California Bus Accident Lawyers
When you step onto a city transit bus or put your child onto a school bus, you entrust the bus driver, the bus company and a host of others with your and your loved ones’ safety and security. An accident is among the last things you expect. Yet, accidents happen.
When a bus accident occurs, the consequences can be significant, both emotionally and financially, not only for the passengers on board but also for their dependents and loved ones. Our legal system has in place a mechanism to ensure that the costs of bus crashes are borne by those at fault, not by the innocent passengers and their families. An injury that occurs while an individual is using bus transportation may entitle that person and/or his dependents and family members to compensation. An effective personal injury attorney can help you determine if you have a valid claim for your injuries, and, if so, how to maximize your recovery from the responsible parties.
What to Do When an Accident Happens
First, make sure that you and any of your loved ones receive prompt medical attention. Because buses are commercial carriers, their personnel will generally call for medical help for any passengers who might need it. Insist on a full medical evaluation of injuries, including tests for head, back and spinal injuries.
Next – and as soon as possible – contact a reputable attorney with expertise in handling bus accident cases. There are many regulations that are specific to common carriers, such as bus companies and government transit lines, and experienced bus accident attorneys will be able to determine how they apply to your case. Also, statutes of limitations restrict the amount of time you have to file a claim after a crash, particularly if a government entity is involved. Government entities usually have shorter terms within which to file a bus accident claim. You should only entrust your case to a lawyer who has experience and proven results in similar cases, to ensure that your case is handled competently and that the filing deadlines in your case are protected.
What Exactly is Personal Injury?
What Kinds of Compensation Are Recoverable?
Depending on the nature of your or your family member’s injuries due to a bus accident, your bus accident lawyer may identify possible claims for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Impairment of earning capacity
- Life care expenses
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (the services of an injured spouse)
- Workers’ compensation
- Punitive Damages
- Wrongful death
Experienced bus accident lawyers can help you determine the types of damages to which you may be entitled. The extent of those damages will depend on the circumstances of the accident. In instances where multiple parties bear responsibility for the bus crash, monetary damages will need to be apportioned. Calculation of damages depends on factors such as the claimant’s injuries, current earnings and impairment of future earning capacity, marital status and dependents, the nature and extent of the injuries, and the amounts of past, present and future medical expenses. It is in your best interests to contact competent bus crash attorneys for assistance in determining your potential bases for recovery.
What Qualifies as a Bus for Purposes of a Bus Accident?
The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards define a bus as any motorized vehicle capable of carrying more than 10 passengers. The category includes school buses, large vans used for public transport, church buses, municipal transit buses, many airport shuttles, tour buses, trolleys, and interstate carriers, such as Greyhound buses. Most of these are considered “common carriers” under the law, and are therefore subject to state and federal licensing requirements and other regulations, but it is state law that will determine if bus companies and others are liable for compensating a passenger for injuries sustained in a crash.
Greyhound and Tour Bus Accidents
Greyhound buses, tour buses, and other commercial providers carry thousands of passengers every day, often on long-haul interstate trips. Accidents and crashes occur for many reasons, including driver fatigue, careless driving, negligence on the part of other drivers, dangerous road conditions, poor mechanical maintenance and defectively designed or manufactured parts.
Another factor that may lead to bus crashes is criminal activity, such as an assault by a passenger on the driver. According to Greyhound’s own records, between October 3, 1997 and October 3, 2001, there were 42 incidents in which Greyhound passengers assaulted or attempted to assault the bus driver, or grabbed or attempted to grab the driver, the steering wheel or the brakes while the bus was moving. The bus service operator may be liable for damages caused by criminal activity if the criminal activity could have been foreseen and avoided.
Many of these types of buses, as with school buses, do not have lap or shoulder belts to protect occupants from being thrown around the interior of the bus or ejected in the event of a crash. While the driver’s seats in these vehicles must by law have personal restraint systems, the passengers may not be so fortunate, because the federal government does not require passenger seat belts. The government’s reasoning is that installing them would cost the vehicle manufacturers and bus companies money that, so far, the government believes they ought not be compelled to spend.
Because of the lack of a mandate to install seat restraints, when a tour bus or a Greyhound bus crashes, riders are at a greater risk of being seriously injured or killed than would be the case if seat restraints were required. Although federal law does not require these types of vehicles to have seat belts for passengers, it is important for your attorney to know that some courts across the nation have nevertheless allowed suits to proceed against those responsible for deciding not to install them.
Selecting a Bus Accident Lawyer
It is important that the lawyer you hire is experienced and capable of navigating the state and federal laws and regulations governing all types of bus service providers, and that your attorney can determine if violation of those laws caused your accident or made your injuries or other damages worse. It is very important for a lawyer handling these cases to ensure that all potential sources of compensation are pursued, whether fault lies with the bus’s manufacturer, the bus company that hired an unqualified mechanic, or the driver of the tractor-trailer that rear-ended the bus.
It is also important for bus accident lawyers to retain investigators and well-respected experts to investigate the causes of your crash. If it appears that your accident may have been caused by a dangerous road condition, your attorney will need to hire expert civil and traffic engineers to pinpoint those road deficiencies. Competent and reliable lawyers will invest the necessary resources and efforts to ensure that your case is resolved for its maximum value. Such attorneys will hire the necessary investigators and experts, visit the location of the bus crash, take images of the scene, conduct tests where necessary, find and interview witnesses and investigate prior complaints or claims that have been made against the responsible parties.
Who May Be Responsible for Your Injuries?
Because of the many ways a bus crash can happen, the question of who is responsible for injuries and other damages depends upon the circumstances of the accident. Early in the case it is important for your lawyer to identify certain parties, such as the owner of the bus, the company that operates it, and the company responsible for making repairs and maintaining the bus in a safe mechanical condition. Finding an attorney who will locate all potential responsible parties is crucial. Some of those your lawyer may identify as parties responsible for your injuries include:
- The Bus Company – A bus accident may occur because the bus company sends a defective bus out on the road with faulty brakes, a shaky steering column or overused tires. The company’s actions in hiring unqualified drivers, maintenance people and other personnel, or in negligently training or supervising them may also contribute to the cause of an accident. In addition, the company may be found at fault for a bus crash and passenger injuries caused by its failure to make or enforce adequate safety procedures.
- Bus Maintenance Companies – If the bus company contracts an independent company to maintain the vehicles in a safe mechanical condition, that company may be sued independently for negligent maintenance that causes a crash or accident.
- State or Local Governments – Local governments, such as cities and counties, may also bear responsibility for your injuries. Government fault may exist, for example, where a government-owned transit bus is involved in the accident and the cause of the accident was negligence of the bus driver or of a city worker performing his employment duties.
Government entities may also be responsible for dangerous road conditions. Their responsibility depends on the extent to which the law allows recovery from such government entities, and the degree of government responsibility in creating or failing to fix the dangerous road condition that contributed to the bus crash.
- School Districts and School Boards – As the employer of bus drivers, the school board will be responsible for the negligent conduct of its drivers. Additionally, a school board that fails to implement or enforce adequate safety standards may leave children vulnerable to injury from a school bus accident. The school board may be liable if the accident could have been prevented through the creation and enforcement of reasonable safety guidelines.
- Affiliated Cruise Lines and Tour Operators – Owners and drivers of these buses can be held liable for driver negligence in an accident. When a bus trip is part of a package offered by a tour service, the service itself may be liable for damages to passengers when a crash occurs in an affiliated tour bus.
- Bus Driver – Accidents are often caused by the driver’s negligent operation of the bus. Drivers may violate traffic controls, fall asleep at the wheel or have their attention diverted by non-driving-related distractions. Bus drivers involved in a crash can be held personally responsible for the injuries sustained by the passengers. As a practical matter, however, the companies employing the bus driver, and their insurance companies, will typically be held financially responsible for bus crashes and resulting injuries.
- Drivers of Other Vehicles and their employers – Owners and drivers of other cars, trucks and other vehicles may be held responsible for injuries caused by negligent or reckless driving. A driver’s employer may also be held liable for an accident if the driver was operating the bus while performing work duties.
- Manufacturers of the Bus and/or its Parts – A bus manufacturer that sends a defective vehicle from the factory to the marketplace subjects passengers to unreasonable danger and potential harm. As a result, the bus manufacturer can be held responsible for damages when a crash occurs. Likewise, the manufacturers and retailers of defective bus parts that may have caused the bus accident could be liable for the injuries to the passengers.
School Bus Accidents
- Restraint systems in newer school buses. California mandates that new school buses (smaller buses purchased or leased after July 1, 2004 and larger ones purchased after July 1, 2005) be equipped with lap and shoulder restraint systems similar to those found in most automobiles. The laws that direct installation of these restraints were written to protect the children in the event of a crash. However, they were also put in place to protect bus drivers, teachers, and school boards from liability should a child involved in a bus accident use the lap or shoulder belt improperly or opt not to use it at all.
- Restraint systems in older school buses. Older school buses still in service are not required to be retrofitted with lap or shoulder restraints. The basic design of older buses has not changed since 1977, so children riding in older school buses may be no more protected than were children 40 years ago. Because these older buses lack what today is commonly considered basic protective equipment, children in older buses are at a greater risk of injury in a school bus crash than if they were passengers in contemporary buses with standard restraints. This risk of injury is more pronounced in a serious crash, such as a rollover.
- Bus accidents at drop-off and pick-up points. Children can also be hurt when supervision at the school drop-off and pick-up points is substandard. Often these accidents occur when the children are entering or exiting a bus. In fact, such bus accidents are more common than those involving crashes on the open road.
To moderate the risk of accidental injury in the above circumstances, the State of California requires school bus drivers to adhere to a list of precautions. These include activating flashing lights when stopping to pick up students and assisting them in crossing roads. Where your lawyer can establish negligence or carelessness on the part of the bus driver when one of these types of bus accidents happens, such injuries could subject the school bus companies and school boards to liability and damages.
Bus Accident Statistics
In each of the years from 1990 to 2001, there were between 50,000 and 63,000 bus crashes in the United States, including accidents involving school, transit, and intercity buses. Although the number of fatalities in these accidents is relatively low (from 3 to 21 per year, between 1991 and 2004), the number of injuries is much higher: generally somewhere between 15,000 and 21,000.
The Reeves Law Group’s attorneys have a long history of success in helping accident victims. Our lawyers have procured significant results for thousands of satisfied clients. If you desire a free consultation with one of our bus accident lawyers, please contact our law firm at (800) 644-8000. Many accident claims must be filed within a specific period of time. Claims involving buses owned by government entities and school boards have shorter filing deadlines. Acting promptly to retain one of our bus accident attorneys is therefore essential for protecting your rights.