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Tour bus accidents: Who is at fault for these tragedies?

Most New Jersey residents have had the experience of getting on a large tour bus and going somewhere with a group of people. Maybe you went on a trip like this when you were a child on a school field trip. Maybe you joined your church group for an outing. Or, maybe you simply enjoyed a tourist trip while you were on vacation.

When so many human lives are put in one vehicle, the bus driver and the bus company have a massive responsibility to keep these riders safe. Failure to take necessary and reasonable safety precautions in this regard -- or failure to follow the law and safe driving practices -- could render the tour bus company liable if those failures result in an accident. Other parties could be liable for injuries and deaths in a tour bus accident as well.

Potentially liable parties following a tour bus accident

Various parties could be liable for the injuries and deaths caused by a tour bus accident. Here are four of the most commonly liable parties:

The tour company: In many cases a tour company will contract a bus company to drive riders to a specific destination. The tour company has a responsibility to check the record of the bus company to ensure that it's safe. Failing to carry out this reasonable level of investigation could render the tour company liable.

The bus company: The bus company that owns the bus, maintains it and hired the driver, must be sure to maintain the bus in safe working order. It must also take precautions when hiring drivers with clean driving records, and provide drivers with adequate rest time. Failure to do so could render the company liable.

The bus driver: The liability of the bus driver in a tour bus accident will be limited by the question of whether he or she was acting within the course and scope of employment. For example, if the bus driver was drunk, severely sleep-deprived or committed a clear violation of the law, which caused the bus crash, then the driver might share liability with the bus company for the accident.

Cities and municipalities: Like all traffic accidents, cities and municipalities may be liable for a bus crash if it failed to maintain safe road conditions and this failure caused the accident.

More liable parties possible

Like all automotive accidents, more liable parties could exist for a bus crash depending on the circumstances. What's important to remember, however, is that injured passengers will -- in nearly all cases -- never be at fault for the crash. As such, people hurt in bus accidents may want to investigate different legal strategies they can use to pursue compensation for costs and damages.

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