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Bus Accidents

Yuba City High School Bus Crash: The Deadliest Vehicle Collision in American History!

May 29, 2024

On May 21, 1976, the deadliest vehicle collision in American history occurred in the San Francisco Bay area. A charter bus driver ferrying a high school choir from Yuba City to nearby Orinda lost control of the vehicle on an off-ramp, killing twenty-nine of the fifty-two people aboard. Frankly, it’s amazing that anyone survived this wreck, which was caused by a combination of driver negligence and defective systems. 

The driver, who had little experience behind the wheel of that type of bus, mistook a low air brake pressure warning light for a low engine oil light. The brakes failed when he exited the highway to get oil at a service station. The bus slammed into an elevated bridge rail and careened off the road. Then, the bus fell more than twenty feet over a cliff, landing on its roof and crushing it to the base of the window line.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board later confirmed that the air compressor drive belt on the bus had failed. They also noted that a routine, pre-departure safety inspection would probably have prevented the accident.

These same factors continue to cause bus crashes throughout the Golden State. Like the Yuba City High School bus crash, modern-day bus wrecks cause horrific injuries and are legally complex. Therefore, only the most experienced California Bus Accident Attorney can obtain maximum compensation.

This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages are often available in these matters as well.

Driver Negligence

The duty of reasonable care, a legal principle based on the ethical principle in the story of the Good Samaritan, governs driver behavior before and during vehicle operation.

After the Yuba City bus crash, the California Highway Patrol rolled out higher standards for pre-departure safety inspections. At a minimum, this inspection must cover:

  • Overall mechanical integrity,
  • Possible leaks, and
  • All fluid levels.

This inspection doesn’t have to be as intense as an annual safety inspection, which must cover more ground. However, a routine safety inspection involves more than a walk-around or exterior visual inspection. Someone with mechanical expertise must examine brakes and other essential systems.

If the inspector sends any warning flags, the bus owner must address the issue before the bus leaves the parking garage.

Once the trip begins, the same duty of care applies to all drivers, whether they’ve had their licenses for fifteen minutes or fifteen years. Drivers breach their duty of care if they drive:

  • Aggressively (speeding, turning unsafely, etc.), or
  • While impaired.

Fatigue may be the most common driver impairment among bus drivers. Many charter and tour bus drivers are behind the wheel late at night or early in the morning, when most people are naturally drowsy. Fatigue, much like alcohol, clouds judgment and affects motor skills.

Drowsy drivers often use shortcuts, including amphetamines, to stay awake behind the wheel. Amphetamines only make people feel more alert. They worsen the underlying effects of fatigue, like poor judgment and motor skill control.

If a breach of care causes injury, a California personal injury lawyer can obtain the aforementioned compensation in court. Usually, the company’s owner is financially responsible for driver negligence-related damages. According to the respondeat superior doctrine, employers are liable for damages if their employees are negligent during the course and scope of their employment.

Defective Products

Drivers have a duty to inspect and safely operate buses, and companies have a legal duty to sell safe products fit for ordinary use.

Safe products cannot have adverse side effects. Asbestos-laced brake pads are a good example.

Asbestos is a highly toxic mineral rarely used in the United States today. However, until March 2024, it was legal to use asbestos-laced imported auto parts and other manufactured goods. Therefore, most likely, most imported auto parts in most vehicles contain asbestos.

This fiber causes several serious diseases, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, which are normally fatal.

Products are fit for ordinary use if they can withstand everyday wear and tear rigors for a reasonable amount of time. Bus parts must be much stronger and more robust than other auto parts. Buses are huge vehicles that usually travel over 100,000 miles per year.

If companies put profits before people and use cheap parts, they are strictly liable for the injuries these defective parts cause. In these matters, you can contact a product liability lawyer to help you navigate the road to recovery.

Consult Our Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers For Help!

Modern bus crashes cause severe injuries like they did fifty years ago. For a free consultation with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney, contact the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.

Credit : Photo By Midjourney

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