May 18, 2016 · FLEMING | NOLEN | JEZ, L.L.P.
On Saturday, a charter bus operated by OGA Charters was carrying 52 passengers to a casino in Eagle Pass when it crashed in South Texas on U.S. Highway 83, north of Laredo. The accident killed eight people and more than 40 were injured in the one-vehicle rollover, making it one of the deadliest bus accidents in Texas in recent years.
A History of Violations
Federal records show that OGA Charters, based in San Juan, Texas, has two buses. In 2011, the company was fined approximately $2,000 by regulators for violations involving periodic inspections and pre-employment drug testing of drivers. OGA Charters received a “satisfactory” rating from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2014.
Prior to Saturday’s crash, OGA Charters had not reported crashes in the last two years. However, since 2014, the company had six driver and vehicle inspections that resulted in the findings of 15 total violations. These violations ranged from driver records and hours of operation, to other issues such as vehicle maintenance problems.
According to FMCSA records, in 2015 the company was ordered, twice, by Louisiana state inspectors to take one of its buses out of service to fix brake and emergency exit problems. The inspection from May 2015 in Louisiana showed brake connections with leaks, automatic brake adjustment system issues, and a discolored windshield. The bus in questions was ordered out of service due to 20% or more of its brakes being considered defective. It was also reported that the OGA charter bus only had seat belts in the first row, and the remaining rows of seats had no lap belts.
Who is Liable?
Federal and most state laws consider buses to be “common carriers.” A common carrier is an entity whose business is to transport people or goods from one place to another for compensation. There are many types of common carriers, such as tour buses, commercial buses, and school buses. Commercial airplanes, cruise ships, taxicabs, and certain trucks are also considered common carriers. A common carrier must exercise a very high degree of care regarding the safety of its passengers.
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Fleming | Nolen | Jez, L.L.P. understand that bus accidents are sometimes the result of negligence. If you or someone you know has been involved in a bus accident, contact our firm today for an evaluation of your case at no charge.