Bus Accidents: Federal and State Law Differences

Last updated on: August 20, 2015


Evidence that a bus driver violated a state or federal law just before crashing a bus and injuring others can be very beneficial to an injured plaintiff’s case. Violating the rules of the road – whether that involves a state rule or a federal rule – can be considered evidence that the driver of the bus was not acting as a reasonable and careful bus driver. It can also be evidence that a motor carrier was careless in that it failed to inspect its machines on a regular basis (for example).

But not all state and federal rules governing buses, motor carriers, and bus drivers apply to every bus accident case. Zinda Law Group attorneys know that the legal landscape surrounding commercial motor vehicles, like buses, is complicated and confusing. That is why we offer a free initial consultation to injured bus accident victims. It affords us an opportunity to educate our clients about the differences between federal and state laws, to identify which laws apply to their unique cases, and inform them of how law or regulation violations can help their cases.

Areas of Difference Between State and Federal Laws

The question of whether a state law or federal law applies is difficult to answer succinctly. Suffice it to say that, in most bus accident crashes, there is little reason why the bus driver and/or carrier could not comply with both state regulations and federal regulations. Where a state law and a federal law both speak on the same subject, generally whichever law or regulation is more stringent would be found to apply.

State laws and federal laws differ in a number of important respects:

  • Jurisdiction and applicability: In this context, “jurisdiction” refers to the group of people and businesses to whom a particular law, rule, or regulation applies. Federal laws apply to all carriers and drivers who are engaged in interstate bus travel or inter-country bus travel (e., charter buses from the U.S. to Mexico and vice versa). State laws, however, only apply to activities of bus drivers that occur within that particular state and to carriers who are headquartered or have a presence in that particular state.
  • Topics covered: Generally speaking, federal rules and regulations govern the equipment that can be considered a “bus” and used for purposes of transportation of passengers as well as setting out the qualifications of people who drive such means of conduit whereas state laws generally touch upon how such vehicles are operated. For example, federal rules and regulations cover who can be licensed as a driver of a commercial motor vehicle, how often a bus must be inspected and what service records must be maintained. State laws, however, establish the speed limit on a highway or street.
  • Severity of penalties: A violation of rule or regulation pertaining to bus driving or motor carrier operations can be punished by a fine, jail sentence, revocation of licenses, and other such penalties. However, the penalties for violations of federal rules and regulations can be much more severe. Fines can be higher, periods of federal license and registration revocation can be longer, and prison sentences can be lengthier.

Contact Zinda Law Group for Help

Sometimes it is clear that a law was violated: a bus driver driving down a residential road at 60 mph when the posted speed limit is only 35 mph is clearly breaking a law and that violation can likely be used to prove the bus driver’s negligence. Other times, identifying applicable laws and regulations is much trickier. Allow us the opportunity to make sense of the confusing regulatory landscape during a free initial consultation. Contact Zinda Law Group now at (800) 863-5312 today.