Recently, a three-vehicle crash between a VIA bus, a sedan, and a pickup truck sent 5 people to the hospital, one of whom was in critical condition. According to law enforcement, the woman driving the sedan ran the stop sign at Schuwirth Road and Loop 1604, striking the bus, which then skidded into the pickup truck. While law enforcement assigns fault primarily to the sedan driver, very often buses do contribute to accidents that they are involved in. It is worth asking how this accident might have played out in terms of liability had the bus had passengers, whether or not the bus driver was the immediate cause of the crash.
Who Is Liable?
In the case of the Schuwirth Road accident, the bus driver was not found to have played a role in causing the accident, though in other states, that fact would not immediately insulate him or his employer from liability. Many states have what is called a “common carrier” provision in their personal injury laws, which holds a bus company (private or public) to a higher standard of care than would normally be expected of any one driver, but Texas does not have such a law, so an injured plaintiff must be ready to show negligence (if possible) by other means.
If there is reason to believe that the bus driver might be liable, it is worth noting that their employer might also be liable. Texas does observe a concept called respondeat superior, which states that if an employee commits a tort (basically the civil law version of a crime) while acting “within the scope of employment,” their employer is vicariously liable for any damages. The rationale is that the employer ought to have taken more care before allowing the employee to act for them....