Burning Man Festival Bus Accident Raises Legal Questions


March 15, 2015

People trek from across the U.S. to the Nevada desert each year to attend the Burning Man Festival. This summer's version of the event was marred by a fatal bus accident. According to the Burning Man blog, a woman died when she fell under a bus transporting participants to the popular arts festival. When bus accident occur, they raise particular legal issues based on the unique status of "common carriers". Our experienced Atlanta auto accident lawyers at Montlick and Associates have provided an overview of key facts that people injured in bus accidents need to know about their legal rights.

What legal duty do bus companies and bus drivers owe to their patrons?

Bus operators owe a higher duty of care to their passengers than ordinary motorists owe to others with whom they share the roads. This more exacting legal duty is attributable to the status of bus companies as "common carriers." This higher standard of care is justified by the fact that passengers must entrust their safety to bus companies. There is essentially nothing that those who ride a bus can do to prevent injury since the maintenance and operation of the bus is exclusively within the control of the bus company.

What steps should I take if I am injured in a bus accident?

If you or a loved one is injured in a bus accident, you should contact an experienced Atlanta auto accident attorney, so an appropriate investigation can be conducted. Whether the bus accident is the product of poor driving by a city bus driver, school bus driver or a tour bus driver, insurance companies and public entities generally will tenaciously defend their drivers and deny liability. And if they admit liability the issue of damages is one that they will nearly always contest.  If a bus accident occurs, you should do the following:

  • Seek medical care
  • Obtain contact information and take notes on important information
  • Call the police to perform an accident investigation
  • Consult an experienced Atlanta bus accident attorney

What parties can be financially responsible for a bus accident?

There are many parties that can be liable for injuries or fatalities caused by a bus accident. Some of the potential responsible parties might include:

  • Bus Driver
  • Bus Company
  • Independent Maintenance Company
  • Manufacturer of a Defective Bus or Faulty Parts
  • Public Entity
  • Drivers of Vehicles Other Than the Bus

What should you do if the bus company's insurance carrier contacts you for a recorded statement?

If you are injured by a careless bus driver or a busing company that fails to exercise appropriate care in hiring, supervising or retaining its drivers, you are under no legal obligation to provide a recorded statement. The purpose of such a request is to elicit damaging information or to obtain multiple conflicting statements. After courteously declining to give a statement, you should obtain contact information and inform the insurance company representative that your Atlanta commercial bus accident attorney will contact the insurer.

Are there any differences in suing a municipality rather than a private company that operates a bus line?

Lawsuits for personal injuries or wrongful death against public entities must comply with the special deadlines and procedural requirements imposed by torts claim statutes. These statutes constitute partial waivers of sovereign immunity provided that claimants meet the special requirements that are imposed by these statutes. The timeline for providing notice of a claim to a public entity can be significantly shorter than the statute of limitations depending on facts and circumstances, so you should seek legal advice promptly if your bus accident involved a public entity.

How might Montlick and Associates investigate my bus accident and establish liability?

When you contact our bus accident lawyers at Montlick and Associates, we can answer your questions, indicate best practices following a bus accident and initiate an investigation if we accept your case. While every case is different, and the exact actions we take will depend on the unique facts and circumstancs, some of the steps we might take to uncover critical facts include:

  • Seeking the Bus Driver's Log Book: This log book can provide critical information that might explain why the busing accident occurred. If the bus driver has been on the road for more hours than allowed by state or federal law, driver fatigue might be a factor in causing the bus crash. The log book also might provide hints regarding other violations of law.
  • Obtaining Information from the Electronic Control Module: Buses are equipped with black boxes that can provide critical information about bus operation immediately prior to the collision, mechanical issues and other factors that might help identify unreasonably unsafe conduct that caused the bus crash.
  • Reviewing GPS Data: Many buses are equipped with a GPS device that might provide relevant information.

What forms of compensation are potentially available in a bus accident lawsuit?

The precise nature of a bus accident victim's recovery will depend on the unique facts and circumstances of the case, but some of the types of damages that might be available include:

  • Hospital and medical bills
  • Lost earnings from work
  • Pain and suffering
  • Diminished enjoyment of life
  • Emotional distress
  • Future impaired earning potential
  • Punitive or exemplary damages (cases of egregious conduct)

How can someone identify safer bus companies?

When patrons travel with unlicensed charter bus operators or bus drivers who are not adequately trained, passengers are put at risk by such unsafe practices and violations of law. If you are planning to take a charter bus, you should consider researching the following:

  • Check reviews of both the bus company and drivers
  • Investigate the insurance coverage of the bus company
  • Confirm the bus company's operating status by checking that its licenses and permits are current

If you are injured in a commercial bus accident in Georgia, contact our experienced Atlanta auto accident lawyers to learn how we can help. Montlick and Associates has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. 

Put Our Law Firm's Over 30 Years of Legal Experience to Work For Your Case.

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Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.