If you’re considering chartering a party bus for a big night out, there’s a lot to think about before providing your credit card number and signing the contract.
While party buses generally provide a safe experience, things can and do go wrong, sometimes with tragic results. In some instances, you may be able to hold an operator legally accountable if you or a loved one is injured on a party bus.
Take the case of Jamie Frecks, a 26-year-old Kansas City woman who was celebrating a friend’s bachelorette party when the party bus she was riding hit a bump rounding a curve on Interstate 35. As the bus lurched, Frecks, the mother of a six-week-old child, fell through a set of double side doors that opened unexpectedly. She landed on the highway and was fatally struck by three cars.
An investigation suggested that the driver had unlatched the doors, which had been installed by a previous operator to accommodate wheelchairs, to make way for a large cooler, and that the driver had failed to properly relatch them. Frecks’ family sought to hold the bus company responsible in court and secured a significant settlement.
In most states, a party bus operator, as a “common carrier,” would have a legal obligation to take the utmost steps to protect people from predictable harm, and in this instance, the victim’s family was able to make enough of a showing that the operator had failed to take even reasonable steps to do so.
In most states, party bus operators also are expected to make sure minors do not drink. If an operator permits underage drinking and a young guest gets alcohol poisoning or is otherwise injured, the operator might be deemed at fault. Additionally, operators that serve or sell alcohol to adults are expected to follow the same rules as bars or restaurants. If the operator serves a visibly drunk passenger who then causes injury to someone else, the injured party may have a case against the operator. Still, the ability to hold a party bus operator legally responsible for your injuries is far from certain.
For example, an operator may require you to sign a waiver assuming all risks of injury. There are good arguments asserting that such waivers should not be enforced. But if a court does enforce one, you may have little recourse unless you can show the operator’s conduct rose to the level of “gross negligence.”
Another consideration is your own potential liability for harm that could occur. Before chartering a party bus, consult with an attorney and your insurance agent to review the contract.
And if you or someone close to you has been injured on a party bus, call an attorney to discuss your rights.