allows the potential for certain damage claims against the state, there is a provisional monetary cap on the amount. Because of both sovereign immunity and the State Tort Claims Act, a claim against the MBTA depends on the particulars of the accident.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Massachusetts’ Bus Accident Attorneys

Although bus accidents are quite uncommon, they can be extremely serious, resulting in life-altering injuries and even death. At Altman & Altman, LLP, our Boston injury lawyers will analyze the details of your particular situation and help you determine how to move forward. If you have been injured as a result of unsafe bus conditions, we will help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free consultation.

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