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In Texas, bus companies carry inadequate insurance

There have been more than 100 fatal accidents in Texas involving (non-school) buses in the last decade, according to data from the Texas Department of Transportation. Many of these incidents caused multiple deaths. There were, for example, 17 passenger fatalities in a 2008 rollover wreck near Sherman; nine were killed after a charter bus crash in Laredo in 2016; another rollover, near Victoria, led to one death - and 46 injuries.*

The costs of these accidents are considerable. Victims and their families have a wide range of medical expenses to meet in both the short- and long-term, to say nothing of funeral considerations. Moreover, serious bus accidents affect the finances of the entire state. Lost working hours - the inability of injured individuals and their caregivers to return to their jobs - figure as one of the major drags on Texas's economy, translating to billions of dollars in loss each year.

Nevertheless, lawmakers in the state and nationwide are hesitant to update statutes requiring bus companies to carry adequate insurance. What this means is that injured parties are often left with inadequate funds to pay for their recovery.

Laws from 30 years ago aren't relevant today

The mandates concerning bus companies' insurance policies are outdated. Legislation was first passed in 1982, when Ronald Reagan signed the Bus Regulatory Act into law. The measure stipulated that buses with a capacity for 16 or more passengers were required to carry $5 million in insurance coverage.

Unfortunately, the mandate has not been updated in the intervening 35 years. Adjusting for inflation, researchers estimate that bus carriers today should be carrying at least $22 million in insurance. But companies have been adamant in challenging the need for increased coverage, and lawmakers have yet to take action.

Why this is dangerous

The consequences can be - and have been - severe. Following the crash in Laredo that killed nine and injured 43, many victims were unable to get compensation from the bus company's insurer.

Yet a number of the victims sustained injuries requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs. Families of the deceased, meanwhile, had valid claims for wrongful death compensation. The $5 million was divided quickly, unevenly and inadequately.

How lawyers can help

In previous cases, attorneys have been able to pin responsibility on the companies that hire the buses in the first place - casinos, for example, that contract bus carriers to bring customers to their premises. Likewise, individuals who begin working with lawyers immediately following an accident often find themselves the most justly compensated.

Indeed, finding legal help seems the surest means to obtaining financial damages until the relevant laws are revised. And if history serves as an example, that may be a long time yet.


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