Party buses are commercial vehicles that are used to host celebrations such as those related to weddings, graduations, birthdays, and other special occasions. They can typically host at least ten persons and are often called by various names, such as limo-buses, party rides, party vans, or luxury buses.
Depending on state laws, passengers in a party bus can often consume alcoholic beverages during the ride, as they can in other commercial limousine service cars. However, the driver cannot drink and drive, and the party bus service typically cannot provide or serve the alcohol. Operation and insurance laws may apply differently when the bus is in motion and when it is stationary and may also depend on the number of passengers.
What are Party Bus Accidents and Party Bus Injuries?
Most people rent a party bus in order to avoid situations involving drinking and driving. However, party bus accidents and injuries can still occur, as with any operating vehicle on the road or highway. Party bus crashes can lead to injuries such as whiplash, neck injuries, and other similar injuries. In serious cases, a wrongful death claim can result from a party bus, especially for cases involving high-speed accidents where the driver acted negligently or recklessly.
Non-vehicular accident injuries can occur with a party bus. For instance, there have been injury and wrongful death cases where a passenger fell from a bus or sustained an injury inside of the bus. Liability for party bus injuries may depend on several factors, such as the negligence of the bus company or driver or the actions of the passengers involved. An example of this is where the accident results from the driver’s intoxication during company operations.
Is a Party Bus a Common Carrier?
Party buses are often the most dangerous commercial motor vehicles because they are frequently owned and operated by companies whose primary business is providing limousine services. Limousine companies are often asked to service large events that a stretch limousine is unable to accommodate. Part bus events almost always happen on the weekends. The limo company is usually not owned or operated by a person who has driven a full-size bus before.
The party bus market is often supplied by small limo companies who:
- Buy an old bus and convert it into a party bus by replacing standard seats with perimeter seats and adding a sound system
- Likely do not have a trained bus mechanic on their staff
- Operate only one vehicle in their fleet that requires a commercial driver’s license
- Use the party bus almost exclusively on the weekends, so the company usually does not have a full-time CDL driver
This business model increases the likelihood that the bus is poorly maintained, inadequately inspected, and prone to mechanical failures. Party bus drivers are often hired on a contractual basis by a company that expects the driver to be a safety expert. Hiring a part-time driver to work on the weekends increases the likelihood that the driver exceeds the maximum number of safe hours permitted under federal law if the driver has a full-time CDL job. By removing and rearranging seats, the likelihood that the company will accept paying guests up to and above the bus’s stated capacity before the seating was changed goes up.
The combination of a sound system and disco lights, coupled with an inexperienced driver, impairs the ability of the party bus company to monitor unruly passenger behavior. As a result, this creates a dangerous mixture of circumstances. Party bus lawyers have to bring together multiple areas of law to find any safety violations that may have led to the accident or led to a passenger being injured.
Although a party bus sells excitement and fun, the company is still subject to legal duties. Common carrier law applies to anyone who engages in public transportation of people for hire. A common carrier is required to use the utmost degree of care, skill, and diligence in all aspects of passenger safety. The application of the common carrier duty is premised on transporting passengers. If a party bus remains at a fixed location, these duties will not apply. However, a typical party bus trip involves transportation to or from an event. This triggers the heightened duty.
Are There Any Legal Remedies for Party Bus Accidents?
The party bus industry developed because limousines could only handle so many passengers. Limo companies are typically not experienced in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act, which applies to party buses but not to limousines. Large passenger buses are designed for safety with rows of padded seats, but party bus companies often buy these buses from large companies retiring their fleet and redesign the bus to include sound systems, party lights, and perimeter seating.
Commercial buses list maximum seating capacities that are based on the manufacturer’s designs. However, once seats are removed, the maximum safe capacity for a bus decreases. Still, party bus operators often rely on the previously listed bus capacity when booking events. This may result in passengers not having a safe place to sit. The use of perimeter seating creates a large open area for passengers to walk and move around on the bus. With party lights turned on and loud music playing, it is foreseeable that passengers could bump into each other and sustain serious injuries if a crash occurs.
Every state has unique laws about the responsibility of businesses that serve alcohol to others. This area of law should be explored in every party bus crash involving alcohol consumption. Party buses are essentially mobile nightclubs without any security procedures in place for the safe consumption of alcohol by customers.
Party bus drivers are often not properly trained in operating a party bus. There is a shortage of trained commercial motor vehicle drivers. To operate a full-sized party bus, a driver must have a CDL. It is very possible that the party bus driver may only have experience driving a dump truck or delivery vehicle. This is problematic because a bus driver has unique obligations to monitor the conduct of passengers, and at times take steps to protect passengers from foreseeable assaults by other passengers.
Party bus accidents can result in lawsuits, especially where the driver or the bus company is found to be negligent or responsible for the passengers’ injuries. These can result in a monetary damages award. These damages can cover costs such as hospital bills, medication expenses, and other losses.
Party bus liability can also be related to other legal issues, such as:
These types of issues can involve a different set of laws, such as criminal laws and corresponding penalties. The company may also be ordered to cease business operations.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Party Bus Accident Lawsuit?
Party bus accidents and injuries can be serious, as they can often involve multiple persons. They can also involve a complex interaction between many different laws. You may need to hire a personal injury attorney in your area if you need legal assistance with a party bus accident claim. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice and research for your case. Also, if you need to appear in court, your lawyer can provide you with representation during those times.