The Western Section of the Tennessee Court of Appeals recently decided that buses in Tennessee are not required to have seat belts. In this case a man was thrown from a bus and received a catastrophic brain injury. The Court of Appeals stated that since the federal government does not mandate seat belts on buses, pursuant to FMVSS 208, the state can not require them. This decision, finding that federal law preempted the issues, was contrary to a 2008 decision in Texas that found seat belts could be required on buses.
It is clear from my prior blogs that I believe seat belts are needed in buses. They. Save. Lives. Many of my clients would be alive, and others able to live a normal life, if they had simply been able to wear a seat belt while on a bus.
Seat belts are on airplanes. If a seat belt will save you after falling 20,000 feet from the sky, and the cost of the seat belt and the increased fuel costs are more than offset by the increased safety of having them, shouldn’t we have seat belts on buses?
If seat belts on buses don’t matter, why are they provided for the bus driver?
Certainly seat belts should be provided on school buses, but the Court of Appeal’s decision would eliminate the states ability to require that. For an article on the need for seat belts on school buses, and the costs, click here. Please see my prior blogs on this topic.
Regardless, unless there is an appeal (and I hope there is), the current law in Tennessee allows bus companies and owners, who know that the lack of seat belts on buses is a horrible problem, to continue escaping liability for the deaths and injuries that occur when buses are ordered without seat belts.
In the case before the Western Section the jury found that the profoundly brain injured man, who was thrown from the bus due to a lack of seat belts, was entitled to over 8 Million in lost income and other damages. The decision by the Western Section Court of Appeals made it clear that the verdict will never be collected from the bus company, the one company that is directly responsible for purchasing and operating an unsafe bus without seat belts.
The full opinion can be read here.