Buses are heavy vehicles which due to their size and weight have detrimental or fatal crashes whenever involved in accidents. The toppling over and hitting against the seats and other objects lead to varied injuries and death. The complicated injury claims and lawsuits in the recovery of damages after a common bus accident require the representation of an attorney who is dedicated to legally fight against the bus operators and their insurers on your behalf. The Clay County Personal Injury Attorney is dedicated to ensuring you are well compensated. We have defended many in numerous claims in Clay County, read on to understand common causes of bus accidents.
The Negligence of the Bus Driver
The bus driver’s negligence causes a large proportion of accidents. The negligence happens when bus drivers flout state regulations regarding all acts of operating a bus. The driver's negligence can result from various things, within or outside, and divide their attention.
Some drivers have the habit of fixing the dresses and doing facial retouch while driving. The drivers can also be distracted by pets and passengers whose movements and noise shift their attention from the road. Making long journeys may prompt drivers to eat, drink, or smoke to satisfy hunger and addictions. Some addictions make the drivers drive under the influence of alcohol and other substances. Some drivers will often use their mobile phones to send messages, record videos, make a call, preen, or any other activity in order to break the monotony of traveling. The monotony of the journey may also prompt the driver to entertain the bus occupants by tuning the radio and the screen.
Under the above causes of negligence make a driver unable to adhere to the traffic regulations. The driver cannot drive within the lawfully established speed limits and does not obey traffic signals that require them to stop. A distracted driver would either forget to give the proper signals when changing lanes or give wrong signals. If the distracting factor is alcohol, the driver may drive aggressively by changing lanes carelessly, failing to give pedestrians the right of the way, tailgating other vehicles, and making sudden stops along the road.
The drivers also flout laws that regulate the time of refreshing allowed before they can resume their shifts. Sometimes they insist on overtimes to increase their earnings to the detriment of their safety and that of passengers. The traffic laws also regulate when and where the drivers can overtake and make lane changes, which the drivers abscond when not monitored. All these forms of negligence driving significantly increase the chances of getting accidents given the weight of the buses.
The Negligence of the Bus Operation Entity
The negligence of motorcoach companies contributes significantly to the number of bus accidents. Their failure in the proper record keeping and following strict inspection procedures leads to bus accidents. The bus operating entities thus neglect the safety of the public by:
- Disregard of the federal regulations on the operation of their fleet
- Recruitment, training and assigning of drivers to their fleets
- Improper maintenance of the buses
The safe operation of the buses requires prompt maintenance. The bus operation entities neglect maintenance by failing to repair and replace brakes, seatbelts, worn-out tires, headlights, speedometers, and other defective parts. Old and unroadworthy buses increase the risks of accidents. The operators also neglect the loading regulations of their fleet. The overloaded or poorly loaded buses quickly lose control.
Weather changes can imply an increase in the chances of bus accidents. Some weather conditions cause the buses to be unable to maneuver their way on the highway due to their weight and size. The snow, ice, rain, sleet, and fog contribute to accidents by:
- Reducing the visibility of the driver to the other traffic users and roads signs
- Making the roads slippery due to the reduced traction between the tires and the ground affecting braking and balance when steering and negotiating turn
Some companies do not employ drivers trained to drive commercial vehicles while regarding the weather conditions. Though the adherence to the precautions for operating commercial vehicles in lousy weather does not reduce the risks of accidents to zero, the disregard is a more potent cause of accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stipulates precautions to reduce bus accidents.
The drivers should adjust their speed to comply with the weather conditions. They ought to reduce their speed by a third when driving on highways and by half in snow carpeted roads, the speed allowed by the law on the stretch of roads they drive on. A reduced speed implies that there is no need to take sudden reactions when negotiating turns and braking. Driving as the weather allows prevents potential rollovers, collisions, and landing into a ditch.
FMCSA requires drivers to reasonably exercise care by parking the commercial bus safely if the conditions are not too good. Their driving experience and the urgency of reaching the destination should be disregarded when the liabilities associated with damaging the company’s vehicle, sustaining injuries, and risking others’ lives are considered. The drivers should also keep a safe distance that can help them react safely when their bus is sent out of balance by the slippery road. The safety distance would probably help to escape a rear-end accident.
Besides, the drivers need to check for the presence of the black ice on the road. They should be careful when the tires of vehicles ahead of them have no sprays. Careful attention needs to be taken when driving on the ice-forming risk spots.
Lastly, FMCSA requires drivers to be prepared before getting to the road. The condition of the bus, such as functional windscreen wipers, hazards lights, engine, and well-pressured tires need to be checked. The driver needs to have a furnished safety kit, warm clothes, full fuel tank, non-perishable foodstuff, shovels, and warning signs. The driver ought to choose the safest route. The preparedness clears some likelihood of accidents and any anxiety that would disturb the composure needed for driving.
Commercial buses sometimes blow up into a dangerous inferno. While the fire is an accident per se, the panic by the driver and the passengers may heighten the severity of the accident. Fires result from two points on a bus:
- The engine
- Faulty wiring
Engines are sensitive to mismanagement due to their pivotal role in the operation and safety of the bus and the passengers. A spark of fire from an external source or the heat build-up due to travels can cause a poorly maintained engine to put the whole bus ablaze. Old and leaking engine compartments need to be replaced, and any oil spills cleaned from the engines. The fires resulting from engine mismanagement are frequent in buses that use gasoline.
The under-inflated wheels also pose a potential source of fires in buses. The highway speeds cause heat build-ups, leading to fires. The wheels fires are hard to suspect, especially when using radial wheels, which would always keep their shape even when underinflated. The hidden inside wheels for dual rear axle buses are mostly prone to starting this type of fire.
The other cause of bus fires is faulty auto wiring. Due to wear and tear, the wires may be exposed and cause short circuits. The short circuit causes fire due to a large amount of current released from the combustion of the fuel in the car. The explosion may be fatal when fuel and other combustible solids such as plastic and rubber pipes in the bus system catch fire.
The driver and the passengers at the back of the buses rarely get the opportunity to escape when fires start at the engines. Some are choked by smoke, and others burn. Carbon monoxide poisoning and asthma development are the common results of bus fire accidents.
Other Drivers on the Roads
Drivers in the road can also cause bus accidents. They may be negligent, causing accidents. The drivers may also drive in a way that stirs the bus driver to make wrong judgment leading to an accident. Tailgating drivers may cause the bus to have a rear-end accident. All the drivers disregarding the traffic regulations can cause accidents.
Blind spots are areas surrounding the buses which cannot be seen with the naked eye or a piece of equipment without it being adjusted. The spots are mostly behind the coaches and extend some feet away. Coaches with a higher height have more blind spots than shorter vehicles. Shorter drivers have larger blind spots than their taller counterparts. Therefore bus accidents can be caused when the driver cannot see the spots around them while looking forward or behind through the rear-view mirrors or side mirror. The negligence to reduce the blind spots in the following ways leads to an accident:
- Adjustment of the rear-view mirrors to frame the rear window properly
- Adjusting the right and left side mirrors so that only a part of the right side of the bus and part of the left side the bus is visible respectively
- By the driver turning their head to check for the motorist driving from the adjacent lanes
The negligence in eliminating the blind spots leads mostly to rear-end collisions.
The Bus Driver’s Fatigue
The bus driver’s fatigue also causes bus accidents. The fatigue may be contributed from two sources:
- The drivers’ health status and lifestyle
- The bus companies’ negligence
Some drivers suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder caused by the relaxation of the throat muscles leading to blockage of air trachea. The muscles relax due to driver’s exposure to air pollutants in the roads and garages. Snoring and daytime sleepiness are the primary signs of this sleep disorder. The headache, lethargy, lack of concentration, and high blood pressure impair the driver’s alertness when driving. This potentially increases bus accidents.
The driver’s lifestyle consequently increases their fatigue, which, therefore, may result in accidents. Some drivers do not take time to rest but engage in other economic activities besides their employment when off their driving duties. The accumulated fatigue often leads to impairment and a lack of concentration when operating buses. Some of them have lifestyles of partying and drug use, which denies them time to refresh for their driving tasks hence likely to cause accidents.
The bus companies are businesses out to make a profit. Sometimes they minimize the number of drivers to increase profits. The number of drivers employed cannot be appropriately assigned to shifts that allow proper rests for the drivers. The drivers are overworked hence tired most of the time. Due to fatigue, the body gives way to a little siesta while driving, leading to accidents.
Sometimes buses turning to the left may be involved in an accident. The drivers in the United States always keep at the right unless when overtaking. The left turns cause accidents mostly due to the fault of the bus driver when they attempt to turn left where there is no green arrow directing to the left. In the absence of this arrow, all the oncoming have the right of way. The bus driver can only cross when the arrow is present or when there are no oncoming vehicles, and adequate space is available.
Left turns can cause a complicated accident due to the different arrangements of vehicles. The bus may extend to several lanes when turning to obstruct the flow of traffic in those lanes. Besides, there are blind spots to the bus driver due to the blocked view. The bus driver may underestimate the time needed to divert to the intersection or the speed of the oncoming motorists. Due to the acceleration to divert at the junction, the turning angle may expose the pedestrians to injuries. In some other instances, the bus may fail to give signals to the oncoming motorists and those behind him.
The accidents due to the left turn are a special type of T-bone accidents. The bus can collide with:
- Vehicles coming from the intersection joining the highway which the bus is diverting from
- Cars coming from the opposite direction
- Vehicles turning left which have misjudged the bus and are keen to get to keep right after they divert
Mostly, the bus drivers turning left are at-fault since oncoming drivers can yield to them the right of the way by a presence of a signal or sign instructing them to do so. However, there are exceptions when the left-turning driver is not at-fault for the accident. The exceptions are:
- When the bus driver turns left at road section where a green arrow pointing left is present, or the other disregarded a stop sign
- When the other driver in the accident did not give the bus driver enough time to clear from the intersection
- The bus driver turning left began turning when all regulations were obeyed, but circumstances such as being blocked or engine failure caused a snarl-up. The fault is attributed to the third party such as engine manufacturer
The fatalities of accidents caused by left turns are due to the fact the impact targets the sides of the bus where there are less protective obstructions. The effect is absorbed by the driver and the passenger since there are no airbags, resulting in severe injuries. All the vehicles are always bound to adhere to regulations even when they have the right of way.
Some portion of bus accidents are caused by road conditions, which even an alert and law-abiding driver may find difficult to cope with. Medians are installed to prevent stray motorists from getting into the way of the vehicles traveling in a different direction. Medians that are:
- Deficient of reflectors can mislead bus drivers who may crash against them
- Too low may allow the buses to cross leading to accidents
- Very rigid cause the hitting buses to bounce back to the traffic leading to multiple collisions
Poor signage may also make roads unsafe. Roads signs are installed to inform the drivers of:
- Road conditions
- Road inconsistencies
- The traffic safety regulations to be kept at that road section
- The change of road condition and other potential hazards
A poorly installed sign or a sign hidden from sight by the vegetation can cause a bus accident.
The ramps, used by vehicles to exit and enter the roads if they are too short, can cause a significant risk for bus drivers who are not used to them. Highways that are not graded adequately cause the formation of water pools. These pools can cause hydroplaning when the buses travel over them. The waters reduce traction between the tires and the ground. A poorly constructed road poses a high risk of accidents to coaches.
Seeking Compensation for Bus Accident Injuries
When a bus accident occurs, the following entities could be either at-fault, depending on the facts of the accidents. They could be liable for your damages due to injuries resulting from the accident:
- The bus company which is responsible for operating its fleet drivers and operations to ensure safety standards are maintained
- The manufacturer of the bus or its accessories, for selling substandard or defective accessories which pose a threat to the lives of people.
- Other drivers for flouting the traffic rules which amounts to negligence
- The bus maintenance provider who probably overlooked servicing the bus and therefore jeopardized the lives of the people
- The bus driver for acting negligently while they had the duty of protecting the accident from occurring
- The government or its agency that designs, builds and maintains the highway is responsible for botched building or negligence in maintenance
If you are injured in a bus accident you are legally entitled to compensation for the following damages:
- Costs of health care from the point of accident, hospitalization and any future medications as the doctor would determine
- The loss of income due to the injuries resulting from accident
- Pain and suffering in both emotional and physical dimension for you, the injured party, and other parties of interest
- Loss of earning ability due to things such as partial or total incapacitation which may render you unable to work or force you to change to a poorly paying occupation
- Punitive damages to prevent the party at-fault from acting negligently in future
- Wrongful death, a claim filed by a representative of the deceased party’s estate on behalf of the survivors as stipulated by the state law, in case the injured party succumbs to the injuries
If the entity at-fault is an individual or a private party, you will file an injury claim as you would do if you were involved in a two-car accident. Here you would file a third-party claim to the insurer of the at-fault driver. Most of the buses, however, are operated by government agencies. Therefore, if either the bus driver, the other driver, the road contractor, and the maintenance agency is a government agency or employee, the compensation claim gets a little complicated. The government agencies and employees enjoy sovereign immunity. This means that they are shielded from lawsuits and claims. If you are injured in a public bus, the best option is to involve an experienced personal injury lawyer who will help you file a notice of claim within the statute of limitations. The notice of claim should contain:
- Your identification details
- The coherent sum of all damages which are backed by relevant records such as medical reports
- The proper description of the accident and its circumstances
- A written intention to seek compensation for the damages incurred due to the negligence of the government entity
You still have the burden of proving the direct causality of the accident to the injuries. This evidence can be obtained from your own details of the accident scene, the police records, and witness testimonies. Besides, all the medical bills receipts and proof lost income due to injuries must be produced to win this claim.
Find a Clay County Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
When you are injured on public transportation and you need to file a compensation claim against the government, a personal injury attorney is the best recourse. We at Clay County Personal Injury Attorney will handle your case in a timely and professional manner. Our experience in handling personal injury cases in Clay County according to the laws of the state makes us the defense team you can count on. Call us today so that we may discuss your case at 904-494-8242 and get the representation that you deserve.