Many of us view buses as one of the safest means of transportation available. They’re large, sturdy, and carefully designed with passenger safety in mind—but what happens when we’re on the other end of an accident involving a sizable bus? The average commuter doesn’t have the time to consider whether their vehicle or person could stand up to a crash with a bus.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a Florida bus accident, you’ve likely been left with more questions than answers. Can you receive compensation for your medical bills, mental anguish, and any damage done to your vehicle? What sort of information can you use to prove the bus driver or company’s liability in court? Which steps should you take to protect yourself and your rights and pursue damages?
Fortunately, the experienced Florida Bus Accident Lawyer the Dolman Law Group can help point you in the direction of answers. Navigating the time after any vehicle accident can be difficult and confusing—but with support from a compassionate legal professional, the process becomes much easier.
Injured in a Bus Accident? You Aren’t Alone
Experiencing a bus accident and trying to maintain the same quality of life after the event can be an alienating and upsetting experience for victims. Physical and emotional struggles often leave individuals involved in crashes feeling as though they’re alone in their suffering—but there’s no need for bus accident victims to feel isolated or unsupported as they return to their normal lives.
Florida has one of the largest numbers of registered buses of any state nationwide. Only three states boast registration numbers higher than Florida’s. It’s no wonder, then, that bus accidents are on the rise. Those who suffer in these traumatic events should never feel concern that their experience positions them as an outcast. With so many buses flooding Florida roadways, accidents are bound to happen.
2017 saw a countrywide increase of 9 percent in fatal bush crashes over previous years. More and more individuals have found themselves victims of bus and other large vehicle accidents. With a greater number of drivers falling victim to catastrophic bus accidents over time, they should understand a qualified lawyer’s ability to assist them in seeking compensation.
The Importance of Legal Counsel
If you were in a bus accident, you likely already know that insurance companies are more than willing to leap into the fray and fight hard to keep you from going to court. Insurance companies representing opposing or liable parties in your crash may begin trying to contact you almost immediately following the incident. Agents often try to diminish the credibility of your claims and offer compensation far less than what you deserve.
This is why it’s essential to find a lawyer you can trust and look to for advice. Teaming up with an experienced legal professional will grant you some leverage when it comes time to deal with insurance companies. You’ll also have the benefit of invaluable advice—you may not know who to speak to or what sorts of deals to accept, but your attorney will.
A lawyer will also help you prepare your case, track and sort evidence, and offer support throughout the legal process. You and your loved ones are forced to endure enough in the time following a bus accident—why pile responsibilities on yourself? You should be able to look to a trustworthy, motivated attorney to represent your best interests and grant critical advice.
Types of Bus Accidents
The average driver will encounter a variety of buses as they drive their vehicles day-to-day. Regardless of which type of bus becomes involved in an accident, these large vehicles have the potential to cause devastating damage to normal vehicles and human life. Victims may find themselves experiencing crashes with these buses:
- School buses: 40 percent of buses involved in fatal crashes across the nation from 2007 to 2017
- Transit buses 35 percent of buses involved in fatal crashes across the nation from 2007 to 2017
- Intercity buses: 13 percent of buses involved in fatal crashes across the nation from 2007 to 2017
Any type of bus harbors the power necessary to destroy the average commuter vehicle. When other crash factors such as speed, load, and the variety of crashes are considered, it’s easy to see the potential risk to human life in the event of a bus accident.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a bus accident, the damages and injuries you sustained were likely dependent on the type of crash that occurred. Bus accidents may play out in any number of ways, but some of the most common include rollovers and tip-overs. During these accidents, a bus’ size and design contribute to rolling or tipping the vehicle over. Some buses simply roll or tip of their own accord in certain conditions or following certain driving maneuvers. In other cases, a bus may strike or be struck by an object or another vehicle and roll or tip as a result.
Common Causes of Bus Accidents
Buses and bus drivers are not immune to the same problems that cause typical motorway crashes. Factors that increase the likelihood of passenger vehicle accidents also contribute to a greater chance of bus accident occurring. Issues like fatigued or untrained drivers or poor bus conditions play a part in increasing the risk of a bus accident occurring.
Remember that drivers are not always at the root of such crashes. Vehicular accidents occur for myriad reasons—including the unrealistic expectations of the bus company—and may be worsened by weather and road conditions or other factors. In some cases, even pedestrians and otherwise uninvolved motorists may be at fault.
Understanding the cause of your bus accident will offer insight into the bus driver and bus company’s liability in the crash. Determining which factors influenced the situation and who receives compensation following the crash involves a thorough investigation.
Determining Who Is at Fault in a Bus Accident
As mentioned previously, numerous parties may be found at fault in the event of a bus accident. Understanding who can be held liable for your accident is a key component of determining your case’s likelihood to stand up in court. If you partner with an attorney from the Dolman Law Group, one of our foremost concerns will center around establishing what happened during the crash and who was at fault for the accident.
The following parties may be held liable for your bus accident:
- The bus driver
- Distracted, fatigued, or intoxicated drivers
- Drivers exercising poor judgment
- Failure to follow traffic regulations
- The bus company
- Failure to provide proper vehicle maintenance
- Failure to provide sufficient driver training
- The bus manufacturer
- Use of defective parts
- Failure to fully test the vehicle before sale
- A reckless or negligent driver
- Inciting bus driver to drive dangerously or veer off of the road
- Driving into a bus
Bus accidents do tend to present one unique challenge. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to determine whether the bus driver or the bus company should be considered liable when your day in court comes. Many circumstances see bus companies being held liable even when driver negligence is at the root of a crash. Our knowledgeable and professional team will be able to help guide you through the complex process of determining liability.
What if My Bus Accident Involved a Government Vehicle?
Many buses on roadways today are owned, operated, or maintained by the government in some way. Plaintiffs must understand that this can have a significant bearing on court outcomes and options for compensation. The government is protected from liability in such cases and, occasionally, this can bar victims’ options for recovery.
The fortunate news for victims is that Florida has moved to shift these rules (to an extent). Sovereign immunity, which is what helps protect the government from liability, has been waived by the state in certain circumstances. Florida is willing to accept liability for claims as high as $200,000. If your damages amount to more than this amount, you must work closely with a lawyer to determine which defendants to name in court.
What Injuries Can a Bus Accident Cause?
Large vehicles like buses tend to dwarf most cars and other objects on the road. Getting into a collision with a bus of any variety opens up much more potential for damage than the average car crash. Most bus accidents involving passenger vehicles tend to end unfavorably for the parties in the smaller vehicle. In many cases, survivors are considered fortunate to escape with their lives.
You may have sustained many injuries due to your bus accident. The potential for harm ranges from lacerations and broken bones all the way to catastrophic injuries and even death. A handful of examples of such injuries include:
- Brain damage
- Separated joints
- Spinal cord injuries
Keep in mind that you can and should seek compensation for any injuries you receive as a result of the collision. Victims can claim damages to cover their medical costs, lost wages, and mental anguish that accumulate due to their injuries.
Damages: Victims’ Options in the Pursuit of Compensation
If you’ve been involved in a bus accident, you have every right to pursue compensation for a variety of damages. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to walk away from the crash without sustaining some sort of damage—whether it’s to your person, your vehicle, or any of your other belongings.
If your case either settles or wins in court, you could receive funds to cover these and other financial losses:
- Medical expenses
- Medical transport, on-scene services; past, present, and future doctor’s visits or hospitalizations due to the bus accident; long-term care
- Loss of wages
- Lost wages or other workplace benefits due to missing work as a result of the bus accident
- Diminished earning capacity
- Wage loss in the event of decreased hours, a career change to a lower-paying job, or retirement caused by the bus accident
- Pain and suffering
- Physical or emotional pain endured after the crash
- Loss of consortium
- Uninjured spouses of victims may pursue damages for the loss of marital benefits, sexual relations, etc.
- Wrongful death
- Funeral costs, burial expenses, loss of services
The Importance of Acting Quickly
Should you elect to fight for compensation following your bus accident, it’s a good rule of thumb to take action as quickly as possible. You’ll be able to provide a legal professional with greater detail if you need to remember your accident; and, if you’re losing money as a result of the bus accident, you’ll have a chance to receive compensation before costs become crippling.
While moving to partner with an attorney as soon as possible after a bus accident is ideal, there’s no hard and fast rule about when you should approach a firm. Victims actually have quite some time following a bus accident to take action and begin working toward court. Florida Statute 95.11 states that plaintiffs have four years to act following the date of the crash.
If victims fail to step forward during the four-year time period, they risk a court’s refusal to hear their case. Most insurance companies also cease settlement negotiations after these years have passed. Trepidation about the legal process often results in plaintiffs waiting to seek compensation until some time after their accident and, while that option is well within your rights, you should keep the four-year deadline at the back of your mind to avoid losing your right to compensation entirely.
Florida Bus Accident FAQ
Florida’s transportation systems accommodate a wide range of people, and buses are an important part of the public transport system. They provide transportation for commuters, tourists, school children, and more. Local and regional bus drivers help provide these important services but, like other drivers, they sometimes make mistakes. When a bus crash happens, other vehicle drivers and pedestrians often pay the price.
Bus crashes don’t happen very often. But when they do, a bus’s weight and mass can cause extensive damage and serious injuries. At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman, we’ve seen how a serious bus accident changes an injured person’s life. That’s why we’ve created our Florida Bus Accident FAQ. We want to help you understand your legal rights when a bus accident occurs.
How many people sustain injuries in Florida bus accidents?
When a bus accident occurs, it generally involves large numbers of people. Fortunately, most bus passengers avoid injury. A bus’s size and mass protect bus passengers. When an accident occurs, bus interiors provide a cushion of space that minimizes the chances of passenger injury—though they might not come equipped with airbags and seatbelts.
Other vehicle occupants and pedestrians aren’t always so lucky. Florida’s Crash Facts reveal that 8,173 people were in bus-related accidents in one recent year.
No bus-related fatalities occurred in Florida that year, but Crash Facts document these injuries:
- Incapacitating injuries: 45 passengers, 24 drivers.
- Non-incapacitating injuries: 263 passengers, 54 drivers.
- Possible injuries: 1,367 passengers, 210 drivers.
- No injuries: 29,647 passengers, 7,885 drivers.
How many bus crashes occur nationwide?
The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration tracks bus and truck accidents nationwide.
Their Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts publication contains these statistics:
- Total fatalities in bus-involved crashes: 262.
- Bus occupant fatalities: 43.
- Buses involved in injury crashes: 15,000.
- Persons injured in bus crashes: 27,000.
- Bus crashes with property damage only: 50,000.
Are certain bus drivers involved in Florida bus accidents more frequently?
The FMCSA documents age and sex characteristics for bus drivers involved in fatal accidents.
The statistics show that the following categories of drivers were involved in fatal accidents nationwide:
- Male drivers aged 56 to 65 were involved in 48 fatal bus accidents.
- Male drivers aged 46 to 55 were involved in 38 fatal bus accidents.
- Female drivers aged 46 to 55 were involved in 31 fatal accidents.
- Male drivers were involved in a total of 150 fatal accidents.
- Female drivers were involved in a total of 79 fatal accidents.
The report doesn’t document the total number of drivers in either age or sex category.
How many people sustain injuries due to Florida school bus accidents?
Florida doesn’t provide statistics for school bus-related accidents. The NHTSA provides national statistics under the category, School Transportation-Related Crashes. This category includes traditional school buses and “non-school buses” that operate as school buses.
Ten years of national school bus transportation statistics reveal these casualty numbers:
- An average of 121 people died each year in school transportation-related accidents from 2009 to 2018.
- Most of those who sustained fatal injuries were pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles.
- Over the studied 10-year period, 249 school-aged children sustained fatal injuries in school transportation-related accidents: 52 bus occupants, 92 other-vehicle occupants, 100 pedestrians, 4 pedalcyclists, and 1 “non-occupant.”
- 48 percent of the school-age pedestrians killed were struck by school buses or vehicles being used as school buses.
- 66 passengers and 55 drivers sustained fatal injuries while they were occupants of school vehicles.
- 52 percent of the fatally-injured school-aged children were between 5 and 10 years old.
Is it safe for children to travel on Florida school buses?
School buses are subject to stringent safety regulations. The NHTSA School Bus Safety Page states that children who travel to and from school by bus are 70 times more likely to arrive safely than if they rode in a car. They also state that the greatest danger for children occurs when they approach or exit a bus.
All buses are heavier than private passenger vehicles. When a crash occurs, a bus distributes the force in a way that minimizes passenger injuries. School bus safety relies on a concept called “compartmentalization,” so child bus passengers don’t require seat belts. They travel in strong, closely-spaced seats with energy-absorbing backs.
How many buses operate in Florida?
As of September 2020, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department recorded 58,901 buses registered in the state. The “bus” definition applies to any “Motor Vehicle with seating for transporting nine or more persons, including the driver.” Daily bus traffic also includes out-of-state tour buses that are registered in other states.
Why do people ride buses in Florida?
The American Public Transportation Association’s Public Transportation Fact Book provides a national public transportation analysis. The organization determined that bus trips make up 47 percent of the 55.8 billion annual public transportation miles traveled nationwide.
Buses are popular because they’re a green transportation option—17.7 percent of buses are hybrid models that save fuel and reduce greenhouse gases. When passengers ride buses, this keeps private passenger vehicles off the road, which helps reduce traffic fatality rates.
Modern buses provide amenities geared toward rider convenience and comfort, including:
- 79 percent of buses have security cameras.
- 77 percent have exterior bike racks.
- 78 percent have automated bus stop announcements.
- 99 percent of buses are handicap accessible. In 1993 only 51 percent of buses provided accessibility.
Despite positive public transportation improvements nationwide, Florida residents have scaled back on using public transportation in recent years. A Florida Department of Transportation report on ridership trends explains the primary reasons. With ride-sharing, vehicle-sharing, and other transportation options, riders see buses as inconvenient.
How do most Florida bus accidents occur?
In bus-related accidents involving one or more vehicles, a front-end impact was often the initial harmful event. Rear-end impacts are the second most frequent harmful event in accidents.
Who handles the claim if a Florida bus crashes into my car?
From a claim handling standpoint, an accident with a bus is often no different from an accident with any other vehicle. Usually, a commercial insurance company investigates the bus crash to determine liability. They pay your claim if they decide the bus operator’s negligent driving caused the damage. Some transport companies self-insure their vehicles. Self-insured companies pay claims out of their own financial resources, but they often have an independent service conduct their investigations.
Will the Florida bus company’s insurer pay for my vehicle damage and medical bills?
A negligent driver’s insurer should pay for your vehicle damage. You must report your accident and submit your medical bills to your own auto insurance carrier. As a Florida driver, you are legally required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. PIP coverage pays your medical expenses regardless of who caused an accident. To ensure coverage for your medical bills, the PIP statute requires that you begin treatment within 14 days of the accident.
Your PIP coverage pays these benefits:
- 80 percent of your medical bills.
- 60 percent or your lost income.
- Expenses for services you must pay for rather than perform yourself due to your injuries, such as laundry or house cleaning.
- A $5,000 death benefit.
Am I entitled to a settlement in my Florida bus accident case?
In Florida, you can make a general damages claim or file a bus accident lawsuit against a negligent driver, but only under certain circumstances. Your injury must meet or exceed one of the PIP tort thresholds as defined by Florida Statutes, §627.737.
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
If your injuries meet one of these thresholds, you have a legal right to file a lawsuit against a negligent bus driver.
How do I file a claim for my Florida bus accident injuries?
Once you meet one of the above-described tort thresholds, you have a legal right to seek a settlement for non-economic or general damages. You must present your claim for damages to the bus driver’s liability carrier. Before you proceed on your own, you should consider consulting with a legal representative.
The bus driver’s insurer might offer you a settlement. Before they make any offers, you must provide medical documentation that proves your injury complies with statutory tort thresholds. You must also prove that the bus driver is legally responsible for your damages. You may have other legal hurdles to overcome.
What kinds of injury-related damages can I recover from a negligent Florida bus driver?
When you make a claim or file a lawsuit against a negligent bus driver you seek to recover non-economic or general damages. These include damages that are meant to compensate you for your emotional and psychological losses as a result of the accident. The person evaluating your claim considers how the injuries have affected you and changed your life and lifestyle. They consider permanent impairments and functional losses.
Non-economic or general damages often include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Anxiety and emotional issues;
- Psychological issues;
- Diminished spousal and family relationships;
- Loss of bodily functions;
- Scarring and disfigurement; and
- Permanent disabilities.
How much time do I have to file a claim against a negligent Florida bus driver?
In Florida, you have four years from the date of your injury to make a negligence claim against a responsible driver. You must either settle your claim or file a lawsuit before this statute of limitations expires. If you fail to act in time, you lose the right to make a claim.
Several situations make the statute of limitations a bit more complicated.
- A decedent’s family or estate has only 2 years to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- When an injured person is incapacitated, judged incapacitated, or a minor, this suspends the statute of limitations for up to seven years.
- If a legally liable person lives in another state, avoids a process server’s attempts to serve the summons for the lawsuit, or files bankruptcy, it often affects the statute of limitations.
- If an injured person is unaware that an accident caused their injuries, the court considers applying a statute of limitations that allows their claim.
How much money will I get for my Florida bus accident injuries?
There is no simple answer to this question. Each accident and injury is different. Even if you have the same injury as another person, your claim’s value depends on how your injury affects you. In evaluating your claim, an insurance company, judge, or jury looks at your medical bills, personal circumstances, income, family, and many other factors that are unique only to you. In the end, the settlement also depends on what the other party is willing to offer, what you’re willing to accept, and how hard you’re willing to push for a higher settlement.
Can I file a lawsuit against the Florida bus company if I was working at the time of the accident?
In Florida, you can file a claim against a bus company if a driver injures you while you’re working, although there are some restrictions. You can’t file a claim if the bus driver is your employer, a coworker, or someone who could meet the legal definition of an employer or coworker. If any of these circumstances apply, Florida Workers’ Compensation benefits are your only recovery option.
Do I need an attorney to handle my Florida bus accident claim?
You will have a better chance of achieving the settlement outcome you desire when our bus accident lawyers represent you. Injury claims can be really complicated. They require dealing with seasoned insurance claim handlers or corporate representatives for self-insured companies. A bus accident attorney understands the legal issues and knows how to properly evaluate and negotiate an injury claim. And an attorney can file a lawsuit if you choose that alternative.
When you meet with an attorney for a free initial consultation, you don’t have to commit right away. You simply talk about your accident and learn more about your legal options. You get to decide if and when you want to pursue a claim against the person who caused your injuries.
Contact the experienced attorney team at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman today to schedule your free consultation.
Partner With the Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman After a Bus Crash
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or you can write to us using our online contact page.
Our firms have assessed, settled, and litigated thousands of unique cases. If you were in an auto accident involving a bus, or have further questions regarding personal injury claims in Florida, our experienced personal injury attorneys can help you understand your options and develop the best path for moving forward.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756