If you have been paying close attention to the news in the last few weeks, you may have noticed a news item that has stirred a great deal of interest in the transportation industry. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—a division of the Transportation Department—has issued a regulation requiring lap and shoulder belts on commercial buses, beginning with vehicles built in late 2016. The rules will apply to motorcoaches operating between cities, but not school buses or transit buses with routes in one city.
Safety advocates have hailed this as a major advance for the security of passengers during a motorcoach collision. We will agree that it’s a long overdue step forward; the first calls for mandatory bus seatbelts appeared over 40 years ago. But anyone who thinks that requiring seatbelts on some commercial buses will end the recklessness in the bus industry is not taking the issue seriously.
Pennsylvania bus accident lawyer Jon Ostroff explains that the new regulations are only a partial solution for an industry that is out of control. “When big companies like Greyhound Bus Lines ignore passenger safety, lawsuits on behalf of the passengers they injure draw public and government attention to the problem,” he said. “Eventually, our hope is that new laws address these safety problems, such as this one requiring the installation of safety belts on new buses. Hopefully, our government continues this focus on the bus lines and passes further legislation.”
How the new seatbelt mandate change the legal environment
But let’s suppose for the moment that you already have a claim pending against Greyhound or another bus company for your bus accident injuries. Or, you will be hurt in a Pennsylvania bus collision before the seatbelt mandate becomes effective in November 2016.
The pending rule change will warp the strategies for demanding fair compensation. The lawyers for the bus company may try to argue that the seatbelt mandate absolves the company of liability. They may say that the government delayed so long in imposing the requirement—and then applied it only to some buses on some routes—that it’s clear seatbelts aren’t an essential safety feature. Therefore, the company should not be held liable for failing to install seatbelts that are virtually useless.
What Ostroff Injury Law Believes
We believe that there are four important reasons why the new seatbelt mandate probably will not have a significant influence on your claim in the short term:
- The mandate is too limited. It only begins to apply for new buses built in November 2016 or later, and then only on commercial motor coaches operating on some routes. The new rules are not broad enough to allow any inference about current law.
- The new rules are subject to further change. Congress or the White House could overrule the Transportation Department any time before the rules go into effect. There are two national elections (including a presidential election) before the rules are locked in place.
- The rules are no defense for negligence. It’s not as if existing regulations forbid bus companies from using seatbelts. If bus companies fail to provide reasonable safety equipment for passenger protection, then they have behaved negligently. That’s regardless of whether government regulation requires that equipment.
- The industry’s record opposing seatbelts works against their arguments. The motorcoach industry has a long record opposing mandatory seatbelt laws. Spokesmen for the industry have said that seatbelts would make no difference to injury rates. If you sustained injuries in a bus accident in Pennsylvania, your lawyer can argue that a seatbelt would not have spared you. Therefore, the cause must be more fundamental than whether you had a lap and shoulder belt.
Get the Right Help
An attorney with experience in bus accident cases can best serve your interests. He or she can anticipate the arguments that bus company lawyers will use. That’s one of the key reasons you need to protect your rights by conferring with Ostroff Injury Law. Our Plymouth Meeting bus injury attorneys regularly come to the aid of injured bus passengers, and we have a reputation with bus company lawyers for aggressive advocacy on behalf of our clients.
Call (800) 818-8148 today to find out what Jon Ostroff and his legal team can do for you. For all bus injury cases, your first consultation is FREE. We will not charge you ANY attorney’s fees unless we can get you a financial recovery.