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Who can be held liable in a commercial vehicle accident?

All around the country, including here in Portland, far too many people are seriously injured as the result of a car accident. While many people think of car accidents involving two or more privately-owned passenger cars, commercial vehicle accidents are equally concerning.

Recently, in Portland, a young girl was killed when she fell out of a party bus that she was riding in. Initial reports suggest that the 11-year-old girl fell out of the bus when she leaned on the exit door. At this time, police are calling the situation a very tragic accident, but have not assigned criminal liability for the incident. However, the driver did not have a valid commercial driver's license.

Though the driver in this case was not determined to be liable for the girl's death, this is not always the case in every accident. Drivers of commercial vehicles are required to have commercial driver's license. In order to earn this special certification, the driver must go through a more rigorous driving test. Additionally, commercial drivers face stiffer legal penalties if they are found to be at fault in an accident.

From a legal standpoint, a commercial vehicle accident is similar to a car accident. The biggest difference between these types of accident is the defendants. In a commercial car accident, the driver's employer, as well the driver themselves, may be defendants if it can be shown that the company was demonstrated negligence in their safety training, promoting unsafe conduct on the road or maintaining the vehicle.

In the case of the girl who fell out of the bus, criminal charges have not been filed, and are not expected. However, there is no word as to whether the girl's family will pursue civil claims. Victims of commercial vehicle accidents who are seriously injured or killed can sometimes get compensation through as the result of a successful suit.

Source: KGW TV News, "Driver in party bus fatality didn't have valid commercial license," Abbey Gibb, Oct. 10, 2012

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