Officials took several tour buses out of service at LAX to give these vehicle passengers additional peace of mind in the wake of an October fatal crash between a semi-truck and a tour bus near Palm Springs.
CHP officers and airport police recently examined about 1,000 airport tour buses and other conveyances, most notably ride-sharing services and limousine taxi services, during a surprise inspection at Los Angeles International Airport. After several hours, inspectors declared most all vehicles as safe, but they did take about a dozen charter buses out of service, for infractions like poorly maintained braking systems and tire/wheel issues. Officials also issued numerous permit violations to limousine taxi and ride-sharing vehicle operators.
Several lawyers have already filed lawsuits on behalf of the victims in the October 2016 crash. Details are unclear, but a tour bus carrying 44 passengers collided with an idling tractor-trailer on the westbound 10 near Indian Canyon Drive; the bus was returning from the Red Earth Casino in Palm Springs. According to investigators, the bus was travelling at freeway speeds when it rear-ended the truck and there was “no evidence of braking.”
One lawsuit claims that the driver fell asleep at the wheel, and another one claims that the big-rig driver was parked in an active lane with no headlights on. CHP investigators said that the tour buses’ tires were substandard, but it is unclear how worn tires could have caused the crash. Meanwhile, another media outlet reported that SoCal Edison had stopped traffic in the area but had not erected any warning signs or lights to that effect; it is unclear what responsibility, if any, SoCal Edison had in this area.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, but it will may be spring 2017 before that agency releases a final report.
First Party Liability in Truck/Bus Wrecks
In 2014, over 4,000 people died in large truck and bus wrecks. These vehicles are massive (fully-loaded tractor-trailers weigh about 80,000 pounds), so the collisions feature huge amounts of force, particularly at freeway speeds. Moreover, these vehicle are difficult or impossible to maneuver in emergencies, so in such situations, there is little to do other than brace for impact. Some of the serious injuries in these incidents include:
- Blood Loss: Many victims are pinned inside twisted metal for several minutes or even longer, during which time their internal and external wounds leak vital fluid. By the time first responders administer treatment, many victims have lost substantial amounts of blood, and most people can only survive about a 10 percent blood loss.
- Crushed Bones: Fall and car crash victims normally suffer broken bones, but if larger vehicles are involved, the massive weight almost literally grinds bones, making surgery and recovery both very difficult.
- Burns: Diesel fuel and gasoline burn at different temperatures, so surface second-degree burns in car crash cases become third and even fourth-degree burns in large vehicle crashes.
Fatigue is a serious problem among truck and bus drivers, often because they drive during the overnight hours, and the Palm Springs bus crash occurred shortly before dawn after the driver had apparently been up all night. In fact, drivers who have been awake for 18 consecutive hours are just as impaired as drivers who have BACs of at least .08, so fatigue breaches the duty of reasonable care.
Construction contractors, including utility contractors, have a duty of care as well. Specifically, contractors have a duty to warn about unexpected hazards. Per its contracts with the state, SoCal Edison normally does not have a duty to warn about traffic slowdowns or stops if the disruption only lasts a few minutes, e.g., if workers are clearing debris off the road. SoCal Edison’s failure to warn may have been the reason the bus driver apparently never slowed down, because in the predawn darkness, he did not know that the traffic ahead was stopped.
In tragedies of this magnitude, there is often more than enough blame to go around, and it is up to a jury to determine liability for damages. The question becomes even more complicated when there are breaches of duty that did not contribute to the car crashes; for example, a vehicle may not have working windshield wipers or headlights, but these defects are of little or no consequence during daylight and in clear weather.
In the Palm Springs crash, assume responsibility comes down to the fatigued tour bus driver, the negligently parked big rig operator, the utility company’s failure to warn motorists, and the bus owner’s failure to properly maintain the vehicle.
Under California’s pure comparative fault law, if there are multiple tortfeasors (negligent parties), the judge divides damages strictly according to fault. So, if the jury determines that A and B were each 50 percent at fault for C’s losses, the judge would order A and B to each pay half. Victims can also be partly responsible for their own damages; in California, unlike some other states, victims always recover money unless they were 100 percent at fault.
Large vehicle crashes cause massive injuries and create multiple liability issues. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury lawyer in San Diego, contact the Injury Trial Lawyers, APC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in personal injury cases.