Injured by a bus driving off before you are seated?

Bus drivers are held to strict safety standards, however they also have a strict timetable.

If a driver is running behind schedule, he or she may be tempted pull away from the bus stop before all the passengers are seated.

In the majority of cases, driving off while passengers are finding a seat does not result in injury. Able-bodied passengers are usually able to hold onto the handrails and safely make their way down the aisle.

Elderly and less-able-bodied passengers, however, are at greater risk of injury if a bus pulls away suddenly. This can result in injuries such as whiplash from the sudden movement, and lacerations, broken bones and ligament damage from falls or impact with the seats or other passengers.

Anyone injured under such circumstances may be eligible to make a bus accident compensation claim.

Is the bus driver negligent for driving off before a passenger is seated?

In short, it depends on the circumstances.

While there is no express requirement for bus drivers to remain stationary until passengers are seated, drivers must take "reasonable care" to ensure the safety of their passengers.

The relevant duty is laid down The Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990. Under the Regulations, "A driver and a conductor shall take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of passengers who are on, or who are entering or leaving, the vehicle."

A key issue is understanding whether "reasonable precautions" were taken by the driver, and this is likely to depend on evidence including bus security camera footage, witness statements and other evidence.

Interpreting the bus driver's duties

Fletcher v United Counties Omnibus Co. Ltd (1997) is a leading case that goes some way to explaining the duty of bus drivers when pulling away from a bus stop.

In this case, the 22-year-old Mrs Fletcher boarded a bus and began making her way to a vacant seat at the back. As she was moving down the aisle, the bus pulled away in an orderly fashion. However, the driver had to make an emergency stop shortly afterwards, causing Mrs Fletcher to fall and injure her spine.

The Court of Appeal denied Mrs Fletcher's claim. In the Court's opinion, drivers could not be expected to wait for all passengers to take their seats before driving off, as no bus service would be able to meet its timetable under these conditions. Providing appropriate safety supports and driving away gently and at reasonable speed was enough to ensure the safety of passengers in the majority of cases.

Special care for vulnerable passengers

While Mrs Fletcher failed to demonstrate negligence on the part of the bus company, the Court did make observations about other situations where there might be a higher duty of care on the driver.

In the Court's opinion, the following categories of passenger were at a higher risk of accident and warranted special care:

  • Elderly passengers
  • Disabled passengers and those with mobility issues
  • Those carrying a lot of luggage
  • Young children
  • Passengers carrying babies or children.

This list is not exhaustive. If a passenger looks vulnerable, for example, they are carrying a walking stick or pushing a pram, then the driver should wait until the passenger has had the chance to sit down before pulling away.

Can I make a claim if I fall before getting into my seat?

It is likely that you have a claim if:

  • You are in the category of protected individuals; and
  • Injury is caused as a result of a driver pulling away before you could sit down.

Bus drivers are entitled to judge who is vulnerable by their appearance.

Those who have a hidden infirmity, such as a prosthetic limb, are advised to tell the bus driver and request that the bus remains in place until they are seated. This minimises the risk of an accident occurring and lays the foundation for an injury claim if the driver ignores the request and an accident occurs.

Even if you are not recognised by the Court as warranting special consideration by the driver, or the driver is unaware of the reason why you may be at greater risk, you may still be able to make claim.

For more information, or to discuss your options with a solicitor, call Quittance on 0800 612 7456.