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Bus Crashes

By Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm / July 31, 2013

The Minnesota State Patrol has reported that a tour bus rolled over at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, November 18, 2009.  The crash occurred on Interstate 90 near Austin, Minnesota. The Star-Tribuneand the Rochester Post-Bulletin report that at least 22 persons have been injured. If you or a loved one has been injured in a bus crash, contact the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm to protect your rights.

RELATED REPORTS:
  • The bus company involved in the fatal Austin crash had buses pulled from service three times in that past 18 months for safety violations.  The 20-year-old bus involved in the crash had been taken out of service in August 2008 due to safety concerns.
  • MPR Report: Bus Driver Had DWI Conviction in 2002.  “The driver of a bus that crashed in southern Minnesota pleaded guilty to drunken driving and crossing the center line in 2002, according to court records.”
  • Two days before the Austin crash, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation announced that the federal government is considering a requirement that all coach buses have seat belts and extra safety features for bus roofs.  The recommended changes are in response to two 2007 bus rollover crashes in which passengers were killed when they were thrown from the bus.
  • Bus Crashes After Leaving Iowa Casino, Two Dead
  • 2 Dead in Minnesota Tour Bus Crash
  • Strain Bus Line claims that its driver suffered a ruptured aneurysm that caused him to lose consciousness.   Minnesota State Patrol could not confirm that the driver, Ed Erickson, suffered an aneurysm.

If you have been injured in an accident involving a tour bus or other commercial bus, you need a Minnesota bus liability lawyer with the skill, experience and dedication needed to tackle the complex factual and legal issues. You can count on and trust the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm’s experience, commitment and resources to ensure that your rights are protected. If you have been injured in an accident involving a tour bus or other commercial bus, contact the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm online or call our firm at (763) 746-7800, or toll-free at (888) 545-7640, for a free no-obligation consultation.

The animation and photographs below are part of one of the bus crash cases recently handled by the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm.  The animation below was created by the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm, which represented passengers of a charter bus that crashed in the mountains of Colorado. After nearly twenty-three hours on-duty, the bus driver lost control and drove the bus southbound off the right side of a mountain highway, spun 180 degrees, and rolled the bus 1-1/4 times.

Kosieradzki • Smith’s investigation revealed that the bus company had a long and significant history prior to this crash of disregard for the federal safety regulations that govern the operation of interstate commericial buses. Kosieradzki • Smith’s investigation also revealed that the bus driver had a significant history of disregard for these federal safety regulations, including violations occurring on this particular trip.

Bus Crash Diagram(1)

 

bus crash rollover(1)

The bus company was operating the bus illegally at the time of the crash. Approximately four hours prior to the crash, the bus was stopped and detained for a period of time because the bus company had failed to properly have the bus properly registered.

Transporting passengers interstate is regulated by federal interstate transportation law. It is the bus owner’s responsibility to know those laws. The owner has a specific duty under the federal motor carrier safety regulation to make sure that all of the bus company’s employees are instructed on all the applicable regulations contained in the federal motor carrier safety regulations. The federal safety regulations are meant to protect passengers and other users of the roadway.

The owner knew that he was not allowed under federal law to permit or require any driver to drive more than ten hours following eight consecutive hours off duty. The owner knew that the drivers were not allowed to drive at all after having been on duty for 15 hours. Nevertheless, the bus company required its driver to drive after being on duty for 15 hours.

The driver also knew that it was his job to know those laws, knew that it was his job to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in the operation of the vehicle, knew that it is not acceptable to say he did not know the law, and knew that it was impermissible for him to drive for any period of time after having been on duty for 15 hours.

This crash occurred specifically because of the bus company’s and driver’s deliberate disregard of the federal safety regulations. Kosieradzki • Smith’s investigation revealed that the bus should not have been in service on the day of the accident because of three different defects: 1) the bus driver was over his allowable driving hours; 2) the brakes on the axle were out of adjustment; and 3) the leveling valve on the right rear airbag was inoperative. Any one of these violations would be enough to place the vehicle out of service.

Further investigation into bus company’s compliance with federal safety requirements revealed a long and substantial history of disregard for those safety requirements. Review of 277 records regarding 11 of the company’s drivers revealed multiple violations of the federal safety rules prior to the crash, including:

  • 8 of the 11 drivers employed by the bus company (73%) were in violation of the ten-hour limitation.
  • 8 of the 11 drivers were in violation of the 15-hour rule.
  • 5 out of 10 drivers had committed 18 violations involving false credentialing.

Investigation showed that several of the bus company’s drivers’ false reports were “critical” violations of the federal safety laws. In fact, the driver involved in the mountain crash had committed “false reports of on duty status” on at least eight occasions prior trip to the Colorado trip. Seven of the driver’s eight false reporting violations were deemed to be “critical.”

The driver knew that it was his responsibility to be knowledgeable of all the laws that regulate his driving. He knew that there were specific federal regulations for log books and that he was required:

  • to keep a driver’s log
  • to record on duty or off duty time
  • to state whether he was in a sleeper berth
  • to record the name of the city, town, or village where a change in status occurred
  • to record the mileage of the vehicle, the total miles driven in a day, the date, the vehicle number, specific time periods.

Despite this knowledge, as Kosieradzki • Smith’s investigation discovered, the bus driver had failed to maintain log records required by federal law. The driver’s trip documents found at the scene of the crash showed that the driver had not made an entry in his driver’s logbook at any time during the trip.

During his deposition, the driver testified that he had been trained by the bus company not to complete his log until the end of a trip.

Furthermore, Kosieradzki • Smith’s investigation discovered that this is not the first time that the bus driver had failed to maintain proper driving logs. The driver had committed false reports of on duty status on at least eight occasions prior to the Colorado trip. Seven of the driver’s eight false reporting violations were deemed to be “critical.”

Two key factors causing the crash were excessive speed and the driver’s lack of knowledge on the use of the bus’ transmission retarder. The bus had a retarder, which brakes the bus without stepping on the service brake. Like cruise control, a bus driver should not use the retarder on wet roads. The bus driver knew that there was a road sign that had warned him to reduce his speed to 45 m.p.h. for the curve in the roadway under normal driving conditions. The driver acknowledged in his deposition that he knew the speed should be reduced even more when it is raining.

The bus driver disregarded the safety of his passengers as he drove at an excessive speed given the wet road conditions and hazards, and he disregarded federal safety regulations for the proper and safe operation of a passenger tour bus.

Like our clients in the mountain crash, you too can count on and trust the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm’s experience, commitment and resources to ensure that your rights are protected.

If you have been injured in an accident involving a tour bus or other commercial bus, contact the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm online or call our firm at (763) 746-7800, or toll-free at (888) 545-7640, for a free no-obligation consultation.