As its name suggests, a 15-passenger van is a type of vehicle that can seat up to 15 passengers at one time. The standard 15-passenger van is typically painted white and is generally longer than the average passenger van, which usually only seats up to 8 or 12 passengers, depending on the vehicle.
15-passenger vans are mostly used to transport persons to and from large group events, such as:
- Church outings;
- Class or field trips;
- Formal occasions; and
- Family outings.
They can also be used by individuals or entities for business purposes like to tour the country if you are part of a rock band, a member of an amateur sports team, or a volunteer working on various projects (e.g., building homes for people across the nation).
Unfortunately, over the last decade or so, these vehicles have been gaining a lot of attention due to the number of safety concerns and motor vehicle collisions they have been associated with. In particular, they have a high rate of rollover incidents.
Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that these vehicles can become even more dangerous when they are operated by a negligent driver or are driven in situations where the weather or road conditions may not be optimal for use. This can also increase the likelihood that a 15-passenger van will end up becoming the subject of a lawsuit.
What are the Risks with 15-Passenger Vans?
As discussed above, a spike in the number of accidents involving 15-passenger vans have raised concerns over the safety of operating such vehicles. Their tendency to roll over due to their design or when driven under less than ideal conditions has become a real problem.
This is especially true with the older models of 15-passenger vans. This is because those versions are not equipped with stability control and usually have a back tire that is positioned in a way which tilts towards the front instead of the back of the van; unlike those manufactured in present day.
Some other risks that might be associated with a 15-passenger van include:
- Having a driver who is not trained to operate the vehicle;
- Overloading the vehicle until it reaches an unsafe weight limit or capacity;
- Using a van that is poorly maintained or has old parts;
- Driving a 15-passenger van that has old or deflated tires;
- Allowing passengers to ride without wearing seatbelts; and
- Loading one side or section of the vehicle with more weight than the other.
What can be Done to Prevent Accidents?
Due to the rise in accidents caused by these vehicles, 15-passenger vans drew the attention of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) whose members have since issued a number of safety tips on its website. Both drivers and passengers should review this information along with any safety policies they receive from manufacturers or companies associated with the particular 15-passenger van they intend to use.
It should be noted that 15-passenger vans were originally designed for the purposes of transporting cargo, not people. Thus, the vehicle itself was created with the idea in mind that users would place more weight towards the front of the vehicle, rather than in the back.
In which case, drivers of 15-passenger vans today should instruct their passengers to fill the van starting with the front seats until eventually reaching the back rows. This will not only help to prevent the vehicle from tipping over, but can also stabilize how well the vehicle operates (i.e., so that the front wheel will not float off the ground while driving).
Some other ways that drivers and/or passengers of 15-passenger vans may be able to prevent accidents from happening include:
- Maintaining the vehicle by taking it to a mechanic for regular tune-ups and fixing vehicle problems as soon as they arise;
- Changing or checking a van’s tires every so often;
- Wearing a seatbelt (note that this applies to both drivers and passengers);
- Making sure that a driver is trained to drive the vehicle and has a valid license to drive it;
- Following all standard safety and road regulations;
- Refraining from driving the vehicle when under the influence or riding with a driver who is not in any condition to operate the van;
- Staying mindful of speed limits on roadways;
- Switching to a safer and new model if the van being used is old;
- Keeping the roof of the vehicle free of cargo; and
- Complying with vehicle loading standards (e.g., proper weight limits, a safe amount of passengers, etc.).
Is a Special Permit or License Needed to Drive a 15-Seater Van?
As previously mentioned, 15-seater vans are typically longer than the average vehicle. Thus, the majority of drivers will not have the proper experience or training to handle operating a van of this size. Also, because many of the vehicles in use are older models it may be difficult to adjust to the way they handle if a driver is not familiar with this type of vehicle.
Although not every state has laws addressing the requirements for operating a 15-seater van, it is strongly recommended that a driver obtain a commercial driver’s license (“CDL”) and get proper training before getting behind the wheel of one of these vehicles.
If a driver is inexperienced or has not driven any kind of motor vehicle in a long time, then they should refrain from driving a 15-passenger van until either they receive training or register for a CDL. Some van companies even suggest that the driver of a 15-passenger van should be at least 21 years of age and/or have a minimum of 5 years of driving with a standard state driver’s license.
What if I’ve Been Injured in a Crash?
A person who has been injured in a crash involving a 15-passenger van may be able to file a lawsuit and recover monetary damages. However, this will depend on the facts of an individual case as well as on the events leading up to the crash and the party responsible for causing it. Whether a person can recover monetary damages will also be contingent on the laws of their state and on the severity of their injuries.
Thus, those who have been injured in a crash involving a 15-passenger van should contact a local personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. In order to make things easier for the consultation meeting, an injured party should make sure to gather up any information and documents related to their claim. This may include:
- Traffic, weather, and police reports;
- Van rental or rider policies;
- Insurance documents;
- Photos or videos of the crash site and resulting injuries;
- Receipts for hospital costs and other related medical expenses;
- Contact information to obtain witness statements (e.g., from other passengers or eyewitnesses who saw the crash happen); and/or
- Various other items related to the incident in question.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a 15-Passenger Van Injury Lawsuit?
In general, personal injury lawsuits that stem from incidents involving a 15-passenger van are unique due to the specific risks associated with such vehicles. Thus, if you need assistance with filing a lawsuit and recovering damages for your injuries, you should speak to a local car accident lawyer who practices in your area immediately.
A car accident lawyer who has experience in handling 15-passenger van cases will be able to help you draft and prepare the necessary filing documents for your lawsuit. Your lawyer can also provide representation in court and can answer any questions you may have about your case.