The recent bus crash in California was horrific in nature. Entire families have been forever changed due to the loss of life (13 to date) and massive injuries suffered by the survivors (31 reported). The National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) has a “Go Team” on its way. There is no question that there will be lawyers involved, the question is how do the grieving families find a good one?

In order to find a lawyer, that is capable of handling a complicated wreck like this with so many victims, you need to make sure they have at least handled bus cases previously and have an interest in bus accident law. Issues involving the trucks speed (was it slow moving?), the brakes on the bus, fatigue, drugs, tire defects, maintenance issues, and product liability all must be considered causes of the wreck until they are ruled out.

One question that must be answered: “why wasn’t the bus equipped with a forward collision avoidance system?” These systems will automatically brake the bus so the severity of these wrecks are at least lessened, if not prevented altogether. Mobileye is just one maker of these life saving bus systems.

In my experience in working on NTSB investigated cases, I found the NTSB typically didn’t fully look at the root causes of the wreck. Further NTSB had items that they are most concerned with (Top Ten List), which may assist or hinder a true root cause investigation to identify all the potential wrongdoers, not just the ones most directly involved. For example while the NTSB may assess whether a bus had forward collision avoidance technology, they typically don’t ask why it wasn’t installed on the bus or why anyone, in this day and age, would hire a bus to haul passengers without it?

So what do you look for in hiring a bus accident lawyer? Two good items to look at include:

  1. See if they are members of the the American Association of Justice (AAJ) Bus Litigation Group. These lawyers are members of a group whose sole focus is to 1) recover for victims of bus wrecks just like this and 2) prevent these crashes from happening in the future.
  2. Another sign you have the right lawyer is to find out whether they have lectured other lawyers in bus accident law. Lawyers hate having their time wasted at seminars and don’t put up with speakers who don’t know what they are talking about. If they speak at lawyer organizations on bus and truck accident cases frequently, you likely have a lawyer that will be good for a case of this type

While there are surely many lawyers that will eventually be involved in this case, as a past Chair of the AAJ Bus Litigation Group I am sure at least one family will reach out to Kate Harvey-Lee in Los Angeles. Kate Harvey-Lee is a brilliant bus accident lawyer who I have had the pleasure of listening to specifically on the the topic of bus crashes at several national seminars. She is nationally famous for Bus Accident Litigation. I suspect many lawyers, without her experience and hired by clients who didn’t do their research, will try to ride her coattails in this case. We shall see.

Remember, if you hire a jack of all trades for your lawyer you hire a master of none. Hire a lawyer that focuses on bus and truck accident cases. Do your home work.