In 2019, nearly 200 school, intercity, and transit buses were involved in serious accidents. However, data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shows that injuries and fatalities from bus crashes are generally declining.
Still, bus accidents occur more frequently than they should. Whether you were an occupant on a bus, another motorist, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian, you need to know your rights and what legal claims you can make should an accident happen. Keep reading as we explore the complex issue of liability in bus crash claims.
Bus Accident Laws
Bus accident laws are part of common carrier laws. This is because buses offer transportation as a business. A common carrier is a person or company that transports people, goods, or services.
The carrier charges an expense and offers its services to the public under a government license. The cost represents a legal responsibility for common carriers to show more care to the public than non-commercial drivers. Carriers can be private establishments or public agencies. Bus accident claims can include the following vehicles:
- Charter and tour buses
- Intercity buses
- Metro buses
- Party buses
- Passenger vans
- Regional buses (i.e., Greyhound)
- School buses
- Shuttle buses
- Sleeper motorcoaches
If you want to make a personal injury claim against a public agency, there are specific ways to do so. You’ll need the assistance of a lawyer to best make your case. Further, common carrier laws exist at the federal, state, and local levels. Your attorney will assess the details of the crash to see which laws to appeal to.
In a bus accident, there can be several parties at fault. But, the investigation will start with identifying the driver’s actions leading up to and during the crash. Some bus drivers engage in careless and dangerous acts that put others at risk.
Negligent actions are more dangerous when driving a bus because buses are large passenger vehicles and lack the safety features that standard motor vehicles have. Examples of negligent driving include:
- Aggressive driving
- Distracted or fatigued driving
- Driving under the influence
- Not using caution when changing lanes or turning
- Running red lights and stop signs
Although the law holds bus drivers to a higher standard to keep riders and other motorists safe, they face pressure to move passengers as quickly as possible. This is why some drivers engage in reckless or negligent driving.
Determining Liability for Bus Crashes
Your lawyer’s investigation needs to go beyond the driver to establish liability. Though the driver is responsible for safely operating the bus, negligence from other parties could impact the crash.
For instance, poor bus maintenance, a manufacturing error, or inadequate driver training can all contribute to a bus crash. A thorough investigation may point to wrongdoing on the part of:
- A bus company
- A government agency
- A school district
- A vehicle and parts manufacturer
While it’s possible to file a claim solely against the driver, you may also need to file a lawsuit against another party, depending on the circumstances of the crash. For example, the bus company can be held responsible for the crash caused by its own employees, due to many reasons, like inadequate training. How the lawsuit proceeds will depend on if the bus company is privately owned or owned by a government agency.
Private vs. Public Ownership
If the bus company is privately-owned, the claims process is the same as ordinary negligence and personal injury procedures. Regardless, having an attorney on your side will help you get the compensation you deserve in regular court proceedings.
However, the legal process is accelerated if a government agency owns the bus company. There are special procedural requirements to file a claim and a limit on the amount of compensation available.
Furthermore, if the bus company employees are government employees, the law may protect them under sovereign immunity. This law gives agencies some immunity from lawsuits. You can still sue the bus company, but you’ll need advice from a lawyer on how to proceed with your case to get the best possible outcome.
If you suffered from a bus crash, a personal injury lawsuit is one of the best ways to get compensation for damages. Damages can include physical injuries, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
When bus crashes occur, the bus company will investigate the accident. However, they may not tell you the details of the investigation. Hiring a personal injury lawyer ensures you remain informed of the bus company’s investigation details. As mentioned, your lawyer will also conduct their own investigation into what occurred to help your case further.
Can You Get Compensation Without Filing a Claim?
Bus crashes are different from other accidents because they involve many more people.
An insurance company agent usually reaches out to you after a crash to collect information about your injury. Then, based on the circumstances of the crash, they may make you a financial offer to settle your claims.
You can decide to take the money, but you won’t be able to bring another personal injury claim against the bus company. If you feel the offer is too low for your injuries, you can reject the claim and file your own lawsuit.
Having an attorney help you decide whether to accept the settlement or not is especially important. Your attorney will know how much your case is actually worth and share their professional opinion to settle or proceed with a lawsuit to obtain full damages.
Experienced Bus Crash Lawyers
Unfortunately, bus crashes still account for many injuries and fatalities each year. If you’re involved in a bus crash, you want to hire a lawyer as soon as possible. It could be the difference between receiving or not receiving compensation.
Contact Alpha Accident Lawyers to speak with the top legal team and learn how we can help you with your personal injury claim.