Blog of William C. McCaskill

Bus Crashes Into Utility Pole Causing Serious Injuries

Posted on July 11, 2017

Five people are in the hospital after a Montgomery County Ride-On bus smashed into a car and then careened into a utility pole.

D.C. Police state that the crash occurred in the Chevy Chase Circle area of Northwest Washington. Roughly a dozen people, including the bus driver, were on board at the time. Investigators are uncertain about the cause, but they believe that the bus driver either stopped suddenly or lost control entirely in the moments before the crash.  

All the injured victims are expected to survive.

Legal Responsibility in Bus Crash Cases

Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care, which basically means that the should be physically fit enough to drive (e.g. sober, well-rested, wearing any required prescription glasses, and so on), drive defensively, and obey all “rules of the road.”

But taxi drivers, bus drivers, Uber drivers, and any other commercial operators who transport goods and/or people for a fare have a higher duty of care in Maryland since they are common carriers. This duty is so high that these operators are practically insurers of safe conduct. The responsibility begins the moment that the commercial drivers pick up their passengers, and does not end until the passengers safely disembark at their destinations.

Stop lights and other traffic control devices help illustrate the difference. Whereas noncommercial drivers can proceed forward at a reasonable speed when the light turns green, commercial carriers arguably have a duty to look both ways before inching into the intersection.

The higher duty of care means that it is easier for victim/plaintiffs to obtain damages in these collisions. These damages include compensation for medical bills and other monetary losses, in addition to emotional distress and other nonmonetary losses.

Vicarious Liability

A higher duty of care is not the only relevant distinction in these wrecks, because commercial driver cases usually involved the respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) rule as well. This doctrine applies if:

  • Employee: The tortfeasor must be an “employee,” a term that is broadly defined and includes not only workers who receive W-2s, but also independent contractors, owner-operators, and perhaps even unpaid volunteers.
  • Scope of Employment: Similarly, any activity that benefits the employer in any way, no matter how slight, is probably within the course of employment. In fact, most courts have held that merely driving a vehicle that bears the company’s name falls within the scope of employment, since the employer gains a benefit because of the free advertising.
  • Foreseeability: It is foreseeable that a bus driver may crash into another car and then slide into a utility pole, even though most of the injuries in the above story occurred after the second impact.

In Maryland, the judge normally apportions damages among multiple tortfeasors based on their percentage of fault.

Partner with an Assertive Attorney

Commercial operators are held to a higher standard. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Oxon Hill, contact The Law Office of William C. McCaskill, PLLC. Home and hospital visits are available.

Contact us to speak with a Oxon Hill lawyer about a personal injury matter