If you’ve been involved in a bus accident, you probably have a lot of questions, and you may not know where to find answers. Typically, bus accidents are less catastrophic than car accidents due to the distribution of force over a wider area—at least if you’re in the bus. Often, buses are large enough to absorb the force of a car or other small vehicle without sustaining much damage. Other vehicles, however, aren’t as lucky. While bus passengers tend to be better protected than those in a car or other passenger vehicle in the event of an accident, injuries still occur. Have you or a loved one been involved in a bus accident? Do you have questions regarding how to seek compensation, who may be held responsible, and other important issues? Below we discuss some of the most common questions that individuals involved in bus accidents have, and we provide answers to those questions.
Are buses dangerous?
Buses are common methods of public transportation in many cities. Even in areas where public transportation isn’t common, school buses transport hundreds or thousands of children to school every single weekday. Many buses lack seat belts or other restraints intended to help keep passengers safe in the event of a crash, and buses often end up filled beyond their capacity. Are they safe? The simple answer is, yes. While any child death is significant, only around four to six children per year die as a result of accidents on school buses, and the NHTSA has enacted strict safety standards for school buses. Buses used for public transport, like those used on city streets, are also held to high safety standards. Generally, buses:
- Are large, which decreases the odds of accidents because they are more likely to be seen.
- Have specially trained drivers who must maintain their commercial driver’s licenses, which involves a stricter set of safety standards than those imposed on regular driver’s license holders.
- Are designed to withstand a great deal of punishment without fundamentally damaging the structure of the bus.
Despite the high level of care that is taken to ensure bus riders’ safety, accidents can and do occur; serious injuries and even death can result from bus accidents. If injuries do occur, it’s important to know how to handle them and what steps you should take to protect yourself.
After a bus accident, who is responsible for my expenses?
If you’ve been involved in a bus accident and sustained an injury—from whiplash to traumatic brain injury—you’ll quickly find yourself wondering who is responsible for paying your hospital bills. As a passenger on the bus, you most likely weren’t responsible for the actions or decisions that led up to your accident, and you don’t want to find yourself stuck paying for those expensive medical bills. So—who is responsible for paying them?
Your personal injury protection insurance covers the first portion of your expenses. If you carry personal injury protection insurance, that insurance is your first recourse in paying for your medical bills. Typically, that insurance is designed to cover the first $10,000 of expenses, including everything from your initial hospital visit to lost time at work due to your injuries.
The at-fault driver may be responsible for damages over $10,000. In general, Florida is a no-fault state. This means that each individual party’s personal injury protection insurance covers their initial damages, rather than the at-fault driver shouldering full responsibility for the damages. However, when damages exceed the amount of personal injury protection coverage, the driver who caused the accident may need to pay the additional costs associated with the accident.
If you don’t have personal injury protection insurance, the responsible driver may need to cover your medical expenses and other damages related to your accident. Many individuals don’t carry personal injury protection insurance. Although Florida drivers must carry personal injury protection insurance in addition to their auto insurance, if you don’t drive, you may not carry either insurance. In this case, the at-fault driver may be responsible for covering all of your medical bills.
If the bus driver caused your accident, his or her employer may be responsible for the cost of your injuries and associated damages. Bus drivers may be employed by a bus company or by the government. If the government employs them, it may be difficult to successfully recover compensation. If the bus driver works for a private company, however, you may be able to sue his or her employer, especially if the driver:
- Was under the influence at the time of the accident and was known to drink and drive or had prior similar issues.
- Had a poor driving record or had been involved in accidents in the past.
- Had been permitted to keep his or her job despite the company knowing that he or she may cause or contribute to an accident.
How do I determine who caused my bus accident?
To determine who is responsible for the cost of your injuries, especially if you sustained a serious injury, you’ll need to know who caused the bus accident. This may be difficult to determine; as a passenger on the bus, you may not have seen what occurred to cause the accident. To determine responsibility, first check the police report, which may contain vital information about who the police determined was responsible and contact information for the involved parties and eyewitnesses. However, police reports sometimes contain inaccurate or insufficient information. In this case, statements from witnesses, from the bus driver, from other drivers involved in the accident, from passengers, and from drivers or pedestrians in the area when the accident occurred can help you determine who bears responsibility for the accident.
Will I receive compensation for pain and suffering related to my bus accident?
Insurance is generally designed to provide compensation for your medical bills following a serious injury. You may, however, be eligible to seek compensation for your pain and suffering, depending on the circumstances of your accident. In the initial days following your accident, the insurance company may offer you a settlement designed to compensate you for your injuries. That settlement, however, might not take into account your pain and suffering. If you work with an experienced personal injury attorney, he or she will determine how much compensation you should seek and negotiate with the insurance company directly. Oftentimes, retaining an attorney results in an immediate increase in the amount of your settlement offer. Pain and suffering damages are an important consideration, as they often involve higher levels of compensation than your medical expenses themselves.
How long do I have to file a bus accident claim in Florida?
In Florida, you generally have four years following your accident to file a claim that seeks compensation for your injuries. In most cases, however, you should file your claim as soon as possible after your accident to maximize your chances of securing compensation. Particularly if the bus is governmentally owned, you may struggle to receive any compensation at all if you wait until the last minute to file your claim. In most cases, the sooner you contact a lawyer, the more likely you are to receive compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
What are the most common causes of bus accidents?
Bus drivers are generally more highly trained than other drivers on the road. That doesn’t mean, however, that they never make mistakes. When bus drivers do cause accidents, it’s usually because they were driving while distracted. They may be checking their phones or paying attention to passengers instead of what’s happening on the road. Accidents may also occur when bus drivers attempt to maneuver the bus in an unsafe or inappropriate manner. In situations where the bus driver did not cause the accident, other drivers may have caused it by failing to pay attention or follow traffic laws.
What injuries are most common in bus accidents?
Numerous injuries may occur as the result of a bus accident. Some of the most common injuries include:
- Cuts and scrapes
- Broken bones
- Head and spinal cord injuries, including traumatic brain injury
Most of the time, passengers in bus accidents suffer only minor injuries, especially if they weren’t seated within the area of impact. However, some accidents involve serious injuries, particularly if a passenger suffered from a pre-existing condition or previous injury. Unfortunately, pedestrians, drivers of other vehicles, and automobile passengers may suffer severe injuries due to the large size of the bus.
If my child was involved in a school bus accident, is the school district responsible?
When your child is under the care of his or her school, whether on school property or riding in a school bus, the school is responsible for providing high quality care. However, that doesn’t mean that the school is automatically responsible if your child is involved in a school bus accident. First, you need to determine:
- Who owns the school bus? Some school districts own their buses, whereas others outsource busing responsibilities to a private company. If the school district doesn’t own the bus, the private bus company may bear responsibility for your child’s injuries.
- Who employs the bus driver? In some cases, schools may rent their buses from a private company bust still employ their drivers. An at-fault bus driver’s employer may bear partial responsibility for a bus accident, especially if the driver had prior instances of poor driving.
- Did the driver, his or her employer, or owner of the bus violate a duty of care to your student? Was the driver behaving responsibly behind the wheel: paying attention to other vehicles on the road, following appropriate safety precautions, and following the rules of the road? Was the bus properly maintained? Were proper safety precautions followed with regards to seating? If the bus was safe and the driver behaved reasonably, it may be difficult to prove that the school district violated the duty of care it owed to your child.
Notably, it is usually very difficult to file a lawsuit against a school district, especially those in poor areas that may not have the funds to pay your claim. Working with a lawyer is the most effective way to determine whether to pursue your bus accident case.
How difficult is it to sue the governmental entity that owns or operates the bus that caused my accident?
Suing a governmental entity can be extremely difficult. This issue may arise if the government owned or operated the bus that caused your accident. In this case, the bus driver and passengers are often protected by insurance policies that are designed to help cover the costs associated with injuries and property damage. But these insurance policies may not be sufficient to cover the costs associated with severe injuries, and they may fail to take into account your pain and suffering. Suing the government is often a difficult and expensive process, and it may prove impossible to obtain compensation for the full cost of your injuries. Working with an experienced attorney will help you determine whether you should file a lawsuit against the government in these situations.
Contact the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
If you or a loved one has sustained an injury in a bus accident, you likely have many more questions beyond what we discuss above. Personal injury claims can be complex, and they depend on the specific circumstances of the accident and a variety of complex laws and regulations. Every bus accident is unique, and bus accident lawsuits depend on a variety of circumstances, including who owns the bus, who caused the accident, and the severity of the resulting injuries. You should contact an experienced bus accident attorney immediately following your accident to get answers to all of your questions, and to determine whether you should consider filing a personal injury claim.
Call the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today at (727) 853-6275, or contact us online, to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers. We can help answer your questions, determine your eligibility to seek compensation, and navigate the entire legal process.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL, 34652