Posted November 13, 2018 | General Personal Injury
Buses have long been touted as a relatively safe way to travel. Not only are they large, they also have energy-absorbing seat backs that help protect passengers in case of a crash. However, many of these buses do not have seat belts, which becomes an issue of liability in the event of a bus accident. What happens if you or someone you love sustains an injury while riding a Greyhound bus? A recent case in California may set a precedent for liability in future cases.
Eight passengers on a Greyhound bus recently filed a claim in federal court seeking damages for injuries sustained in a bus accident. The passengers were traveling on the bus on I-5 when it was involved in a rollover on the freeway. They sustained serious injuries and claimed that seat belts could have prevented these injuries if the bus had been equipped with them.
Currently, buses are not required by federal law to have seat belts installed. However, the state of California is one of eight states that do require all buses to offer this essential safety feature. Greyhound moved to dismiss the claim, stating that federal law superseded state law. Specifically, they argued that since seat belts on buses are not required by the federal government, the state court action based on failure to install seat belts is preempted by the federal government’s decision to take no action on the matter.
The judge found that Greyhound’s argument was invalid and that injured bus passengers could pursue claims based on the bus company’s failure to install seat belts. The federal government’s lack of a mandate does not insulate the company from liability should an accident occur. This means that Greyhound could be liable for any injuries caused by failing to install seat belts on a bus. The case is still pending in the California court system. The decision could have national repercussions.
The federal government does not require buses in excess of 10,000 pounds to have seat belts, yet smaller buses have to have them installed. However, eight states – New York, California, New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and Nevada require seatbelts for all passengers, though the passengers are not required to use them.
Despite the lack of a federal mandate, major safety organizations have long recommended that buses have seat belts installed. The National Safety Council has long advocated for seat belts on buses nationwide. While bus crashes are relatively rare, seat belt use could drastically reduce the number of deaths and lessen the severity of injuries in the event of a crash.
Why don’t more buses have seat belts if they can save lives? Unfortunately, it seems to be a matter of cost. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that it would cost between $7,000 -$10,000 to install seat belts on an existing large bus. However, given the number of people who travel on buses each year, and the lives it could save, it seems well worth the additional investment.
Since commercial bus lines can be liable for injuries incurred due to a lack of seat belts, it might only be a matter of time until bus companies take seat belt installation on their vehicles more seriously. The recent ruling, though it was in California, could set a precedent nationwide, including here in Texas, where seat belts on buses are required under state law. If someone gets into a bus accident and sustains a personal injury, the bus company may be liable for lack of seat belts on board.