Higher Standards of Care Imposed on Common Carriers

In late August, a tour bus carrying 55 passengers was traveling southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike when it encountered heavy traffic. Veteran bus driver Andy Lynch reportedly swerved to the right in an attempt to avoid a collision, but the maneuver came too late: The bus struck the rear end of a J.B. Hunt tractor-trailer, causing it to jackknife and impact another 18-wheeler.

Responders to the accident helped 16 injured passengers escape the wreckage; most sustained relatively minor wounds ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones, but two were airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital with serious injuries. Lynch, initially admitted to the hospital in critical condition, succumbed to his injuries and died two days after the crash.

Good Safety Record Not Enough To Guarantee Passenger Safety

According to the records compiled by the American Bus Association, 52-year-old Lynch had been a professional bus driver for 12 years and had maintained a stellar safety history. The night before the crash, Lynch stayed at a hotel in New York, and there was no indication that he was not well-rested prior to the accident.

DC Trails bus company was well known among peers as a reputable, safety-conscious transportation firm. In addition, the company’s safety stats placed it in the top 25 percent of commercial carriers inspected by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) over the past two years.

“It looks as though there was just an unfortunate accident on the Turnpike,” Dan Ronan, senior director of communications for the American Bus Association told The Star-Ledger of New Jersey.

This was the second major charter bus accident on the Middlesex County section of the New Jersey Turnpike in 2011: In mid March, a bus traveling in East Brunswick crashed into a guardrail and concrete embankment before veering into a drainage ditch. Two occupants were killed and 40 others suffered injury. Unlike DC Trails, the company involved in the March bus accident, Super Luxury Tours, Inc., had one of the worst safety records in the country. Following the March accident, Super Luxury Tours, Inc., was ordered to cease operations, having been declared an imminent hazard to public safety by the FMCSA.

Injured New Jersey Passengers May Seek Compensation

Passengers in a bus are dependent on the driver and the company to provide a safe, expedient journey, and clearly booking a trip with a highly regarded busing company is always a good idea. But, as the recent crash illustrates, even experienced drivers working for trusted companies can make mistakes that put passengers’ lives at risk.

Although a bus company is not an insurer of the absolute safety of its passengers, as common carriers, busing firms do owe a heightened duty of care to their customers. Any company that offers transportation services to the general public must exercise the “utmost” degree of care. This means that even in a situation in which another party could not be held liable for negligence, a common carrier may be legally responsible for damages suffered by passengers: Higher standards of care are imposed on common carriers. This highest standard of care does not only apply in lawsuits pertaining to crash injuries. Bus companies and all other common carriers have a heightened responsibility to prevent slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall injuries and any other type of injury that could occur aboard their vehicles.

If you have been involved in a bus accident, truck accident or any kind of motor vehicle collision, you may be entitled to compensation from the parties responsible for your injuries or their employers. Contact a New Jersey personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.

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