People in Bradenton rely on buses to take them to work, school, other engagements, and even on long road trips. With so many different types of buses providing transport, drivers and riders face the risk of injury if they are involved in an accident. If you or your child have been injured in a Bradenton bus accident, the Bradenton bus accident lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA could help you understand the process of recovering compensation for your expenses and the impacts you injuries have had on your life. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
Different Types of Buses in Bradenton, Different Duties of Care
The duty of care is the legal obligation that the operators of transit lines, as well as the bus drivers and those who employ them, help ensure the safety of passengers. There are two types of bus carriers, and each type has a different duty of care. Here is a look at them.
Common carriers are those who offer transportation to the public.
Because their services are provided to the public, the operators of these carriers are required to meet the highest duty of care by:
- Ensuring that their drivers are properly licensed and trained.
- Monitoring the hours that the drivers are working, and ensuring that they are sober when working.
- Providing safe buses in which the passengers are not overcrowded, and ensuring there is no risk of injury from falling luggage or other hazards.
- Ensuring that the buses are properly maintained to avoid problems with the vehicle's components, such as the brakes or the tires.
- Providing prompt repairs to known hazards that could lead to accident and injury.
Private carriers only carry passengers under certain circumstances and are permitted to refuse service to the general public.
Some common types of private carriers include:
- School buses
- Church buses
- Tour buses
- Charter and coach buses
- Corporate shuttles
While private carriers do not have as high of a duty of care as common carriers do, operators are still expected to take prudent measures to help ensure the safety of passengers, including making sure drivers are properly licensed and trained and that the bus is in good repair.
Common Causes of Bradenton Bus Accidents
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—the federal agency that oversees some of the bus transport in the U.S.—school buses account for the highest number of fatal bus crashes in the nation at 40 percent. Transit buses account for around 35 percent of fatal bus crashes, and intercity buses account for around 12 percent. Around 234 people are killed each year in bus accidents, and many more are injured.
A bus accident can occur because of:
- Bus company negligence: As previously mentioned, transportation carriers are required to ensure that the drivers they hire are properly trained to handle the vehicle, road conditions, and other conditions of the job. Additionally, these companies are responsible for ensuring that the bus is properly maintained so that accidents are not caused by under-inflated tires, tire blowouts, brake failures, or other common maintenance issues.
- A distracted bus driver: Bus drivers are not immune to the distractions that create risks for any type of driver. There are three categories of driver distractions: 1) Manual distractions, which cause the driver to take his or her hands off of the wheel, such as eating, drinking, or adjusting the vehicle's controls or GPS; 2) Visual distractions, which cause the driver to take his or her eyes off of the road, such as external distractions including billboards, pedestrians, or construction zones, or unruly passengers inside the bus; and 3) Cognitive distractions, which draw the driver's mind off of the task of driving, such as conversing with passengers or daydreaming.
- A bus driver impaired by alcohol or drugs: While there are requirements for drug and alcohol testing for bus drivers both before employment and randomly throughout employment, some drivers choose to break the rules and work while impaired. Drugs and alcohol impairment can create deficits in the skills needed for safe driving, including the ability to maintain one's own travel lane, the ability to brake and steer effectively, to track moving targets (as needed for determining a gap in traffic), and to exercise good judgment.
- Blind spots: Blind spots are areas, generally on the rear sides of the vehicle, through which the driver can't see other vehicles. Instead of using the side or rearview mirrors, the driver must check these areas by looking over his or her shoulder. Large vehicles such as buses and commercial trucks have larger blind spots than other vehicle types. This includes a rather significant blind spot along the passenger side of the vehicle. Bus drivers are trained to position themselves to better see these areas and to not rely solely on their mirrors for surveillance.
- A speeding bus driver: Buses are large vehicles and require a greater distance to come to a safe stop than passenger cars. This is simply because it takes longer for the brakes to stop the forward motion of a larger amount of mass. Not only does speeding increase the time it takes to stop the vehicle, but also the effort it takes to maneuver a vehicle that is already difficult to maneuver as a result of its size. Additionally, speeding reduces the effectiveness of the vehicle's protective features, including the steel frame. Severe accidents can occur as a result.
- The age and experience of the driver: According to a study published in the Journal of Safety Research, the severity of an accident is increased dramatically based on the age and experience of the driver. Particularly young bus drivers (under the age of 25), lack training and real-world experience to deal with inclement weather, traffic, and construction zones. Drivers over the age of 55 have an 18.6 percent higher risk of causing a bus crash with light injuries, and are more than 52 percent more likely to crash and produce severe incapacitating injuries.
- Another motorist: Not all bus accidents are the fault of the bus driver. Often, other motorists on the roadway are to blame and can cause an accident due to alcohol or drug impairment, distraction, fatigue, failure to yield, following too closely, and other risky driving behaviors. Because of the large size of the bus, it is most often individuals in other cars who experience the worst injuries in accidents with buses. For example, a driver in Florida was killed after he rear-ended a school bus that had stopped to let a pedestrian cross. The accident also caused minor injuries to ten of the 48 students who were on the bus at the time of the accident.
- Inclement weather: While no one is to blame when the weather turns bad, inclement weather poses hazards such as wet and slippery roads as well as a lack of visibility. Bus drivers are required to have training in how to drive in such conditions, and the company that hires them must make sure this training is received. Failing to drive properly in bad weather can result in liability for the bus company.
- Bus fires: Buses are particularly prone to fires that occur in a couple of ways. More than half of all bus fires begin in the engine compartment in buses where this area has been allowed to become dirty with oil and grease. The oil and grease can catch on fire due to a small spark or even the heat from the engine during travel. The other common place for bus fires to occur is in under-deflated tires. Tires that are not properly inflated will still hold their shape; but when the tires are used with low pressure, it allows the heat to build up quickly. Bus fires carry a high risk of injuries and fatalities as passengers can become trapped or be rendered unconscious from the fumes and can't escape.
- Urban locations: Urban locations are more difficult for bus drivers to maneuver as they often feature narrow, crowded streets with little room to turn or turn around. Bus drivers must be properly trained to handle the conditions of the road and to understand techniques for maneuvering in tight spaces to prevent the risk of injury to other motorists, pedestrians, and property in the area.
Common Injuries Suffered in Bradenton Bus Accidents
Most buses do not provide seat belts for passengers. The reasons for this, include:
- A lack of federal requirements for seat belts in vehicles over 10,000 pounds
- The force of the crash generally being less for passengers inside of a large vehicle such as a bus
- The need to evacuate quickly in accidents involving a fire on the bus
- The difficulty that drivers have in ensuring that everyone is properly buckled.
That said, the lack of seat belts in particularly severe crashes results in an increased likelihood of severe injuries caused by someone being tossed around the bus or even ejected from it.
Some common injuries suffered in bus accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Severe burns
- Cuts and bruises
- Fractured bones
- Internal injuries
Recovering Damages After a Bradenton Bus Accident
If you were injured in a bus accident in Bradenton, you could pursue the recovery of damages through a Bradenton bus accident lawsuit to seek compensation from liable parties.
Liability in bus accidents can be proven by establishing the following elements:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care depends on the at-fault party's role in the accident. For example, the duty of care that a bus driver would have includes operating the bus safely and legally. This duty is similar to that of other motorists on the roadway. The duty of care owed to passengers by a bus company would be to ensure that the drivers are properly trained, and the bus is regularly maintained and free from hazards that could cause injuries to passengers.
- There was a breach in this duty of care. The breach refers to the actions that the at-fault party took that were contrary to the duty of care that was owed, such as risky driving behaviors on the part of the driver or other motorists, or a failure to properly train drivers or to provide adequate vehicle maintenance by the bus company.
- This breach resulted in the accident that caused your injuries.
Florida law allows accident victims to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to the out-of-pocket expenses that one encounters as the result of an injury.
Some economic damages you may claim include:
- Medical expenses, including emergency treatment at the scene of the accident or in the emergency department, transport to the hospital, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, surgical and physician services, prescription medication, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.
- Lost income due to being too injured to work or having to miss work to attend injury-related medical appointments.
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injuries result in a permanent disability that renders you unable to work.
Non-economic damages refer to the impacts that your injury has had on your life, such as:
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life.
If you plan to seek compensation through a Bradenton bus accident lawsuit, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. The statute of limitations for this type of case is generally four years from when the accident occurred. However, if your accident involves liability on the part of a governmental agency that operates the bus, the window for filing the claim is often much shorter. Your attorney can advise you on how much time is needed to file the claim once he or she determines all sources of liability based on the facts of your case.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bradenton Bus Accidents
How common are Bradenton bus accidents?
Unfortunately, accidents in Florida involving buses are quite common, with more than 7,500 occurring each year. Of those accidents, around two dozen will produce incapacitating injuries, more than 50 will result in non-incapacitating injuries, and hundreds will produce possible injuries.
How are Bradenton bus accidents different from other types of motor vehicle accidents?
Buses can carry a large number of passengers at a time. Because of this, when an accident occurs, there is a higher likelihood that several people will suffer injuries and go on to file Bradenton bus accident claims. Because these claims will generally be paid out through a single source—the at-fault party's insurance policy—this type of case can become quite complex, as it must be ensured that there is enough money to compensate everyone. Additionally, bus accidents often require a more thorough investigation of the facts, including examining personnel and vehicle safety records to determine who is liable.
Are buses really the safest vehicles on Bradenton's roads?
Because of their large size, the high visibility of these vehicles, flashing lights to alert drivers when the bus is stopping, and the regulations that bus companies and drivers are required to meet, buses are often safer than other vehicles. School buses, in particular, have been outfitted with safety features such as “compartmentalization”—which is placing tall-backed, heavily padded seats close together so that, in the event of an accident, a person is more likely to hit the padding of the seat in front of them than to fly through the windshield or collide with other people or objects inside the bus.
Can there be more than one liable party in my Bradenton bus accident case?
Yes. Often, traffic-related crashes are not solely the fault of one driver's actions, but a combination of many actions.
This is particularly true with accidents that involve many potentially liable parties, such as:
- The bus company or governmental agency operating a public transportation service.
- The bus driver.
- Other drivers on the roadway.
- Pedestrians or bicyclists who choose to enter the path of the bus.
- In some cases, the agency responsible for maintaining the roadway.
My loved one died in a Bradenton bus accident. Is there compensation available for me?
If your loved one died in a bus accident, you may pursue compensation for your loss through a wrongful death claim. Like personal injury claims, wrongful death lawsuits are legal claims filed in civil court that seek to prove that someone was liable. These cases exist to offer a potential pathway for family members to pursue compensation for the accident that resulted in the death of their loved one, and to compensate the family members for the losses they have incurred as a result.
Unlike a personal injury claim, wrongful death claims must generally be filed within two years after the death has occurred, or an even shorter amount of time if the claim is being made against a governmental agency.
Florida law requires that this type of claim be filed by a personal representative of the estate on behalf of the family. The family members who are eligible to benefit from a wrongful death lawsuit include the deceased person's spouse, children, parents, and any other blood or adopted relative who was at least partially dependent on the support and services of the deceased.
Some of the damages that can be claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- The value of support and services that the deceased person provided to each surviving family member.
- The loss of companionship, protection, and guidance was provided to family members.
- Mental and emotional pain suffered due to the loss of a child.
- Medical expenses from the treatment of the deceased person's final injuries that were paid directly by a surviving family member or by the estate.
- Lost wages, benefits, and other earnings that the deceased person would have reasonably been expected to acquire if he or she had lived.
- Lost prospective net accumulations for the estate that the deceased person would have likely built.
Is there compensation available if a Bradenton bus accident injured a passenger in another vehicle?
Yes. Regardless of fault, your personal injury protection (PIP) policy that you were required to purchase to register your car in Florida would cover a portion of lost wages and medical expenses, up to the limit of the policy, for injuries suffered in a bus accident. The passenger of another vehicle who is injured in an accident caused by a bus driver can file a claim against the bus driver or bus company for serious injuries that exceed the policy limit of his or her PIP.
How can bus drivers and companies prevent bus accidents?
Everyone on the roadway has the responsibility to prevent bus accidents:
- Bus companies. Bus companies can prevent bus accidents by ensuring that they thoroughly vet the drivers they hire, checking driving records, licensure, and adequate training for the position. Additionally, they can continue to ensure that the driver remains safe, through random drug testing and disciplinary measures for unsafe driving. Bus companies are also required to ensure that the vehicles their drivers are transporting passengers in are regularly maintained, and that hazards are promptly mitigated.
- Bus drivers. Bus drivers can prevent bus accidents by ensuring that they have the training needed to do their job safely, by staying sober, paying attention, and driving in accordance with the law. They should know how to handle adverse conditions such as high traffic areas, congested streets, blind spots, and inclement weather.
- Other drivers. Other drivers have a tremendous part to play in helping prevent bus accidents, by driving carefully and slowly in school zones and making sure to stop for buses when their lights are flashing red and their stop sign arm is extended. They can also avoid accidents by keeping t their own distractions at a minimum and by avoiding alcohol impairment, fatigue, and other hazards that could result in an accident.
- Parents. Parents also have a role in bus safety and teaching their children that bus stops are never a safe place to run and play. They should teach their children how to safely get on and off the bus, to look both ways before crossing the street, and to use caution to avoid being in the bus's blind spot.
The Bradenton bus company's insurance provider has already offered me a settlement, Should I accept it?
Speak with an attorney before accepting a settlement offer. Insurance companies are in the business of making money. One of the ways they may do this is by getting the victims of their insured's actions to agree to a quick settlement. These settlements might be lower than what the victim's case is worth. Because victims often face mounting expenses, they may want to take the settlement as an easy resolution to the case. However, once you agree to a settlement, you cannot go back and ask for more money if the settlement does not cover your expenses.
When an attorney values a victim's bus accident case, he or she considers:
- The severity of the injury and the pain involved in the treatment of that injury. More severe injuries generally result in higher medical expenses and bigger impacts on the person's daily life.
- The victim's age and overall health at the time of the accident. This includes evaluating any pre-existing conditions that the defendant's attorneys can argue are the source of the pain. Age is a factor, as someone in the middle of a career would likely recover more in lost income and future earning capacity than a retired person who no longer earns an income.
- The amount of insurance the liable parties in the case have. Insurance is one of the most important considerations when valuing the case because it is how most Bradenton bus accident settlements and awards are paid. While it is possible to sue an uninsured person and even obtain a judgment against that person, collecting an award would likely be difficult as they may not have the financial means to pay injury expenses out-of-pocket.
If I file a Bradenton bus accident claim, will I have to go to court?
Not necessarily. In fact, because the vast majority of Bradenton bus accident cases resolve before they ever reach the courtroom, it is more likely that your case will be settled outside of court than in it. However, it can be important to seek the guidance and assistance of an attorney who is equally comfortable fighting for your right for compensation through a settlement or litigation, so you have that option if the at-fault party's insurance provider fails to offer a fair settlement.
Is the compensation received in a Bradenton bus accident settlement taxable?
The money you receive as the result of a Bradenton bus accident settlement or award is not considered income and is, therefore, not taxable. However, there are some exceptions. If you claimed your medical expenses as an itemized deduction before you received the award, you must include the amount you deducted as income for the tax year in which you received the award.
Additionally, if you were awarded punitive damages as a result of the defendant's particularly egregious behavior, you must include that portion of the settlement or award as income as these damages relate only to the defendant's behavior and not to the injuries and expenses you have incurred.
Do I need an attorney for my Bradenton bus accident case? What if I cannot afford one?
Having an attorney with experience in bus accidents can be crucial to the outcome of a case.
Your attorney could provide these services for you:
- Guidance as to your legal options based on the facts of your case.
- A determination of all sources of liability and all insurance resources that can be used to compensate you.
- The establishment of a value to your case—based on the expenses you have faced as a result of your injuries, those you will likely face in the future, and the profound impacts that your injury has had on your daily life.
- Timely filing of all court-required paperwork in the proper jurisdiction.
- Negotiation with the at-fault party's insurance adjuster in an attempt to garner a settlement offer on your behalf.
- The collection and organization of evidence and witness testimony that will help prove your case.
- Attendance and representation of your case at all court-ordered pretrial conferences and hearings.
- In lieu of a fair settlement offer, litigation of your case. This would include the delivery of opening and closing statements, the presentation of evidence, and any examination of witnesses.
- Assistance in collecting your award or settlement.
Call Our Bradenton Bus Accident Attorneys Now
Our Bradenton personal injury attorneys make sure that their services are available to anyone who needs them, regardless of financial status, by providing two special services: free case evaluations and a contingent fee payment scheme. The free case evaluation is the opportunity for an individual to learn more about the process of recovering damages and to determine if the attorney they are meeting with is the one they wish to hire to handle their case. The injured person does not pay for his or her attorney's services upfront.
Let the Bradenton bus accident lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA help you make sense of the legal process of pursuing compensation for your bus accident injuries. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) or by contacting us online.
6703 14th Street West Suite 207
Bradenton, FL 34207
Phone: (941) 961-8841
What Our Clients Have to Say:
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