Local San Francisco media outlets are reporting that the investigation into the cause of the recent tour bus that crashed at Union Square. Brake failure is being explored as a possible cause. Investigators noted this would fit with eye witness descriptions of the crash.
If so, this tragedy would be similar to a 2006 case we handled that involved multiple fatalities caused by a runaway bus that was unable to stop as it exited a freeway off-ramp. Ultimately, our experts established that brake failure caused that tragic accident.
The duty to maintain a vehicle in a commercial vehicle setting raises important and sometimes complicated legal principles. Since 1968 California law has stated that the duty to maintain the brakes of a motor vehicle is nondelegable. Likewise, California Vehicle Code §26453 states, “All brakes and component parts thereof shall be maintained in good condition and in good working order.”
The obvious purpose behind these laws is to protect the public from the tragic results of a catastrophic brake failure. Despite these laws owners of commercial vehicles routinely attempt to avoid responsibility for the injuries and deaths they cause by pointing their finger at the smaller companies who rent those vehicles and contracts that obligate the smaller company to maintain these vehicles. These smaller companies often do not have the resources to fully compensate the accident victims.
We are saddened that despite these laws bus accidents continue to occur due to poor maintenance and faulty brakes. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.