Last month, a California bus crash killed 13 people, including the driver, as they returned to L.A. from a gambling trip. The bus collided with a big rig on the freeway, resulting in one of the deadliest crashes in the state’s history. Now, investigators are working to sort through the pieces as family members are still reeling. In the weeks since the crash, the L.A. Times reports some troubling information has been unearthed about the driving history of the man who was behind the wheel, as well as the safety practices of his company. (He worked as both a bus owner and an operator.)
Both of these elements will likely play a central role in any wrongful death lawsuits that are filed.
According to the Times, the driver had been previously named a defendant in at least two civil lawsuits alleging negligence resulting in two collisions. One of those crashes had resulted in three deaths. Furthermore, the California Highway Patrol had issued at least six “unsatisfactory” ratings to his company, along with numerous traffic violations in several counties.
He was in the business of driving motor coach buses for years. Most of his customers were older passengers, according to those close to him.
Now, investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are looking into the driver’s personal driving history, as well as a number of other factors, including the role that poor lighting and road conditions may have played in the collision.
One of the lawsuits that had previously been filed against the decedent driver was in 2007, when his bus slammed into a small passenger vehicle on the highway. The crash killed the driver and two passengers in that car. Relatives of one of the passengers sued the decedent for negligence. Attorneys for the decedent argued the passenger car driver was at fault and had been speeding. That case was later dismissed.
In another instance in 2003, one of the decedent’s buses collided with a car, resulting in serious injuries to the passengers. Two of the passengers of that car sued, arguing he’d negligently operated the bus and was liable for the crash. The case was settled three years later for a confidential sum.
In 2005, the decedent was cited for traveling at more than 70 mph on the highway while driving one of his buses loaded with passengers. He was ordered to attend traffic school, but when it wasn’t completed, his $152 bail was forfeited. He was cited again two years later for allowing his operating permit to expire. In 2011, he was cited for speeding and driving with a suspended license. The case was later dismissed.
Federal safety records indicate the company and its fleet were last inspected last year, receiving a “satisfactory” rating at that time.
At the time of this fatal crash, the bus was reportedly not equipped with seat belts, and many victims died from injuries consistent with striking jagged or blunt objects.
Motor coaches like the one the decedent operated are held to certain federal standards in addition to the normal traffic rules everyone else must follow. When they fail, and injuries result, our Charlotte bus and car accident attorneys work to hold them accountable and seek justice for families.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Police: “No appearance of braking” in deadly bus crash, Oct. 24, 2016, By Darran Simon and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN
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Bagley v. Bagley – Woman Sues Herself for Husband’s Crash Death, Nov. 7, 2016, Charlotte Bus Accident Lawyer Blog