Buses are a critical means of transport within Florida cities and also come in handy as far as interstate and intercity transportation is concerned. Every state has its definition of a ‘bus.’ In Florida, we define it as any vehicle designed for carrying more than ten passengers, including the driver, used for transporting persons for compensation.  Considering how many buses are on our highways and streets daily, cases of crashes where buses are involved are relatively few. But when they happen, they often lead to passengers, drivers, and other road users sustaining several injuries, both severe and minor.

In this article, bus accident attorneys from Clay County Personal Injury Attorney review the latest data on bus-related accidents published by various bodies, including the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLDHSMV) and the Department of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The article will then explain what you can do after involvement in a bus accident, including the legal steps you can take.

Bus Crash Overview

Note that bus accident data isn’t easily accessible for several reasons. One primary reason is that the Florida transportation department has overlapping jurisdictions. By this, it implies that some statistics can be duplicated on numerous reports; thus, the real number of cases could be higher or lower compared to the figures provided in the original report.

Data concerning bus crashes are generally obtained from the FMCSA and FLDHSMV annual reports. FMCSA defines a bus as a rubber-tire automotive vehicle used to offer public transportation services for/by a recipient. On the other hand, it defines a school bus as a bus that’s used for transporting only school personnel/ children from their homes to school and vice versa.

Commercial Bus Crashes

A commercial bus refers to any bus which transports those passengers that pay the fare through a defined route. Examples of these buses are:

  • Intercity carriers like Greyhound and Trailways,
  • Complimentary buses that carry guests from train stations and airports
  • Intracity public transport buses, etc.

As per the Florida Department Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in 2015, a total of 495 bus collisions injuries were recorded involving both drivers and passengers. Of these, 102 were incapacitating, while 393 were non-incapacitating. And in 2018, a total of 386 injuries involving both bus drivers and passengers were reported. Of these, 69 were incapacitating, while 317 were non-capacitating. This means there was a decrease in the number of bus accident-related injuries throughout Florida in three years.

Florida Has an Alarming Rate of School Bus Crashes

A child being involved in a bus collision is the worst nightmare of every parent. Most caring parents prioritize safety as far as raising their young ones is concerned. Every day, countless children throughout Florida ride in school buses to school. However, the data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shows the number of school bus-related accidents in the state of Florida is rising steadily.  Between the years 2012 and 2015, there was a 16% rise in school bus crashes throughout Florida. Just in 2015 alone, a total of 2698 school bus crash cases were reported in Florida State. The highest cases were reported in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Higher Enrolment and Higher Population Have Resulted in the Rise of School Bus Accidents

Even though it’s not a surprise that there are so many school bus-related accidents in Florida because of the higher population of the state, the causes for this increase aren’t that obvious. The data from FLDHSMV shed light on the recent tendency. One primary reason why bus crashes are on the rise is that schools are enrolling many students now compared to the past years. If the population of students is high, it means more school buses will be on the roadway. This results in additional bus routes together with an increase of new, unskilled drivers.

However, it’s critical to note that not every school-bus related crash in Florida is the bus driver’s doing. In several instances, the other drivers that are rushing to get somewhere will disobey a school bus stop sign erected at the bus stops or go out of their way to overtake a school bus. The Drivers of school buses are required to report those auto that unlawfully runs school bus stop signs.

Thousands of Cases of Other Vehicles Unlawfully Overtaking School Buses

Every year, the Florida Department of Education researches the number of automobiles that illegally overtake school buses, and each year, there are thousands of cases reported. This is a worrying trend that each parent that has children who ride in school buses should be aware of. To assist in making school bus transportation safer, Florida approved various safety requirements. They include:

  • Double stop signal alarms together with a front bumper student crossing arms
  • Compulsory fire retardant seats
  • The enactment of heavy duty brakes
  • Two-point seatbelts
  • Fuel system integrity
  • Additional emergency exits for easier and faster evacuation

Florida Leads the Country in Enforcing the Use of Safety Belts

The state of Florida is number one in the U.S in enforcing seat belt safety measures. Both Florida and California have liability rules concerning seatbelt requirements to safeguard school children. But there’s one significant difference between the two. California obligates every school bus occupant to learn the right method to wear seat belts correctly, but Florida doesn’t as per now. These seatbelt measures seem to be effectively working because even though Florida has an elevated number of crashes, the number of injuries has decreased over the years. It’s also worth noting that the rise in the number of school buses all through the state reduces the number of cars by seventeen million.

In case your kid has sustained injuries in a school bus crash that was caused by the carelessness of another, you might be eligible for compensation to take care of your loss, damages, and medical expenses. It’s also worth noting that insurance providers will do all they can to deny or underpay insurance claims. For you to get the amount you deserve, ensure you work with an experienced bus accident personal injury lawyer who knows how to negotiate with these companies.

How Frequently Do Charter Bus Crashes Occur?

As per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were about 5000 buses and large trucks involved in deadly accidents in 2017 only. This represented a 40% increase in fatal collisions involving buses or large trucks between the year 2009 and the year 2017 in the whole country.

As we had mentioned earlier, it’s quite challenging to obtain statistics on bus-related accidents. However, this doesn’t affect the rights of the victims injured in these crashes or their family members have. These people have the right to seek compensation for their losses, damages, and injuries.

When you are a bus passenger (any type of bus), you assume that the owner of the bus has kept it in good condition to reduce the likelihood of mechanical failure that will eventually result in injuries to you. Also, you assume that the driver of that particular bus is well-trained and qualified to drive the bus and won’t take any action that may jeopardize his/her passengers. If you sustain injuries and the reason for suffering those injuries is the carelessness of someone else, you have the right to proceed against the negligent party by filing an injury claim/lawsuit.

When you file an injury claim/lawsuit, it means that you are demanding the insurance company or judge order the at-fault party to pay damages.  These damages will compensate you for things like lost income, current & future medical expenses, pain & suffering, and in other situations, punitive damages. It is the victim of the crash, his/her family, or bus accident personal injury lawyer that determines the amount and type of compensation sought.

Therefore, if you, a member of your family or the person you love was hurt in an accident involving the bus they were riding in, you deserve compensation. Since it’s unlikely that the bus driver, owner, or company will willingly agree to pay for your losses, injuries, and damages, you’ll have to bring a lawsuit against them. When filing this suit, you’ll need an attorney who:

  • Is experienced in handling personal injury cases that involve multiple defendants
  • Knows how to handle large companies plus their insurance providers
  • Understands the local, state, and federal laws applying to the operation of school buses and commercial buses
  • Knows how a bus accident case ought to be investigated, which isn’t merely reading newspaper articles and police reports
  • Can access expert witnesses to testify in court in your favor
  • Is ready and willing to fight for your rights to obtain all the damages you’re eligible to receive

Major Bus Accident Causes

Driving crashes are practically impossible to prevent 100 percent of the time. However, there are several examples of how a bus driver can be blamed for a collision. Among the leading reasons for bus-related crashes is the driver’s failure to see another automobile on the roadway. Buses are big and bulky, meaning they produce several blind spots that make it challenging for the bus driver to be capable of seeing everything around him. Other factors that may place the bus driver at fault for an accident include:

  1. Speeding— for a long time, speeding has been an issue on Florida roads, as drivers increase the limits so they can reach their intended destination much faster. High speeds not only elevate the possibility of a collision by making it harder to avoid crashing into other vehicles, but they also elevate the chances of fatalities.
  2. Distracted driving—driving while distracted is a very common contributing factor to bus accidents. Anything that leads to the driver taking their eyes off the roadway is considered a distraction, be it sending text messages, talking on the phone, eating, looking through the window at the scenery, changing the radio or turning to look at a passenger.
  3. Reckless driving— bus drivers may keep darting in and out of traffic to evade being slowed down by other vehicles. Other drivers will engage in tailgating behavior. These driving behaviors are reckless and are likely to lead to an accident.
  4. Drunk driving— alcohol consumption or the use of drugs before driving impacts the ability of the driver to see, function, and focus normally. This makes it dangerous for the driver to operate a moving auto since he/she may easily cause an accident.
  5. Drowsy driving—drowsy driving has become a much bigger issue than most people imagine. As per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year, approximately 10000 police-reported accidents throughout the country involve drowsy driving. These collisions result in over 71000 injuries and 1550 fatalities.

Most of the above factors can be prevented, leading to a decrease in the number of bus accidents. Another primary cause of bus accidents is inadequate training. Certain bus drivers aren’t trained properly. Poor driver training is a common factor found in lots of suits involving bus accidents.

Other bus accident causes may be beyond the driver’s control. In this case, the driver can’t be held responsible for resulting injuries in case of an accident. These factors include:

  • Mechanical defects—mechanical safety is a critical characteristic of a bus that’s used to carry passengers from one place to another. A bus company is supposed to do regular safety inspections on buses. But, at times, mechanical faults are missed when these inspections are conducted, which may result in severe crashes. If this happens, the bus company will be responsible for the injuries.
  • Road conditions— roads or streets may be constructed in ways that buses find it difficult to navigate. Several types of road conditions may lead to bus crashes, including asphalt damage, construction zones, and weather conditions.

What a Driver Can Do To Save Lives

As a bus driver, we have several steps you can take to lower the chances of being involved in an accident. A few of these include:

  • Keeping your eyes glued on the roadway all the time
  • Take note of blind spots
  • Keep both of your hands on the wheel
  • When driving on the highway, leave enough space between you and the vehicle ahead of you so that if they suddenly swerve or stop, you can avoid them.
  • Wait for three seconds before you can enter an intersection after the light changes
  • Avoid drinking while working
  • Be considerate of other drivers

What You Should Do After Involvement in a Bus Crash

Unlike cars or motorcycles, buses carry many occupants. This means that if a bus collision occurs, several people are bound to get injured or die compared to car accidents. Whether you’re another driver whose vehicle has been knocked down by a bus or the bus occupant, you’re probably wondering what steps you have to take after the collision. After any crash, it is understandable if one is left in a devastating, puzzling, and frustrating state. The chaotic events that follow after a crash can make you forget critical information that could assist you when filing a claim or suit. It is, therefore, critical that after the bus accident, you pull yourself together and do the following, which will later help your case:

Seek Immediate Medical Treatment

After involvement in a bus accident, try getting out of the vehicle as soon as possible.  Buses have big fuel tanks as well as sophisticated electronic systems, which means the possibility of the bus exploding a few minutes after the crash is quite high. Additionally, the bus may roll over hitting other nearby autos, resulting in subsequent accidents and increasing the possibility of you being trapped in it.

Injuries sustained after a bus accident can be life-threatening as well. The more you delay getting medical treatment, the more they will worsen and may even lead to death. Thus, ensure a doctor checks you up immediately after the accident regardless of the kind of injury you have. Even if you don’t feel injured at all, seeing a doctor is still helpful.

Confusion and pain may shadow pain, and you may feel to be perfectly fine.  Seeing a doctor may help uncover internal injuries and those that aren’t evident soon after the crash. If you have been severely injured, call 911 and have an ambulance take you to the hospital. You will need the doctor’s report as proof that the injuries were a result of the crash and that you sought treatment as soon as possible so you can be compensated for the medical bills.

Call the Police to Report the Accident

If you have suffered minor injuries, urgent medical attention isn’t necessary (but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get treatment after). If this is the case, you should call law enforcement officers and let them know of the incident. Do not depart from the scene of the accident before the police investigate it and file a report, except if you’re severely injured. It is the bus driver that ought to report the crash, but do not trust they’ll do that, particularly if they’re to blame.

After calling the police, provide them with any information you recall that will help your case. Ensure they document everything about your version of the story and avoid giving info that the at-fault party may use in their favor in court to deny you compensation.

Collect Proof

Evidence is critical if you should win any lawsuit in court.  The proof is what makes the jury believe that indeed a crash occurred, you sustained injuries, and it was not your fault, but the defendant.

There are several ways through which you can gather evidence. They include:

  • Taking photographs of the accident scene and nearby places
  • Taking photos of the stoplights, traffic signs, skid marks, gouge marks, etc.
  • Note the driver’s name, address, and telephone number of the driver
  • Note where the bus was from and where it was headed. This includes the street name, and date and time of travel
  • Record witness’s accounts of the happenings of events before and after the crash
  • Photograph your injuries. Your attorney will need the photos to build a solid personal injury case.

Talk to Eyewitnesses

Eyewitnesses are a critical part of any accident case. They can break or make your injury claim or lawsuit. After being in a bus crash, witnesses can be your fellow passengers, bystanders, business owners or employees close to the scene, drivers of other passing vehicles, etc.

Sometimes, victims could be asleep at the time of the accident, so they can’t tell how the accident occurred and who is to blame. In this case, a witness can be helpful since they will give a detailed account of events.

We advise that you note down the witnesses’ information, including their names, address, and telephone number. This will help your lawyer locate them to testify in your case. 

Document Injuries and Damages

After you have documented your injuries and damages, you need to keep those records safe. The records include receipts, bills, and any other document that will help calculate the exact financial loss you incurred.

The kind of bills and receipts included in damages include doctor’s appointment, cost of physiotherapy sessions, car fuel costs, transportation expenses, car repair fee, proof of lost wages, receipts of out-of-pocket costs.

Call Your Lawyer

The at-fault party is likely to deny that they are to blame for the accident. Even if they accept, their insurance company is most likely to challenge your claim even if there’s concrete proof. A slight mistake may give them the upper hand to deny you the compensation you deserve.  Examples of errors include omitting critical info about the guilty party.

For you to ensure that you don’t make any mistakes that could cost you compensation, you need a skilled lawyer by your side. An injury attorney that understands the Florida personal injury laws will be capable of exploiting every resource at their disposal to ensure you get what you deserve.

Contact a Bus Accident Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

Each year, thousands of us become part of the bus accident data we have mentioned above. You can sustain injuries or lose the person you love in a bus crash. If this has occurred to you, you don’t have to go through it alone. At Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we are standby to review your bus accident case. Our lawyers can help you take legal action against the at-fault party and get the compensation you deserve. Reach out to us today at 904-494-8242 to get started.