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Trolleys, Tour buses and Traffic: Where tourism meets trouble


The tragic sinking of the duck boat on Table Rock Lake, Missouri, that caused the deaths of 17 people on July 19, 2018 has focused new attention on not only duck boats, but tourism in general. Duck boats are amphibious vehicles that were first used by the U.S. military in WWII and the Korean War. They have since become popular tourist rides in many cities, including the metro Atlanta area.

Stone Mountain Park in DeKalb County, GA, suspended its duck boat rides immediately after the Branson, MO accident. The popular “Ride the Ducks” tourist attraction was kept docked until more information about the sinking in Missouri was available. Unfortunately, duck boats have a problematic safety record, being associated with over 40 fatalities nationally since 1999.


Tourism is booming in Georgia, and Georgia is thriving because of it. The Peach State welcomed over 105 million visitors in 2016. The economic impact in Georgia of the tourism industry was an astounding $63.1 billion in 2017, up 3.8% from the previous year. The industry employs 450,000 people statewide, and generates $3.3 billion in state and local tax revenue, without which the average Georgian’s tax bill would increase by $900 annually.

Tourism, therefore, is a vital part of the state’s economy and identity. But 105 million visitors generate more than money.


Tour buses and trolleys are popular with tourists, and can be seen in the streets of Atlanta, Savannah, and other historic locations throughout the state. Unfortunately, the combination of crowded streets and chaotic traffic often leads to accidents. In accidents involving tour buses and trolleys, multiple parties can be liable for damages. For instance, if a tour bus veers off the road and into a tree and several passengers are injured, the driver might be at fault; under a theory known as vicarious liability, the company that owns and operates the tour bus could also be liable. If an investigation reveals problems with the steering or brake lines, the people and/or garage which performed the maintenance on the tour bus might be at fault for the accident and therefore liable for damages. Finally, if the investigation reveals that a defective brake or steering part led to the accident—rather than poor maintenance work—then the manufacturer of the part could be liable under a theory of products liability.

If, on the other hand, a tour bus is hit by another vehicle, that vehicle’s driver might be at fault, and the same analysis of liability would apply to that vehicle, its owner, the person or garage maintaining it, and the manufacturer of any defective parts.


Tour buses, trolleys, tourists—all of these lead to crowded roads and sidewalks, which in turn can lead to collisions between pedestrians and vehicles. Add to the crowds the fact that too many pedestrians are staring at their cell phones—and texting—rather than looking at where they are going, and the chances of an accident become even greater.


If you are hurt in an accident with a tour bus, trolley, duck boat, or other common carrier, either as a passenger or a pedestrian, you can recover for your losses. Because these vehicles are commercial operations, it is likely that multiple parties will be liable for your damages, as explained above. Medical costs, including rehabilitation, can be recovered. Lost wages and lost future earning potential are also recoverable. The pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress suffered due to an accident are sometimes even greater than the medical costs incurred; these damages are recoverable, too. The first and most important step in making a person whole again after an accident is contacting an experienced and qualified personal injury attorney.


If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident with a commercial carrier, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.

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Thomas Law Firm
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