Bus accidents in California do not happen each day, but when they do – the victims face potentially life-threatening consequences. If you are a victim of a bus accident, you will require an experienced personal injury attorney to help you obtain compensation. You can reach out to The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm for a free case evaluation. Our primary goal is to assist bus crash victims in California receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries.
What Qualifies as a Bus for Purposes of a Bus Accident?
According to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, a bus is any motorized vehicle that can carry more than ten passengers. This category includes school buses, interstate carriers, large vans used for public transport, church buses, trolleys, municipal transit buses, tour buses, and airport shuttles.
Most of these buses are classified as ‘common carriers.’ This means that they are subject to both federal and state licensing requirements and other regulations. These buses can carry thousands of passengers each day, often on long-haul interstate trips.
Bus Accident Statistics
Between the years 1990 – 2001, there were up to 63,000 bus accidents in the United States, though the number of people who died because of these accidents is relatively low. The number of injured victims was much higher, somewhere between 15,000 – 21,000.
In the year 2008, 39 out of the total 307 bus accident fatalities occurred in California. Based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, 1282 people were killed in bus accidents between 2007 and 2016.
Also, as per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, up to 4,880 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal accidents in 2017. Of course, it is always a recipe for disaster when you have school buses, commercial trucks, and city buses all sharing the same road. Just the weight of all these vehicles alone can bring about fatal and catastrophic injuries.
What to Do When You Are Involved in a Bus Accident
As a passenger, you normally expect the bus you are in to be secure and driven professionally. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and accidents can happen while you are riding. Here are the steps which you should take when you are involved in a bus accident:
1. Call 911
This is the first thing which you should do after a bus accident. You should report the accident right away to the authorities so that any person who has been injured can easily access help.
2. Seek Medical Attention
Bus accidents tend to be very severe. If you have incurred some grievous injuries, the emergency medical personnel will quickly take you to the hospital.
Don’t assume that everything is okay even if you can walk away after the accident. Some bus accident injuries do not manifest themselves immediately, and they may show up after a couple of months.
Your health should be your number one priority. Make sure you visit your doctor for a check-up after a bus accident to ascertain whether you have any injuries.
Also, you should keep track of your medical treatment. Keep a clear record of all your medical bills and expenses since the court will use them in determining the amount of damages which you deserve.
3. Document What You Can
Try to document the bus accident scene. You can take photos of the injured victims and damaged vehicles. Record the names, phone numbers, and addresses of the individuals who witnessed the accident; as well as the full contact details of all the motor vehicle drivers in the crash. This information will help you when you institute a personal injury lawsuit against the individuals or groups who are responsible for causing the accident.
4. Be Careful About What You Say
Be careful when making any statement to third parties concerning the accident, because they may use these statements to incriminate you or stop you from obtaining compensation. For instance, you shouldn't apologize or admit fault for what happened in the accident. If you do so, you will be held liable for causing the accident, and you will have to compensate all the victims.
Also, don't make statements about any previous accidents you have been involved in. Furthermore, you should not say you are fine, even if you believe that you are perfectly healthy. You may develop some complications after the accident, and the insurance company may deny your claim since you asserted that you didn't incur any injury from the crash.
5. Talk to a Bus Accident Attorney
Most bus companies usually carry good insurance to protect them from incurring liability should any issue arise. These insurance companies have a tendency to pay the least amount of money possible to the bus accident victims for them to make more profits. For you to obtain the amount of compensation you deserve, you should talk to a personal injury bus accident attorney.
Can You File a Personal Injury Claim After a Bus Accident?
Any person who has been injured in a bus accident can institute a personal injury lawsuit to claim for damages. If you win the lawsuit, the court will hold the person who caused the accident liable; and this person will have to compensate you.
The scope of the compensation will cover your medical bills, lost wages, and the extent of your pain and suffering. Possibly, you should file a personal injury claim immediately after the accident occurred to avoid being time-barred by California's Statute of Limitations. However, you can still file a civil suit for compensation within three years after the occurrence of the accident.
Parties Who May Be Responsible for the Bus Accident
Any group or individual would be held responsible for causing the bus accident if that individual or group acted recklessly and negligently. Depending on the cause and type of the bus accident, your attorney can list several individuals or groups as defendants in your personal injury lawsuit. Some examples of possible defendants in a bus accident personal injury claim include:
- Bus driver
- Bus manufacturer
- Bus part manufacturer
- Tour bus company
- School board
- Bus company
- City, county, or state governmental agency
- Other vehicle drivers
- Bus maintenance company
In some instances, a plaintiff can sue multiple defendants, and the court will hold all of them liable. Also, the bus accident victim may have been responsible for causing the accident though he can still claim for damages under California's comparative fault laws.
As the plaintiff in a bus accident personal injury lawsuit, you must assert that the defendant was negligent and it was primarily his acts of negligence that resulted in the accident. For the plaintiff to prove that the defendant was negligent, he must show the court that:
- The defendant owed him a duty of care
- The defendant breached this duty of care
- This breach resulted in the accident which led to the plaintiff’s injuries
Here is a brief explanation of how the individuals or groups at-fault may be held responsible for the bus accident:
1. Bus Companies
Some bus companies may send defective vehicles out on the road. For instance, these vehicles may be having faulty brakes, overused tires, and shaky steering columns. Other bus companies may hire unqualified drivers and maintenance personnel, or fail to train or supervise them. Additionally, the court may hold a bus company liable for the injuries of its passengers because of its failure to enforce adequate safety regulations.
2. Bus Maintenance Companies
Often, most bus companies contract independent maintenance companies to maintain their vehicles in good working condition. You can sue these maintenance companies if they acted negligently and caused the bus accident.
3. Government Entities
The court may hold the federal, state, county, or city government liable for causing the bus accident. This is especially in situations where a government-owned transit bus is involved in an accident that was caused by the bus driver’s negligence. This bus driver should be an employee of the government entity.
Furthermore, government entities can be held liable if the accident occurred in a place where there was a dangerous road condition. Governments have a duty to maintain roads and ensure that they are in good condition. If they were aware of a dangerous road condition within a specific area and they failed to repair it within a reasonable time, they will have to compensate all the victims who incurred injuries because of an accident caused by the poor road condition.
4. School Boards and School Districts
The court can hold a school board liable due to the negligent acts of its employee drivers under the doctrine of vicarious liability. Additionally, school boards are mandated to enforce adequate safety standards to protect children from being involved in bus accidents. Any school board can be held liable by the court if it failed to create and enforce reasonable safety guidelines that could have prevented the accident from happening.
5. Tour Operators and Affiliated Cruise Lines
The court might hold liable the drivers and owners of these buses if their negligent acts resulted in the accident. If a tour service offers a bus trip as part of the package, the service will have to pay damages to the passengers in instances when a crash occurs.
6. Bus Driver
Most bus accidents are usually caused by the negligence of their drivers. These drivers may violate traffic laws, fall asleep while at the wheel, or drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even if they are responsible for the injuries of the bus accident victims, their employers or insurance companies will have to compensate the injured parties.
7. Other Vehicle Drivers
Other vehicle drivers can also be held responsible for the bus accident if they were driving negligently and recklessly. As the plaintiff, you must prove that it is their negligent acts that resulted in the bus accident.
8. Manufacturer of the Bus and/or Its Parts
Bus manufacturers may send defective vehicles to the marketplace, subjecting their passengers to potential harm and unreasonable danger. As a result, they will be held liable for damages when an accident happens. Likewise, retailers and manufacturers of faulty bus parts will have to compensate any person who has been injured in an accident caused by the defective parts.
Most Common Causes of Bus Accidents in California
Since buses are heavily weighted, they are hard to maneuver when driving. If an unqualified person drives a bus, an accident can easily occur.
Note that the most crucial part of your personal injury claim process is for the court to ascertain the cause of the crash. Here are some of the most common causes of bus accidents in California:
1. Fatigue of the Bus Driver
A tired bus driver can lose focus or even fall asleep while driving. Any person who is suffering from insomnia, accumulated sleep deficit, or sleep apnea should not be behind the wheel. Furthermore, all bus companies should ensure that their drivers adhere to federal sleep and rest regulations.
2. Aggressive Driving
Driving a bus is challenging and extremely stressful. A bus driver who is stressed and overworked may drive recklessly, thus causing an accident. This is why federal hours-of-service regulations exist. Bus companies should make sure that their drivers observe these rules. Drivers are also mandated to keep tabs on their rest and work hours.
Bus drivers should not travel at an excessive or unsafe speed, regardless of the traffic and weather conditions. If they indulge in speeding, they may cause a devastating accident.
4. Poor Vehicle Conditions
Some bus companies may cut corners and force their drivers to operate defective vehicles. Others may sublet the bus maintenance and repair work to subcontractors who may end up doing a shoddy job. According to the provisions of federal law, bus companies should have vehicle maintenance logs. When an accident happens due to poor vehicle conditions, it is either the bus company or the bus maintenance company which will be held liable for damages.
Furthermore, a bus manufacturer may design a defective vehicle or a faulty bus part. If the plaintiff successfully demonstrates to the court that it is the defective bus/part that was the primary cause of the accident, the court will hold the manufacturer responsible for the accident.
5. Distracted Driving
Bus drivers should not utilize computers, cell phones, or any other electronic device while driving. Other types of distractions include drinking, eating, talking to passengers, or observing the GPS monitor. These distractions can increase the likelihood of an accident.
6. Driving Under the Influence
Drivers shouldn’t operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If they indulge in drunk driving, they may cause an accident. The maximum BAC limit for commercial drivers in California is 0.04%. All drivers of commercial, public service vehicles in California should adhere to this limit, lest they are prosecuted for driving under the influence.
If a drunken bus driver causes an accident, the court will hold the driver and his employer liable. Bus companies should check the driving and criminal history of their drivers before hiring them, to avoid being held responsible under California's Respondeat Superior laws.
Damages in Bus Accident Personal Injury Claims
Of course, there is no amount of money that can be enough to compensate you for all you have experienced after being involved in a bus accident. However, compensatory damages can cover both your economic and non-economic losses. Also, the court can award you punitive damages to punish the defendant for his bad conduct.
Economic damages include all the money you have spent, or you will have to spend in the future as a result of the bus accident. These economic damages may cover all your medical bills, lost wages, court costs and fees, and vehicle repair costs.
On the other hand, non-economic damages cover for any experience you have gone through because of the accident that cannot be valued monetarily. For example, they may include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment.
Can You File a Lawsuit if You Were Injured at a Bus Stop?
You may feel like you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time if you have been injured at a bus stop. However, any person who has been injured at a bus stop can still institute a personal injury claim to recover damages.
Negligent or reckless drivers usually cause bus stop accidents. As the victim, you can prove that the driver was negligent if he violated a particular traffic law. For instance, he may be speeding, driving under the influence, or running a red light.
Sometimes, the bus stop may be located in a dangerous place. For example, it may be too close to the street or in an area where many accidents have occurred in the past. A victim who has suffered injuries caused by a bus stop accident in a dangerous place may sue the government entity, which is in charge of the bus stop for compensation.
The Most Common Injuries in Bus Accidents
Bus accident injuries tend to be more complicated when compared to other motor vehicle accident injuries. In truck accidents or car accidents, various safety features can protect the people involved, such as airbags, crumple zones, seat belts, rollover protection, and bucket seats.
Bus passengers do not have these safety protections, thus making them more vulnerable to severe injuries when a crash occurs. These passengers may sit facing forward, sideways, or towards the rear. Some of them may even stand if the bus is crowded.
In most typical bus accidents, the passengers are thrown around inside the vehicle, and they may hit other seats, the floor, other passengers, windows, and bars. This may result in grievous injuries such as head injuries, loss of limbs, neck injuries, paralysis, back injuries, internal injuries, and broken bones. Besides the bus passengers, other victims of bus accidents include drivers and passengers in other motor vehicles crashed by buses, drivers of motorcycles, bicycles, scooters, and mopeds struck by buses, pedestrians who are accidentally hit by the buses, and passengers who are in the process of onboarding or alighting from buses.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits for Bus Accidents
Your spouse, child, or any other family member may be killed in a bus accident. As the surviving family member, you should institute a wrongful death claim to hold responsible the people who caused the accident.
The primary purpose of damages in a wrongful death lawsuit is to compensate the bereaved family members for their loss. These family members may be awarded damages to cover for funeral costs, loss of companionship, support, and affection, burial expenses, and financial losses to the family resulting from lost future earnings and income.
Choosing the Best Bus Accident Personal Injury Attorney for Your Case
There are many bus accident attorneys in California. Selecting the best among them can be quite tricky. Some attorneys may advertise themselves on billboards, while others don't. Some may have offices in high rise buildings, while others may prefer to work in small offices.
Personal injury attorneys come in all shapes and sizes. They may seem to be everywhere, and you can feel overwhelmed when you must choose one among them. Here are some tips to help you find the best bus accident personal injury attorney for your case:
- Select an attorney who has specialized in personal injury law exclusively
- Choose a lawyer who has a history of taking cases to trial if necessary
- Select an attorney with an excellent track record of high settlements and verdicts
- Find a lawyer who has enough resources to help you prove your claim
Find the Best California Bus Accident Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
At the Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we have specialized experience in handling bus accident cases in California. We help injured victims identify and obtain the damages they deserve. Call us today at 619-625-8707 for a free consultation.