Palm Springs Bus Crash Leaves Victims Without Adequate Compensation
On October 23, 2016, a tourist bus traveling roughly 65 miles per hour slammed into a slow-moving tractor-trailer on Interstate 10 near Palm Springs. The crash injured 32 people and left 13 dead, making it one of the deadliest bus crashes in California history.
There are multiple defendants in the case, and it appears that there will be lengthy litigation before fault is determined. As the victims begin to cope with their loss, many are now finding out that their compensation for the accident may take years to acquire and there may not be enough insurance money to fully compensate each of them. As the LA Times reported, “bus riders are protected by weaker safety standards than passengers of any other form of public transportation; they also have less insurance to compensate their deaths or injuries.”
The $5 Million Insurance Limit
The reason the bus riders may get less insurance money is because of a federal law that states buses are only required to be covered by a $5 million policy. This minimum was established in 1982 during the Ronald Reagan Administration. The law was intended to safeguard the bus industry from unaffordable insurance costs that would have raised the cost of bus transportation. But $5 million simply is not enough to cover expenses when there are multiple victims. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency that regulates the bus industry, agrees and has stated “the current financial responsibility minimums are inadequate to fully cover the costs of some crashes in light of increased medical costs and revised value of statistical life.”
Minimum Insurance Requirements for Buses Should Be Raised
Justice is not served when the serious needs of victims cannot be met due to limited funds. Raising the minimum insurance coverage necessary is long overdue. An FMCSA study found that if the $5 million amount were adjusted for inflation, it would be about $21.3 million today. The FMCSA hasn’t advocated for that specific increase, but it publicized the figure to make the point that an increase in the insurance minimum is necessary to keep up with inflation and increasing medical costs.
Not only is there not enough money in these cases, but dividing a limited pool of funds among numerous deserving plaintiffs is a difficult legal process that adds even more time and expense to the accident litigation. Victims who lost family members have valid wrongful death claims, and these must be balanced against the claims for pain and suffering and medical damages that surviving victims filed. If minimum insurance levels were raised, it would ensure that all victims would be able to get the compensation they deserve when these tragedies occur.
Scott D. Hughes is a personal injury attorney in Southern California. He is familiar with truck accidents and FMCSA regulations and has a history of getting his clients the compensation they deserve in personal injury lawsuits. If you would like more information about his bus crash expertise, please contact the Law Offices of Scott D. Hughes at 714-423-6928.