Whether shuttling children to and from school or transporting passengers across town or the country, buses are an essential mode of transportation for many. While bus travel offers many benefits—such as being more economical and more environmentally friendly than vehicle ownership—buses can be dangerous or even deadly when they are poorly maintained, or operated by inattentive or insufficiently trained drivers.
Passengers, motorists, or pedestrians who were hurt in a bus accident caused by another person's negligence may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and other losses. However, obtaining compensation after a bus accident can be challenging, as such accidents are governed by complex common carrier laws. So, just what is a common carrier? It is a person or business that transports goods, people, or services for a fee, and offers those services to the public.
If you were injured in a bus accident and are considering taking legal action, here is what you should know.
Bus Accident Types
In California, personal injury attorneys see a number of bus accident types, including:
- School bus accidents. These accidents are one of the most difficult types of bus accident cases that attorneys handle, as they often involve young children who were injured or killed.
- Municipal transit bus accidents. Public transportation is an inexpensive way to get around, but when cities fail to maintain their buses or employ poorly trained drivers, accidents and injuries can be the result.
- Freight bus accidents. These commercial vehicles are designed to carry cargo but, when overloaded, they have the potential to become unpredictable and dangerous.
- Private, commercial, or charter bus accidents. Buses hired for tours, parties, and other excursions can be just as dangerous as public buses when improperly maintained or operated.
When passengers step onto a bus, they have every right to assume that it is being maintained and operated in accordance with federal safety regulation—regardless of whether the bus in question is a school bus, city bus, freight bus, or party bus.
Other common bus accident case types include:
- Bus-car collisions
- Bus-motorcycle crashes
- Bus-bus wrecks
- Bus-pedestrian accidents
- Bus breakdown injuries
Common Causes of Bus Accidents
Thanks to human error and poor driving practices, when buses and other vehicles share the road, accidents are bound to happen. Unfortunately, many bus accidents could have been avoided had the bus's owner or driver taken the proper safety or maintenance precautions. Some of the most common bus accident causes related to bus owner or driver error include:
- Drunk or drugged driving. Operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can slow a driver's reaction time and put everyone on the road at risk.
- Drowsy driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limits commercial drivers to 11 hours of driving time per day to prevent fatigue, which can be as impairing as consuming alcohol.
- Distracted driving. Bus drivers may drive for a living, but they are just as susceptible to distractions like talking or texting on their cell phone, eating or drinking, or using a navigational system as the average motorist.
- Inadequate bus maintenance. Even though the FMCSA requires commercial bus drivers to inspect the vehicle regularly and make repairs in a timely fashion, it does not always happen.
- Operating the bus during dangerous weather conditions. Even well-trained and experienced commercial bus drivers are wise to wait for severely inclement weather to pass.
Injuries Associated With Bus Accidents
Buses lack many of the safety features—such as seat belts and airbags—found in personal passenger vehicles. When a bus accident does occur—the injuries can be potentially devastating. Common injuries associated with bus accidents include:
- Whiplash injuries
- Broken bones
- Neck and back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Head trauma, such as concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
Damages Available for Bus Accident Victims
Bus accident victims who were injured through no fault of their own can pursue compensation for a wide variety of economic and non-economic damages related to the crash. Available damages may include compensation for:
- Medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident
- Ongoing medical treatment for accident-related injuries
- Rehabilitation costs
- Wages lost while recovering from injuries
- Loss of earning potential if the injuries are permanently disabling
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Diminished quality of life
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Criteria for Hiring an Attorney
It is wise to consult an attorney after being injured in an accident involving large commercial vehicles, such as a bus. This is because these types of accidents have the potential to cause extensive physical injuries and property damage. If the following statements apply to your case, it might be time to talk with an attorney:
- The bus accident happened less than 18 months ago.
- Medical expenses, property damage costs, and lost wages total more than $2,000.
- Another person's negligence caused the accident.
- If you were driving a vehicle (rather than riding on the bus), it sustained notable damage in the accident.
- You went to the hospital or saw a doctor immediately following the bus accident.
- You have seen your doctor regularly since the accident and followed all of his recommendations for treatment.
- Your injuries included broken bones or required surgery.
- The at-fault party has insurance.
Understanding Your Options: Settlement Versus Courtroom Trial
If you were injured in a bus accident that wasn't your fault, Case Barnett Law is prepared to do whatever is needed to ensure you receive the largest settlement possible—regardless of whether that is achieved during a vigorous negotiations process or by taking your case all the way to court. A courtroom trial can be lengthy, expensive, and stressful, but sometimes it is the only way to get victims the justice—and the compensation—they deserve. Here at Case Barnett, we will never push you to accept a settlement that isn't in your best interest to avoid going to trial.
Do you have questions about your bus accident case? Contact Case Barnett Law to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.