A head-on collision between a pickup truck and a school bus sent a high school student to the hospital with reportedly minor injuries. One thing’s for sure: it could have been worse. Two months earlier, four middle schoolers east of Tampa witnessed the tragic death of the driver of a passenger vehicle when their school bus collided with and crushed the other vehicle.
Unfortunately, injury-causing and fatal bus accidents are all-too-common in the Sunshine State, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, including in the Tampa Bay area. A Tampa area charter bus crash sent a former Tampa Bay Lightning player to the hospital, one of three men injured in the pileup.
Every day, school buses, public transit buses, and charter buses transport passengers around the Tampa/St. Pete area. None of those passengers should lose their lives or end up severely injured because of a crash. When tragedy strikes, victims of Tampa bus accidents need skilled, aggressive legal representation. The lawyers of Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman are ready to help. Contact us today.
About Our Tampa Bus Accident Law Practice
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman are affiliated law firms with offices on both coasts of Florida. For decades, our attorneys have committed themselves to the mission of providing top-flight legal services to Floridians injured by someone else’s reckless, negligent, or intentionally harmful acts. Our legal practice focuses exclusively on representing injured victims and families of those tragically killed in accidents around the state, including in bus crashes in the Tampa/St. Pete area.
We have compiled an impressive track record over the years, having recovered millions of dollars for clients injured in motor vehicle accidents and other tragedies. Of course, there is never any guarantee that a client will obtain compensation for injuries suffered in a bus crash. Our clients can rest assured, however, that with a Dolman lawyer by their side, they will receive the finest legal representation available in the Tampa area.
Tampa Bus Accidents Spell Injury and Tragedy for Victims
Relatively speaking, riding on a bus of any kind is safer than riding in a passenger car or truck. Buses are heavy, and in an accident with a smaller vehicle, they tend to sustain less damage. That does not mean, however, that bus passengers always escape accidents without injury.
Many buses lack seatbelts, meaning that a violent collision can throw passengers around the bus cabin. If a bus rolls over in an accident, which can happen if the bus leaves the roadway, occupants tumble as if in a washing machine. A rollover accident can even eject bus passengers from the vehicle. The trauma of these accidents often leaves bus drivers and passengers seriously, even fatally, injured.
Of course, bus passengers are not the only victims in a crash with another vehicle. If a bus collides with a passenger car, truck, or SUV, then occupants of that smaller vehicle face an extreme risk of injury and even death.
The severe injuries that any victim of a Tampa bus accident might suffer include:
- Traumatic brain injuries. In a bus collision, occupants of buses and other vehicles frequently sustain a blow or jolt to their heads, resulting in tearing, bleeding, and swelling in the brain. Damage to brain tissue inflicts significant cognitive, motor, and emotional impairment that can last months, years, or even a lifetime.
- Traumatic amputation and crush injury. Tampa bus accidents can collapse bus cabins and mangle small vehicles. The limbs of victims may get crushed and, in truly horrific circumstances, severed from the victims’ bodies. Even if a passenger survives a crush injury or traumatic amputation, a lifetime of disability awaits.
- Spinal cord injuries. Occupants of buses and passenger cars involved in collisions often sustain damage to their spines. In the worst of these cases, spinal damage tears or severs a victim’s spinal cord, leading to partial or total paralysis.
- Orthopedic and soft tissue injuries. Any accident in Tampa involving a bus risks inflicting all manner of broken bones, dislocations, and sprains to passengers and drivers. While these injuries may not put anyone’s life at risk, they can cause lasting health complications and chronic pain.
These are merely some examples of the types of injuries a Tampa bus accident victim might sustain. No matter how a bus accident in the Tampa/St. Pete area has devastated your life, the committed bus accident injury lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman have the resources and experience to maximize the compensation that you recover.
How Tampa Bus Accident Lawyers Obtain Compensation for Clients
Clients come to us at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman seeking help to recover from Tampa bus accident injuries and tragic losses of life. Our lawyers understand that, frequently, the trauma a client has suffered has turned his or her life upside down. Our mission is to make sure that all of our clients receive appropriate compensation from anyone with legal liability for causing them harm.
Some clients might not initially realize, however, that in many instances, they already have insurance to cover them for their injuries. Under Florida’s current “no-fault” auto insurance laws, anyone who registers a car in the Sunshine State must also carry “personal injury protection” (PIP) coverage that pays for his or her own injuries in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of who was at fault. That coverage extends to injuries Florida motorists and their dependent family members sustain in bus accidents, even if they were passengers in a bus and not driving their own car when the collision occurred.
Accordingly, if you have sustained injuries in a Tampa bus accident, and you carry PIP coverage because you are a registered Florida car owner, be sure to seek medical care within 14 days of sustaining your injuries to ensure compliance with your obligations under your PIP policy, and you also need to alert your PIP carrier. If you fail to seek medical care, you may forfeit important legal rights to compensation.
Even when Tampa area bus accident victims carry PIP coverage, however, that insurance rarely supplies sufficient benefits to pay all of the costs associated with serious injuries and fatalities. In those cases, lawyers for bus accident victims and their families may have the ability to take legal action against parties whose careless, reckless, or intentional actions led to harm. Here’s how.
Lawyers Identify Liable Parties
In Florida, as elsewhere around the county, someone whose wrongful actions cause a bus accident that injures or kills others will typically face legal liability for damages to those victims and their families. One of the most important jobs of a Tampa bus crash injury lawyer is to identify all of the individuals, businesses, and organizations whose actions may have led to a client’s injury. These may include:
- Bus drivers whose careless or reckless driving caused the crash;
- Bus operators/owners who generally have responsibility for the actions of their employees (i.e., bus drivers) and who must maintain buses in a safe condition;
- Bus manufacturers that sell buses and bus parts that are unreasonably dangerous and cause a crash; and
- Local governments that operate and maintain public transportation, and design, build, and maintain bus-related infrastructure.
As a general rule, the more parties an attorney can identify who have potential legal liability for harm resulting from a Tampa bus accident, the greater the chance the client will have to recover compensation for the full cost of his or her injuries.
Lawyers Evaluate and Collect Evidence to Prove Damages
Bus accidents harm victims in a variety of ways. Another important job of a Tampa bus collision attorney is to determine the cost of that harm and to gather evidence that proves the amount of money damages that a client should seek.
Every case is different in this regard, but the tangible and intangible costs that a bus accident can inflict include:
- Medical costs, both past and future, relating to the accident injury;
- Lost wages and future income lost because of missing work while recovering or because of disabilities that limit a victim’s ability to work;
- Services the victim needs to perform tasks that the injury prevents the victim from performing;
- Pain and suffering caused by the injury and the recovery process;
- Negative life impacts, such as loss of enjoyment of life and damage to personal relationships.
- Wrongful death-relatedcosts, such as funeral and burial expenses.
Many accident victims suffer all of the harms and difficulties listed above. The trick, however, is proving these damages and putting an appropriate dollar value on the harms that do not come with a price tag attached (such as “pain and suffering”). An experienced Tampa bus accident lawyer knows where to look for evidence to prove these harms, and how to assemble that information into a clear, convincing argument for recovering money damages.
Lawyers Negotiate Settlements
Most Tampa bus accident injury matters we handle at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman end with a settlement between our client and the opposing parties. The reality of the civil legal system in Florida, and throughout the United States, is that legal claims arising out of bus accidents usually come down to a negotiation over the appropriate amount of money a legally-liable party owes to an injured victim or grieving family.
Consequently, the best Tampa bus crash injury lawyers have sharp negotiation skills. Most of the time, lawyers interact with representatives of insurance companies that insured the party who owes legal liability to an accident victim. Insurance adjusters are experts at trying to pick apart a legal claim. Their job is to try to minimize the amount of money their companies must pay in liability benefits. Lawyers understand the importance of dealing with these opposing parties from a position of strength, which begins with thorough preparation of every case before negotiations ever start.
Tampa bus collision victims who attempt to negotiate with insurance companies without the help of a lawyer will almost always end up leaving money on the table. Lay victims are no match for insurance adjusters who spend every day attacking the validity of damages claims. Victims need lawyers who have just as much experience negotiating settlements as the insurance companies do, lawyers like those at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman.
Lawyers Take Bus Accident Cases to Trial
Most Tampa bus crash injury cases settle, but not all do. When a party with legal liability to a Tampa bus accident victim refuses to offer reasonable compensation in a settlement, the best lawyers are prepared to take their clients’ cases to Florida courts. It takes special skills to win large bus accident damages verdicts in a Florida courtroom. Not all lawyers have what it takes. Some even shy away from taking cases to trial, because they do not have confidence on their feet.
At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman, however, we stack our teams with seasoned, aggressive trial lawyers who have a knack for explaining complicated bus accidents to juries in language they understand. Our attorneys prepare every case as if it will end up in front of a jury. That way, we are always prepared to say “see you in Court” to an opposing party who refuses to treat our clients fairly.
Lawyers Collect Money Due To Their Clients
The best Tampa bus injury lawyers know that a case is not over until there is settlement or jury verdict money in the bank. Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman attorneys do not rest until they have received every penny due to their clients for injuries or losses sustained in a Tampa bus accident. That is our commitment to our clients, because that is what they deserve.
Tampa Bus Accident FAQ
Whether you are riding a school bus, taking public transportation, or traveling in a privately owned bus, buses can be a convenient way to travel in Tampa. Buses provide transportation for those without cars. They also reduce road congestion as well as energy consumption.
What do the numbers say?
According to industry studies, American buses provide more than 700 million passenger trips a year compared to 720 million on airlines, and about 4,000 bus companies provide interstate service. Generally, buses are reasonably safe. They are large and easily visible. Their drivers hold commercial driver’s licenses, which require special training. But accidents still happen; and because of their size and the number of passengers on board, bus crashes can be devastating.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a total of 2,734 fatal crashes involving trucks and buses took place in just one year. The crashes resulted in 3,087 deaths and another 60,818 injuries. In a ten year period, 40 percent of buses involved in fatal crashes were school buses, 35 percent were transit buses, and 13 percent were interstate buses. Data from the FMCSA on crash rates shows that three states had the highest number of people killed in crashes involving large trucks and buses.
In fact, nearly a third of everyone who died in these types of crashes died in one of the three states. Florida is one of those states. As of 2018, Florida has 59,557 registered buses, the fourth-largest number in the nation. Nearly twice as many vehicles were in a fatal large truck or bus crash in Florida than the next highest state on the list. In one year, there were 182 bus crashes in which 202 people died.
Why are Tampa bus accidents so dangerous?
Buses are motor vehicles with seating for nine or more people, including the driver. Traveling in a large vehicle like a bus is different from riding in a typical passenger car. Not only are busses bigger, but safety standards and precautions are different, as well.
The reasons why bus accidents are so injurious to their victims follow below.
- Many buses don’t have seat belts. This includes many full-size buses. There is a great deal of debate about seatbelts on buses, but when a bus accident occurs, this lack of seatbelts can lead to injuries, particularly in side-impact or rollover accidents.
- The differences in size and weight between a bus and a passenger car make the dynamics of a bus accident different from what happens when two cars collide. The size and weight of a bus cause a greater impact on collision, which can result in more severe injuries to everyone involved in the accident. The smaller vehicle absorbs more impact from the crash, and the occupants generally sustain more impact in the collision than occupants of the bus.
- The FMCSA, the federal agency responsible for regulations regarding bus safety, reports that more than 800,000 buses are registered in the United States. They are higher off the ground than cars, so their center of gravity is different. Because of their greater height and weight, they are more likely to have a rollover accident.
- The size and weight of a bus make it easier for a driver to lose control of the vehicle. Weight distribution problems in the vehicle can affect stability. Once the driver has lost control, it is difficult to regain.
- Bus drivers deal with the same hazards as other drivers, such as distracted driving, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and driving while fatigued. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that each year, driver fatigue causes 100,000 accidents. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries. In one year alone, 3,997 drowsy driving crashes took place in Florida.
- Speed is another common driving hazard. Bus drivers often operate on strict schedules. If the driver is running behind schedule, they may speed in an attempt to get back on schedule. Speeding increases the chance of an accident by approximately 30 percent.
- Many roads were not built to accommodate buses. The driver may have difficulty maneuvering the bus in small or narrow streets. Other conditions, such as construction, poor road maintenance, or bad weather, can also increase the risk of an accident.
Can you seek compensation for your injuries through a negligence claim?
When a Tampa bus accident occurs due to negligence, the responsible parties can often be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit. You do not necessarily have to have been a passenger on the bus. You may be the driver or passenger of a vehicle that was involved in the accident with the bus. Also, a bus accident does not necessarily mean a crash; perhaps you were injured getting on or off the bus.
For an injured person to establish a defendant’s negligence, they must prove that:
- The defendant owed the victim a duty of reasonable care;
- The defendant breached that duty through careless conduct;
- The breach was a proximate cause of the accident; and
- The victim was forced to incur damages.
Florida statute 95.11 states that plaintiffs have four years to act following the date of the injury. However, if the claim involves a governmental entity, the statute of limitations may be shorter; your attorney can help you determine what deadlines apply to your claim.
How does Florida’s no-fault system affect Tampa bus accident liability?
The no-fault law in Florida means that, when there is a car accident, each party files a claim against their own auto insurance policy, regardless of who was at fault. Therefore, all Florida drivers are required to have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. If the cost of injuries is greater than your PIP coverage, or they meet the law’s serious injury threshold, you may file a lawsuit for damages.
How do I determine who is at fault in a Tampa bus accident?
To receive compensation for your injuries, you must determine who is at fault. This may not be as easy as it sounds. If you were riding on the bus, you might not have seen what happened. However, information from police reports, witnesses, and, in some cases, video cameras can help establish liability.
Parties who may have contributed to the crash include:
- The bus driver. The crash may be the result of operator error. Nationwide, 94 percent of crashes are related to driver error. The driver may have been distracted or fatigued or simply made a mistake.
- The company that owns or manages the bus. Perhaps the company failed to maintain the bus or to train the driver properly. Many state and federal regulations control safety practices, such as bus maintenance and driver training. Unfortunately, bus companies sometimes turn a blind eye to the federal regulations and their responsibility to train their drivers or keep their fleets maintained.
- The company that manufactured the bus. Incorrect design or manufacturing can lead to serious accidents.
- Other drivers. Someone else who was driving in a negligent or reckless manner and caused the accident.
Municipalities or other governmental entities own and operate many buses. Injured victims can take action against government buses. However, the law imposes strict guidelines for personal injury claims against the government, so consult our Tampa bus accident attorneys as soon as possible after the accident.
What types of injuries are common in Tampa bus accidents?
Many factors determine the severity of a bus accident victim’s injuries. These include the force of the impact, what part of the bus was damaged, and where the individual was seated.
Common injuries that are associated with bus accidents include:
- Back and neck injuries;
- Spinal cord injuries;
- Brain injuries;
- Head injuries;
- Broken bones or other orthopedic injuries;
- Torn ligaments and tendons;
- Lacerations and cuts;
- Facial injuries;
- Scarring or disfigurement;
- Paralysis; and
What compensation might a Tampa bus accident victim recover?
There is no simple formula for compensation in a personal injury case involving a Tampa bus collision. To receive the compensation you deserve, it is essential to show the court the nature and extent of your injuries. You must prove all the ways the injury has harmed you financially and the impact it has had on your life. To do this, you should carefully document all the consequences of your injury.
Compensation may include:
- Medical expenses. As a general rule, someone with catastrophic or long-term injuries will receive greater compensation. Costly medical bills will probably continue to add up far into the future. Keeping track of these bills will help establish how much money you will need for both your current and future medical expenses. You might receive compensation for emergency treatment, such as ambulance rides, emergency room care, and diagnostic tests. The average cost of a hospital stay is around $10,000. It will cost more if you are in the ICU or a specialty care unit. You may require one or more surgical procedures. There may be bills for ongoing doctor’s visits, rehabilitation, or other therapies. Someone with a disabling injury may need durable medical equipment, such as a wheelchair or a prosthetic device. They may also need modifications to make their home accessible.
- Loss of wages. You can claim lost wages for all hours that you miss at work due to your injuries. These include lost wages during your recovery period, or working a modified schedule, as well as hours missed due to necessary medical appointments. In some cases, injured persons are permanently unable to return to work in their former profession, in which case they may claim lost earning potential.
- Pain and suffering. It is hard to put a price tag on physical pain and mental anguish, but those injuries also deserve fair compensation.
- Loss of consortium. Florida courts consider loss of consortium damages to include loss of companionship, affection, comfort, sexual relationship, and assistance that a spouse provides.
- Wrongful death. Damages may include funeral costs, burial expenses, and loss of services.
What should I do after a Tampa bus accident?
After a Tampa bus accident you may be injured, in pain, and traumatized. It can be hard to know what to do, but the steps you take can have an impact on your personal injury claim.
Keep the following steps in mind:
- First, get medical attention. Even if you don’t think you were injured, or you believe your injuries are minor, see a doctor. Some injuries do not become apparent until hours or even days after the accident. If you fail to get proper treatment, your condition may get worse. The records of your medical care will be very important in a settlement or trial.
- Preserve evidence from the accident. If you are able, take photographs of the damaged vehicles, (including the interior), the surrounding area, and your own injuries. Save any evidence from the day of the accident.
- Gather information from the scene of the accident. Witnesses may be hard to find later. Depending on the facts, more than one party may be liable for your injuries.
- Call the police. The bus driver or their superiors will probably call the police. However, if the police do not arrive within a few minutes, you should call them.
- Don’t say too much. Immediately following an accident, most people feel anxious and have a tendency to talk about the accident. For some people, their first impulse is to share pictures or details of the accident on social media. However, social media posts are probably not a good idea. Information shared on social media may spread misinformation and be used against you later in a lawsuit. It is best to avoid discussing fault when talking with others at the scene or in conversations with insurance representatives. There will be one or more investigations to determine fault.
- Contact an experienced bus accident lawyer. Consult our Tampa bus accident attorneys before discussing the accident with other parties, including insurance company representatives, or signing any papers or release forms.
Were you injured in a Tampa bus accident?
If you or a loved one was injured in a Florida bus accident as a passenger, driver in another car, or a pedestrian, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your medical bills and other losses. Consider speaking with an experienced Tampa bus accident lawyer as soon as possible to understand your options, and to develop an effective plan for moving forward.
The Tampa Bus Accident Attorneys You Need
Boarding a bus should never mean risking your life. If the worst happens, and you sustain injuries or lose a loved one in a Tampa bus accident, you deserve the most experienced, responsive legal representation available. Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman have offices on both Florida coasts. Pay us a visit, contact us online, or call us at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.