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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. A bus 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 bus 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 bus accident injuries, and if so to maximize your recovery from the responsible parties.
First, make sure that you and any of your loved ones who were bus crash victims 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 an experienced bus accident attorney 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 bus 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 bus accident attorney who has experience and proven results in bus injury cases, to ensure that your case is handled competently and that the filing deadlines in your case are protected.
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:
A bus crash lawyer 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 bus accident. In instances where multiple parties bear responsibility for the bus crash, monetary damages will need to be apportioned. Calculation of damages from the bus accident 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 that you contact a competent bus crash attorney for assistance in determining your potential bases for recovery.
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 bus crash.
Greyhound buses, tour buses and other commercial bus service providers carry thousands of passengers every day, often on long-haul interstate trips. Tour bus accidents and Greyhound bus crashes occur for many reasons, including driver fatigue, careless driving on the part of the driver, 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 bus crash. While the driver's seats in these vehicles must by law have personal restraint systems, the passengers in many of these buses are not so fortunate, because the federal government does not require passenger seat belts. The government's reasoning is that installing them would cost the bus 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, bus riders are at a greater risk of being seriously injured or killed than would be the case if bus restraints were required. Although federal law does not require these types of buses 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.
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 bus 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 lawyers to retain investigators and well-respected experts to investigate the causes of your bus crash. If it appears that your bus accident may have been caused by a dangerous road condition, your bus accident attorney will need to hire expert civil and traffic engineers to pinpoint the road deficiency that led to your bus crash or accident. Competent and reliable accident 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.
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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 bus accident. Early in the case it is important for your bus accident 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. After you have been injured in a bus crash, 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:
Government entities may also be responsible for dangerous road conditions that cause the bus to crash. 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.
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 bus accidents involving school buses, transit buses and intercity buses. Although the number of fatalities in these bus 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 attorneys, please contact our law firm at (800) 644-8000. Many bus 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 an effective bus accident attorney is therefore essential for protecting your rights.