Earlier this month, a charter tour bus accident occurred just outside Yosemite National Park. According to the Los Angeles Times, the vehicle carried 17 people, including 15 passengers, a driver, and a tour guide. The passengers and tour guide sustained minor injuries in the accident, while the driver was uninjured.
Should San Diego bus riders worry about accidents? And who is liable when a crash occurs?
Details of the Bus Accident
The bus was operated by Seven Happiness Tour and Charter Inc., a company out of Burlingame, California. During a typical week, the tour company sends two charters out to Yosemite. This particular Yosemite tour started out in Burlingame on a Saturday morning in April and traveled through the San Francisco area on its way to the park. Following the tour of Yosemite, the bus was supposed to move on to Fresno, where the passengers would spend the night. On Sunday, the bus was then supposed to return to Burlingame. However, an accident drastically shifted tour plans.
The road out to Yosemite has a posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour, but there are several sharp turns in the road that require the driver to slow down to 35 miles per hour. Several miles south of the park, the bus “veered off the roadway and angled up a dirt embankment,” pushing the “passenger side of the bus about four feet into the air.” At this time, several elderly passengers were tossed into the driver’s side of the bus where they sustained “minor to moderate injuries.” The driver tried to regain control of the bus, but it ended up crossing both lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into a tree. The Fresno Bee reported that when the bus finally came to a stop after colliding with the tree, its “rear tires were two feet in the air.”
The injured passengers and tour guide were transported to local hospitals for treatment, including the Community Regional Medical Center, Clovis Community Medical Center, and Madera Community Hospital.
While the driver, Changefeng Liu, was not arrested and authorities do not believe that alcohol was a factor in the accident, the Fresno Bee reported that the bus had been traveling at “unsafe speeds” immediately prior to the crash. Seven Happiness has employed Liu for the past six years, and the tour company has not had any crashes in the past two years. The bus itself is being inspected for problems that may have caused the accident outside Yosemite.
Bus Accident Statistics and Liability
Bus accidents are more complicated than a typical car accident. Buses are huge vehicles that carry many people, and passengers are often free to roam around the vehicle without a seatbelt. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), large buses tend to have poor visibility on the right side, and they can weigh more than 10,000 pounds; that’s often about 5 times the weight of a typical individual vehicle. When buses are involved in accidents, they can pose serious dangers to their passengers and to other vehicles on the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducted a study in 2009 concerning bus crashes, emphasizing that they tend to occur most often in metropolitan areas. This fact is especially important for people residing in the busy San Diego area where buses are in frequent use.
In California, buses are considered to be “common carriers” that owe a higher standard of care to their passengers. Common carriers include such transportation vehicles as city buses and commercial airlines. Under California law, these common carriers “must use the utmost care and diligence for safe carriage.” In other words, they owe a higher degree of care to passengers than private vehicles do. Given the higher standard under which buses operate, you could have a claim if you’ve been injured in a bus accident. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney today to discuss your case.