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Who is responsible after a fatal charter bus accident?

In our last post, we discussed the tragic charter bus accident that occurred in Northern California on April 10 and claimed the lives of ten people, including several high school students.

At the end of our post, we explained that an investigation is currently taking place to examine how the accident occurred and whether negligence played a role.

If it is determined that negligence played a role in the fatal accident, it is likely that personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits could result on behalf of those who were injured or killed.

When determining if negligence occurred after a fatal tour bus accident, courts typically use a "reasonableness" standard. Essentially, the court will question whether the tour bus driver was reasonably careful and cautious.

However, the issue can get more complex if other negligent parties were involved in the accident, such as a drunk or reckless driver, the manufacturer of a defective product, or even a state or local government.

In the case involving the Northern California accident, a FedEx tractor-trailer traveling in the opposite direction of the charter bus is said to have crossed the median and slammed into the bus head-on.

Since it appears that there is little the charter bus driver could have done to get out of the way, it is likely that any lawsuits following the accident will focus most heavily on the actions of the FedEx driver and whether or not he or she was negligent.

But potential liability doesn’t end with the FedEx driver, either. It is possible that negligence on behalf of several parties could have contributed to the accident, which is known as contributory negligence.

For example, it is possible that a mechanical malfunction caused the FedEx driver to lose control of the truck, making FedEx or a manufacturer liable; or perhaps a dangerous road condition contributed, leaving the state partially liable.

Ultimately, serious accidents like these require lengthy investigations to determine whether negligence was involved and who should be held responsible. 

Source:, “Tour Bus Accidents and Liability,” April 21, 2014

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