Buses carrying students and commuters are a common sight in most towns and cities across the country. The reason why they are preferred is that bus companies offer a cheaper alternative to long-distance travel when compared to airplane tickets. Again, bus companies can cater for thousands of travelers, unlike other modes of transportation which are more costly. With many big buses on the roads, traffic accidents will be common as well.
A bus accident can be minor or major. If you or your loved one has been involved in a major bus accident, you need to pursue compensation immediately to cater to your medical expenses and other damages. The Clay County Personal Injury Attorney can help you with the legal processes to ensure that you are fairly compensated for all the injuries sustained.
Bus Accidents and Resulting Injuries
There are many big commuter buses on the roads throughout the country. While buses are more convenient and cheaper, they are among the leading cause of traffic accidents on our roads. A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan concluded that around 63,000 bus accidents occur every year.
Injuries resulting from bus accidents are usually more severe when compared to those sustained in car accidents. Most vehicles are generally equipped with seat belts, and the law requires every passenger and drivers to wear them for personal protection. This is a different case in buses as many buses do not have seat belts, and they are not required to have them. For this reason, passengers traveling on a bus are at higher risk for suffering serious injuries if the bus gets involved in an accident.
Again, the sheer size of the bus is in itself a major contributing factor to the seriousness of injuries a commuter can sustain in a bus accident. If a bus is involved in a crash with another bus or car, the amount of damage suffered by the other vehicle and the people on it will be more significant.
Injuries coming from bus accidents can, therefore, be categorized by their seriousness and the amount of resulting damages. Some of the injuries that could result from a bus accident include serious head injuries, broken bones, soft-tissue injuries, scrapes and cuts, head and chest injuries, and arm and leg injuries, among others.
There are additional safety risks too, which are associated with buses which tend to show up when a bus accident occurs. First of all, there is the risk of a roll-over or a tip-over accident, which tends to be higher in buses than in other types of vehicles. There is also the issue of safety restraint or a supplemental safety device like safety belts and airbags, which is lacking in buses as mentioned above. So, even if the chances of a bus getting involved in a traffic accident are lower, the seriousness of injuries sustained when the bus crashes will be more severe than in any other type of traffic accident.
Bus Accident Laws in Florida
Florida State is a no-fault state, and so, anyone involved in a car accident is not required to file a claim against the driver unless the injuries sustained were too severe, for instance, injuries causing paralysis or severe head injuries. In the state, the courts have nothing to do with car accidents. However, all drivers are required by law to have personal injury insurance coverage for a minimum limit of $10,000.
Bus accidents, however, fall under the common carrier law, since buses are used to offer transportation services to people as part of a business. A common carrier, in this case, will be any business or person that is involved in the transportation of people, goods or services at a fee, and one who offers his/her services to the general public. A common carrier will operate under a license and is regulated by a government regulatory body.
Note that common carriers can be public entities or private companies. The other modes of transport that fall under this category include taxis, school buses, trains, trolleys, light rail, ferries, tour boats, airplanes, airport shuttles and limousines in some states.
Common carriers are legally mandated to portray a higher standard of care since they are offering their services to the public at a fee. While other drivers who are not in the business of ferrying passengers are required to drive under reasonable care at all times, a common carrier will be expected to exercise reasonable care and vigilance of the highest degree for his/her personal safety, the safety of the passengers and the safety of the general public. If this is not done and an accident occurs, it will be considered negligence. If therefore you are a passenger on a bus and an accident occurs, special rules will apply to your case, and you will get total compensation for the damages sustained.
If investigations are done and it is established that negligence was the leading cause of the carrier's accident, for instance over speeding, maintenance failures, fatigue or inadequate training on the part of the driver, the bus company or the driver will be liable for all damages sustained and resulting wrongful death if any occurs. When disabled persons or children are injured in such an accident, special rules will apply in their case as well.
Common Causes of Bus Accidents
Even though there are enough reasons to board a bus as compared to other means of transportation, buses are heavier and bigger on the roads. This means that they present a higher risk of causing accidents. There are many reasons why bus accidents occur, just like in car accidents. Establishing the basis for a bus mishap is very important as it helps determine the responsible party for all the damages that have occurred. This is the very first thing your attorney will do once you call them for help to help you file a lawsuit. The common grounds for bus accidents are:
Negligence by the bus company
This is the leading cause of severe bus collisions in the country today. Statistics show that common carriers serve over 700 million travelers every year, which is close to the number of people that airlines serve. Even with that high number of customers, so much negligence is reported in most bus companies in terms of poor record-keeping and inspections.
In some cases, bus companies are not as stringent as they should when it comes to federal regulations, the level of training their drivers should have and the kind of maintenance they should have on all their busses. Some companies intentionally choose to forego the safety of their passengers for a better return.
Negligence by bus drivers
There are laws in the state that control bus drivers and in some cases; they are highly overlooked, especially by most bus companies. Bus drivers are, for instance, supposed to work on a certain number of hours in a day to enjoy enough rest before they can start another shift. Some laws govern the speed in which a bus driver should go. Other requirements include calling or texting on a mobile phone while driving. Violation of these laws is a major cause of accidents on our roads today.
If it is established that an accident resulted from negligence on the part of the driver, the driver will be liable for all damages that result from that accident.
Drivers who work for prolonged periods without taking proper rest are bound to be fatigued. This means that they will not be capable of operating a bus as they should and can easily cause an accident. Bus driver weariness can be categorized under negligence on the part of the driver or the bus company, depending on the underlying circumstances. Drowsy driving is also a problem associated with fatigue and sleepiness. A driver who has not rested or slept enough is likely to get tired, making it hard for him/her to make proper decisions on the road. This increases their chances of getting involved in accidents.
Poor visibility caused by adverse weather conditions
This may not be a common factor, but sometimes poor visibility caused by poor weather conditions may be the reason why some bus accidents occur. Lousy weather, together with the heavy weight of the bus, may make it difficult for the driver to control and quickly maneuver it in some situations, which could cause a crash.
Again, bus drivers who have not been well trained to drive buses and drive as per different weather conditions, as required by the law, may find it hard to control their buses when the weather gets to the extreme. There are many precautions that common carriers are expected to take when there is bad weather, which is taught to bus drivers before they can take up a job.
Defective bus equipment
A poorly built bus has a higher chance of getting into accidents than a quality bus. The quality of equipment used in the construction of the bus matters too. Poorly-manufactured tires will, for instance, cause tire blowouts, which is among the leading cause of most motor accidents on our roads today. When a poorly-constructed bus is involved in a crash, passengers in such a bus are more likely to sustain severe injuries as compared to those traveling in a well-constructed bus. Bus companies are required to make sure that all equipment used in the construction of their busses is of the best quality and is well maintained at all times.
Drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs
When a bus driver is operating a bus under the influence of alcohol or drugs, their ability to focus and function properly is usually affected, and this could be dangerous for him/her, the passengers on the bus and other motorists on the road. Driving under the influence causes accidents on the roads every day, even though this is one of the things that can be easily avoided.
Other causes of bus accidents include:
- Inadequately trained bus drivers
- Distracted drivers
- Poor bus maintenance
- Dangerous roadways
- Distracted driving
- Overcrowded buses
Parties That Could be Responsible for Bus Accident Injuries
The nature of the bus accident you have been involved in will determine the party or parties that will be held responsible for that accident. Some of the possible parties that could be liable in a personal injury lawsuit include the following.
A bus driver will be held accountable for a crash if they were driving under the influence, driving recklessly, or they did not follow the set traffic rules.
A bus owner will be held liable for an accident if they hired a poorly-trained or inexperienced driver or did not maintain the bus property, as per the set standards. Bus owners, in this case, could be a school district, the state of Florida or a private bus company.
Bus maintenance companies
The company that is responsible for keeping buses in good working condition could be held accountable if an accident happened because of poor maintenance such as a tire blowout or brake failure.
The bus manufacturer
If the defect that caused the accident was as a result of a defective product, the manufacturer would be held responsible for all the damages caused by the accident
A third party
A third party, such as another driver could be held accountable if they are the reason why the bus crashed in the first place. Proper investigations must be conducted at the scene of the accident to establish this fact.
Types of Compensable Bus Accident Damages
As mentioned above, bus accidents can cause significant damage to property and severe harm to passengers and other people on the road where the accident occurs. All these damages are quite expensive and will include medical bills, so much time away from work by the victims, and non-monetary damages such as pain and suffering. Most of the resulting damages are usually catastrophic because of the big size and power of a bus. A personal injury attorney can help bus accident victims to assess their damages to file a claim with the responsible party, whether it is the driver or the bus company.
Note that every bus accident is different from another and so, victims in one accident may sustain damages that are different from those suffered by victims in another bus accident. The types of damages sustained are determined by several factors such as the location of the victim in or around the bus, the speed at which the bus was moving at, the site of the crash and whether or not the victim was wearing a safety belt.
Some of the general damages include:
Whiplash is the term used to refer to the neck pain that results from soft tissue injuries around the neck, specifically the neck muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Whiplash is likely to be experienced when an abnormal force or motion is applied to the neck, causing movement beyond the neck’s range of motion. It could also be experienced when the neck muscles and ligaments strain and pull beyond the ordinary. Whiplash is mainly experienced in motor vehicle accidents and could be manifested in the swelling of the neck, tenderness along the shoulders or the back of the neck and jaw tightness, which could make chewing difficult.
Broken bones are quite common in car accidents. The shock of the accident itself could hurt the victim's back, or their elbow might crash through the bus' window. Fingers might break too when one is trying to brace the impact of the crash. If the accident is big, passengers might be thrown off their seats, and some could sustain multiple fractures in various parts of their bodies, including their limbs.
Traumatic brain injuries
A traumatic brain injury can occur if there was a violent jolt or blow to the body or head. If an object penetrates the brain tissue at the time of the crash, the victim could sustain a severe injury on their brain. A mild trauma may affect a person's brain cells temporarily, but a more severe trauma could result in torn tissues, bruising and bleeding and sometimes physical damage to the brain.
Traumatic brain injuries can result in long-term complications, and in other cases, they may lead to death.
Spinal cord injuries
Being the most sensitive part of a human body, damage to the spinal cord can cause long-term complications that could forever affect a person’s life. Spinal cord injuries can cause both short-term and long-term changes to the way it functions. As a result of the damage, a person may lose the functioning and sensation of some or most of their muscles, or the autonomic functioning of various body parts that are served by the spinal cord.
A fatal bus accident will be the most dangerous of all. Even with all the road safety measures that have been put in place, a good number of people die in road crashes every year in the US.
Other compensable damages will include:
Pure Comparative Negligence Law
The state of Florida operates under absolute comparative negligence law, which means that a victim's compensation will be determined by the amount of negligence they were responsible for. This means that damages incurred in a bus accident can be divided between the responsible parties depending on the percentage of their fault. A victim can, therefore, recover damages even if he/she was at fault in one way or the other.
Bus accident victims can also recover damages for both monetary and non-monetary damages. Monetary/economic damages are those that are paid from a person's pocket and will cater for medical expenses, lost earning ability, and lost wages for the period the victim will be out of work recovering. Non-monetary damages are the intangible costs that are incurred by accident victims. These are, for instance, pain, suffering, loss of parental guidance, loss of consortium, mental anguish, and humiliation.
Statutes of Limitations
Since most bus owners are government agencies, there is usually a specific time limit within which a victim can file a claim for a bus accident. This time limit is what is referred to as the statute of limitations. In addition to this, there are special notices that should be filed within specific time limits if you are dealing with a government entity, and should be submitted before a victim files a legal claim. This is a great reason to get you a personal injury attorney who has extensive experience in dealing with bus accidents. Note that the statute of limitations for anyone filing a claim against the government will be three years in Florida.
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help You?
There are many complexities involved in bus accidents that will require the help of a legal professional who has proper training and good experience, such as a competent personal injury attorney. A reasonable attorney will take the necessary steps to ensure that your legal rights are well protected as you file for compensation.
A competent attorney will also handle all negotiations with the liable entities and insurance companies on your behalf. Your attorney will be well aware of all the damages you have incurred and their severity to be able to present the actual picture, on your behalf, to the responsible parties.
Through his/her experience, the attorney will be able to demand compensation that matches the number of damages you have suffered. If payment is denied, your attorney will know the right course of action to take. He/she can advise you to proceed to trial or to accept a settlement, depending on the circumstances of your case.
If you or your loved one has suffered injuries through a bus accident, it helps to know that you can get the right legal help in getting the compensation you deserve for the damages you have incurred. The Clay County Personal Injury Attorney can help you determine the number of damages you have suffered, whether or not they are compensable, and the amount of compensation you should pursue. Call us at 904-494-8242 to schedule an appointment.