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Who Is Liable for Injuries Caused by Defective Buses?

Suing Bus Manufacturers for Defective and Dangerous Buses

When most people think of the safety of buses, intuitively they assume that since buses are such large vehicles, they are also safe. The reality is that buses are constructed using primitive methods and outdated technology. The result is that buses are, in fact, not very safe at all.

In this article we'll explain why that is and when bus manufacturers can be held liable for injuries caused by the poor safety standard to which buses are built.

Questions Answered on This Page:

  • When can you sue a bus manufacturer over a defective part?
  • What kinds of defects are common on a bus?
  • What should I do if I think my injuries were caused by a bus defect?

But I thought buses have good safety records.

Statistically speaking, buses are a safe way to travel. The primary reason for this is that many buses on the road have road privileges that other cars don't. That includes: special bus lanes, laws that say cars have to yield to them, etc. But also, a big part of their safety record is that most people avoid buses the same way that small animals scatter when an elephant comes by. They are a domineering presence on the road. Most people get out of the way of buses, and it's this accident avoidance that can most be credited for the safety record of buses.

However, when an accident does occur, the occupants of the bus usually don't fare well.

Structural flaws and lack of passive safety features

Most buses are built using a ladder-frame structure. Essentially this means that there are two large metal rails that run the length of the bus. These rails are joined by lateral rails, or cross members. The end product looks like a ladder. The wheels, axles, engine, fuel tank, and drive train attach to this ladder-frame. Sitting atop all of these structural hard parts, much like a hat, is the cabin of the bus.


A really good analogy for this construction, would be like placing a shoe-box atop a skateboard. As you can imagine, if the skateboard were to roll over or be struck in such a way that the box was susceptible to impact forces, it would be devastating to the contents of the box. Well, that's an accurate picture for what happens in bus accidents. When the hard parts of the bus (the skateboard) hit the hard parts of another vehicle, particularly a smaller one, the occupants of the bus will probably fair well. But, if any part of the cab (the shoe box) of the bus is struck, the offending object will tear right through it and into the passengers themselves.

So even though buses look solid, only certain parts of the vehicle are at all robust. The rest is just a facade. Imagine how safe you would feel riding around in a port-a-potty on wheels. That's essentially what you're doing when you ride a bus. The part you're seated in is not structurally sound, and it's not designed to withstand the impact forces that result from a bus accident.

Further, even the supposed hard parts of the bus, as robust as they may be, are not ideal for arresting the forces of a crash. You see, modern crash science tells us that certain parts of a vehicle need to be as close to infinitely rigid and as impenetrable as possible. But the rest of the vehicle needs to be designed in such a way that it deliberately crushes on impact.

In the context of a 4-door family car, the cabin (the part you sit in) needs to be very strong. But everything from the dashboard forward or the rear seats back, is regarded as disposable crumple zones. Engineers designed these zones to crush in an accident, which absorbs the impact force rather than transferring all of the crash energy throughout the entirety of the vehicle.

In a bus, the ladder-frame is not designed to crush or crumple, so any impact force that is imparted into the ladder-frame is effectively transferred throughout the entirety of the vehicle. In some accident scenarios the robustness of the ladder-frame is a plus, but in many other scenarios it can be the bus's undoing.

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When is it appropriate to sue a bus manufacturer for a defect?

There are so many scenarios that could be discussed here, but that would make it difficult to approach. We're going to take a different avenue and look at two examples at illustrate the opposite ends of the spectrum.

  • Recently, there was an accident where a school bus in Houston drove off of an overpass, landed on its roof, and killed several young people inside. Lawyers for the families of these students sued the manufacturer of the school bus. One of their accusations was that the roof structure was poorly designed and therefore insufficient to withstand the rollover accident. While we completely agree that most buses are utterly lacking in rollover protection, it strains credulity to suggest that a better-designed bus would have made this accident survivable. The reason why we feel that way is because even the most advanced vehicle on the market today, with state-of-the art rollover structure technology incorporated into it's chassis, would have succumbed to the impact forces of flying off of an overpass. Simply put, no vehicle built with current technology can withstand that kind of a rollover situation. In our opinion, this is an example of where it would be unwise to sue the manufacturer. A manufacturer defect did not cause the accident, bad driving did.

  • Conversely, several years ago much of coastal Texas was evacuated due to a hurricane. A bus full of elderly residents of a nursing home burned down killing many of its occupants as the bus sat in traffic. It was determined that the cause of the fire was that the engine simply ran too hot due to a poorly deigned cooling system. This most certainly reflects an example of a dangerous design or defect that would warrant filing a lawsuit against the manufacturer.

Examples of defects or design flaws that could rightly result in a lawsuit.

Now that we've given you a couple examples of actual bus accidents, let's be clear, there certainly are appropriate situations where an accident is rightly blamed on a design defect. These include:

  • Brake failures
  • Poorly designed brake systems
  • Fires caused by electrical problems or poorly designed ventilation for the engine
  • Seats that become detached from the body structure in an accident
  • Roof failures in rollovers that should be survivable
  • Poorly designed structures
  • Lack of seat belts

If you've been involved in an accident that resulted from a defect like one of those listed above, it's important that you talk to an experienced lawyer. These kinds of cases can be complex, but with the right attorney on your side, you'll be in the best possible position to recover your losses.

Call Grossman Law Offices

Our law firm specializes in personal injury claims. Because we focus on this one area of the law, we are skilled and experienced in handling cases like these, where accidents result from mechanical issues with a vehicle. We want our clients to get justice for the suffering they endured at the hand of someone looking to make an extra buck. If you or a family member were in a bus accident and don't have any answers as to what happened, you should talk to a lawyer so that they can do some investigating for you. Even if you aren't sure you have a claim, it is a good idea to call a law firm like ours that does not charge you anything for questions or consultation. In fact, we don't charge you anything unless you win your claim. Call with your questions today: (855)326-0000.

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