As Springfield personal injury lawyers, we know that accidents involving commercial buses can have devastating consequences. When an accident is caused by a negligent commercial motor vehicle operator, the end result can involve serious, life-threatening injury to innocent passengers.
Recently, a woman was killed in Kansas City after a party bus operator failed to comply with state and federal laws. The Kansas City Star reports that 26 year-old Jamie Frecks was a passenger on a party bus for a bachelorette party when the bus hit a bump as it rounded a curve. Upon hitting the bump, the doors opened and Frecks fell out backwards onto Interstate 35, where she was subsequently struck by at least three different vehicles. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The accident is still under investigation. However, thus far, law enforcement officials have discovered that the party bus was not registered through the state of Kansas, and it did not have a Department of Transportation (DOT) number, which is required by federal law. Because the vehicle was not properly registered, there is no record that the bus was inspected regularly in compliance with DOT regulations, which require a documented inspection of emergency exits and push-out windows every 90 days. Also, there is no evidence that the operators serviced, maintained and performed repairs on their vehicles.
To obtain a DOT number, a passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicle must have regular inspections and maintain a minimum amount of insurance coverage, which varies depending on the vehicle's seating capacity: the larger the vehicle's seating capacity, the more insurance coverage needed. A vehicle with seating of 16 or more is required to purchase $5 million in coverage.
"It's appalling this vehicle was permitted to operate for two years," Jim Hall, a transportation safety consultant and former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told the Star. "If there had been any inspection of this vehicle, it certainly should never have passed." The company operating the party bus, Midnight Express, has since been shut down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
The party bus and limousine industry has grown significantly since the first companies emerged in Kansas City in the late 1990s. The industry has helped keep drunk drivers off the road and carry large groups of people from one destination to another. However, nationally, the industry has had some incidents involving passenger safety, which have drawn the attention of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Due to a rise in passenger deaths since 2010, federal officials are cracking down on bus companies, requiring more safety inspections and continually raising the bar for safety within the industry.