Why Baum Hedlund is the Right Choice for Your Bus Accident Case:
- More than 80 bus crash cases handled by our firm since 1988
- 27 passengers represented in a single accident
- $6,200,000 million settlement obtained for a single bus passenger*
- Handling bus cases for 25 years
- Succeeded in getting U.S. jurisdiction in two foreign crashes (England and Mexico)
- Extensive experience with complex choice of law and difficult insurance coverage issues
- Bus Accident Litigation Group Advisory Board Member for the American Association
- The firm’s successful bus litigation is featured in the book, Reckless Disregard
- Conducted an international grass-roots bus safety campaign to move the fuel tank to a safer location on school buses
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has a long history of handling bus accident cases. The firm has handled more than 80 bus crash cases over the past 25 years for bus passengers, their families and pedestrians hit by buses, across the United States and in foreign tourist spots. In one case, the firm represented 27 passengers from a single bus accident. The cases the firm handles involve:
- Chartered buses
- City buses
- Party buses
- School buses
- Tour buses
The firm has handled bus accident cases against defendants such as Greyhound, Ford Motor Company, American Tour and Leasing Co., Bluebird, Sky Express, Inc., American Stage Lines, San Diego Metropolitan Transit, Mexico Transportacion Turista Peninsular, Windsor Inc., and Travellers Coach Company Limited.
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In two foreign bus accidents in Cancun, Mexico and Faversham, England, dozens of American families hired Baum Hedlund to represent their interests in these mass disasters. The firm was able to prosecute these cases in the United States and maintain U.S. jurisdiction. Baum Hedlund’s experience with the complex choice of law and difficult insurance coverage problems led to the successful resolution of these international tour bus accidents.
Many of the cases the firm has litigated involve children riding school buses. Some of these accidents have occurred while transporting children to and from school or to events, while some have involved the bus driver running over the child after the child left the bus.
Palm Springs Girl Scouts Bus Crash of 1991
Among the many bus accident lawsuits handled by Baum Hedlund is the Girl Scout bus crash near Palm Springs, California in 1991. Seven people were killed and 47 were injured in that crash. Baum Hedlund represented 27 people, mostly children, from that accident in which a school-type bus, loaded with Girl Scouts, nose-dived into a gully, and ultimately resulted in the death of four girls when they were thrown through windows onto the rocky ground.
In that bus accident, the firm’s attorneys argued successfully in court that on side impact, unsecured students and passengers can be severely injured when hurled against unpadded walls or through weak windows. “All steps at the manufacturing, maintenance, personnel training and driving levels ought to ensure that all our kids get to where they are going safely,” said a Baum Hedlund attorney to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Carrollton, Kentucky Church Bus Crash of 1988
Baum Hedlund’s work, on what has been called the worst drunk driving accident in our nation’s history, is featured in the book, Reckless Disregard. A church bus—a former school bus—full of children riding home from a theme park was hit by a drunk driver named Larry Mahoney, driving a pickup truck near Carrollton, Kentucky in 1988.
The impact of the pickup did not even wake some of the sleeping children on the bus, but the fire and panic that erupted did. The accident caused the front right leaf spring of the suspension to puncture the unprotected fuel tank, next to the front door. The leaking fuel caught fire and the front door was instantly engulfed in flames. Most of the 40 people who survived the crash—some severely burned—shoved their way out the back rear exit. 27 people, mostly children, were not able to make it out the only exit and were killed by the fire.
Shortly after the accident, Ford Motor Co. approached the families of those who were injured and died and quickly settled their potential claims. Two families refused to take even one dollar from Ford unless they also changed the way they manufactured buses.
One of these families, whose 14 year-old daughter was killed in the fire, hired Baum Hedlund after interviewing 30 other law firms. In cooperation with a Kentucky law firm hired by the only other non-settling family, the two law firms obtained court approval to have access to the bus and its parts.
Baum Hedlund obtained a school bus and conducted a post-crash fire test that indicated that the school bus involved in the 1988 Carrolton, Kentucky bus crash was consumed in 60 seconds after the fire erupted from the gas tank under the stepwell. Twenty-seven people died in that crash, mostly children. The bus was used in a crash test video conducted by the defendants.
The attorneys hired a team of structure, automotive-safety and fire experts, who together fully examined the wreckage and determined multiple defects were responsible for the great numbers of deaths and injuries. They determined that the NTSB’s investigative report did not even address what they found to be flaws in the bus’ structure. The firms’ automotive-safety expert told the attorneys, for example, that he found that Ford relied on weak rivets to hold the bus’ leaf spring assembly - part of the suspension system - onto the chassis’ frame.
The experts also said the bus lacked sufficient spot welding to secure floor panels. They found that panels on the front of the bus split on impact, leaving large gaps and that those gaps allowed gas and flames to come up through the floor board or at least provided another source of oxygen to allow the fire to spread.
Armed with four years of relentless investigation and evidence, in unison, the two firms brought Ford to trial for design defects of the fuel system. The case was successfully resolved and a substantial judgment was obtained after six weeks of trial.
Baum Hedlund’s and the other firm’s intensive investigation lasted four years and involved nearly 10,000-man-hours at a cost of over $1 million.
Baum Hedlund obtained a school bus and reinacted the post-crash fire in one of our nation's worst bus accidents, to prove to a jury that the unsafe construction of the bus is what caused 27 deaths. The bus, above, was used in a crash test video conducted by the defendants.
Beyond the Court Room
At the resolution of this case, Kentucky officials said that important safety changes had been made in the state since the bus crash but Baum Hedlund’s clients wanted even greater changes and vowed to continue their fight for bus safety. Accordingly, the firm and their clients started a bus safety grass-roots campaign created information packets, including a crash test video that reenacted the actual crash, and organized and funded the mailing of this information to bus manufacturers and school transportation officials in all 50 states and Canada. They included a letter that urged them to move the fuel tanks away from the front door by relocating them between the main frame rails behind the rear axle, for the safety of their students.
Too often the important issues raised by lawsuits end with those lawsuits. Not this time. The responses to the mailing came from all parts of the country, from people who realized that fuel tank placement was an extremely important issue and that something had to be done about it.
Bus accident victims and their families have a right to seek personal injury and wrongful death damages against errant bus drivers and their companies. Any such lawsuit may well involve more than one state’s law or court system, and numerous complex choices and decisions may have to be made to maximize recovery or streamline procedures.
Those responsible for these accidents should be held accountable and safety improvements made. There are usually a number of weak links in the chain of events which lead up to an injury or death – negligent operators, negligent supervision, poor maintenance, design flaws, failed parts, faulty reporting, etc. Each individual or group responsible for one or more factors may be called upon to pay a portion, or even all, of the compensation due the injured person or family members.
*Baum Hedlund’s past performance, verdicts, settlements, testimonials or endorsements do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of future cases. Past results obtained or overall performance must be confined to that particular case, its factual and legal circumstances and legal surroundings. Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.