The perception that buses are rarely involved in accidents has seen many people in Florida opt for this means of transportation. People prefer using buses to commute to and from work or school. While many prefer buses because of safety, they are involved in crashes that leave victims with personal injuries that are sometimes catastrophic. At Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we focus on winning your case by handling your claim while you focus on recovery.
Bus Accidents and Associated Injuries
Many people rely on buses to commute because they are affordable and convenient. Others believe that these motor vehicles are a safer mode of transport. But the truth is that they are the primary cause of accidents.
The injuries associated with these accidents are more severe than those of a car accident. The reason being buses lack safety features that are in standard vehicles like seatbelts. The law doesn’t make it compulsory for coaches to have belts, which means in the event of a bus accident, a lot of people will sustain injuries because they will be tossed around.
Also, when a bus is involved in a collision with a small or standard vehicle, the injuries sustained will be catastrophic because of the absolute size of buses. Also, the other car will be severely damaged. Some of the injuries that might stem from a bus accident include:
- Fractured bones
- Leg injuries
- Head injuries
Note that although the possibility of being involved in a bus accident is low, the fact that the bus might roll-over or tip-over makes the injuries sustained from the crashes severe. In case you are among the victims of the accident, you should seek compensation for the damages or losses from the at-fault party.
Understanding Florida Bus Accident Laws
Florida is a no-fault state. It means that in the event you suffer injuries or damages on your vehicle in a bus accident, you should submit your personal injury claim to your insurer first. You cannot file a claim against the driver of the bus unless you have sustained severe injuries like paralysis. You could also file a claim against the bus driver, carrier company, or municipality where the cost of the damages exceeds your insurance policy coverage.
Because buses offer transport services to the general public at a fee, bus accidents fall under the carrier law. Any business that moves, people, merchandise, or services at a price to the public is a common carrier. It can be a private or public entity depending on who runs it.
Common carriers should exercise an extreme standard of care and vigilance to ensure their safety, the safety of the passengers, and that of the public because they are rendering services to the general public at a price. If bus drivers, companies, or municipalities fail to exercise the high standards of care, then in the event of an accident, they should be held responsible for negligence.
If you are filing a claim against a public or government carrier in Florida, the time limit for filing a suit is limited compared to that of a private company. If you have sustained minor injuries, you can turn to your insurer. Still, when the injuries result in damages that include but are not limited to medical costs, pain, and suffering, you should pursue a claim against the negligent party.
In case you are involved in a bus collision, but you were in another vehicle, you can also pursue damages against the bus driver if the injuries are catastrophic. And since Florida uses the pure comparative negligence system, whether you are to blame for the accident or not, you can pursue damages, but the amount to be awarded will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Frequent Causes of Bus Accidents
The colossal size and heaviness of buses present a high risk of being involved in a collision. Several things can cause bus accidents. These include:
1. Bus Company Negligence
A lot of people in Florida prefer common carriers when traveling for long distances. The fair prices of buses also attract a lot of customers. Because of handling vast numbers of clients, carriers find it challenging to keep proper records or conduct inspection, which amounts to negligence.
Buses should also be regularly maintained, and drivers adequately trained to ensure the safety of the passengers and the general public. When bus lines fail to observe these safety regulations, bus accidents occur.
2. Bus Driver Negligence
Florida has statutes that regulate bus drivers, but most of the time, drivers overlook the laws. Some of these laws require bus drivers to be on the road for a given number of hours and rest enough before the next trip. Others require that buses are operated at a specific speed limit. Drivers are also prohibited from texting while driving.
If a bus driver breaches any of these regulations causing an accident, then he or she is liable for the harm and other damages resulting from the collision.
As mentioned above, drivers are supposed to work for a certain number of hours then enjoy proper rest before getting back on the road. When a driver exceeds the legal hours of driving without any rest, he or she will get fatigued. Fatigue prevents drivers from safely operating the bus, and this could easily result in an accident. Fatigue also causes drowsy driving, which prevents drivers from making appropriate decisions. If an accident occurs because the driver is sleepy or fatigued, he or she will be blamed for the crash.
4. Drunk or Drugged Driving
Bus accidents can also occur if the driver gets behind the wheel when intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. Intoxication impairs the judgment of the driver making even small avoidable things to cause accidents.
5. Defective Bus Equipment
A poorly built bus will have defective tires that could blowout when it’s at high speed, causing an accident. A well-constructed bus will have all the safety equipment such that even if an accident occurs, passengers have protection from severe injuries. But if a coach lacks quality equipment, the faulty equipment could cause an accident or increase the severity of injuries after an accident.
Other causes of bus accidents include:
- Distracted drivers
- Poor visibility due to bad weather
- Overloaded buses
- Inadequate bus maintenance
- Poor roadways
First Steps After Injuries from a Bus Accident
The steps you take after a bus accident, no matter the cause to determine if you are going to win the case. Many people will not think about their legal rights after being injured. However, you must follow some steps after the collision so that in the future, if you decide to pursue compensation, you can be assured of winning your case. These steps are:
A bus accident is likely to attract law enforcers at the scene of the crash. The work of the police at the stage is to prepare a report. The report should include the cause of the accident and police opinion on the person who could be responsible for the crash. You should get a copy of this report because it will play a pivotal role in pursuing a personal injury claim. Make an effort to pick a copy of the statement from the police station, whether they are charging a fee for it or not.
A police report is critical when seeking compensation. Your personal injury attorney will use the statement to negotiate with the insurer of the negligent party to increase the amount of payment. If a settlement is not reached and the case goes to trial, the police report can help you track down witnesses of the crash because it contains their contact information and statements. If you can find these witnesses or provide their comments about the crash to the court, you are likely to succeed in proving negligence.
The process of building a personal injury case begins after you sustain injuries in the bus accident. If you have not sustained significant injuries, call an emergency response team, then start to take notes about the incident. When making the notes, get statements from eyewitnesses and ensure that you get the contact information of the witnesses. You could also give your account of the things that resulted in the crash. Note what happened, before, during, and after the crash. You can include the weather condition at the time of the accident, the time and place of the accident.
Consider taking images of injuries sustained, the damage to the car, and the condition of the road where the accident has happened. Remember to exchange information with other parties involved in the crash to make it easy to track them if you will be pursuing a claim.
Taking notes of the accident is essential because the scene of the crash is temporary. If you fail to gather crucial evidence, your injuries alone will not be enough evidence to prove you the accident caused damages.
After you have gathered enough evidence, you should go to the hospital immediately for medical checkups. Ensure that you jot down the type of injuries sustained and the medical treatment received for the harm. Keep proper records of the medical reports and receipts because you will need them when proving the amount of compensation you should receive. In case the injuries have affected your life, note down the various ways your life has been changed. If the injuries have prevented you from working or affected your relationship with the loved ones, you must note these effects.
The next step is getting a personal injury attorney so that they can aid you through the legal process of seeking compensation. With proper representation, the possibility of winning your case against the negligent party increases. The functions of your personal injury attorney are:
- Provides advice on what you should do or not do during the proceedings of the case
- Explains your rights and how the accident affects these rights
- Represent you in court. Your attorney will be your representative in court and will do all the talking and defending.
Aside from performing the above functions, working with a personal injury attorney will benefit you in the following ways:
A profound injury attorney will have his or her investigators conduct an independent investigation about the bus accident. The investigators get new statements from the witnesses and come up with their ideas on what might have caused the accident and the person to blame for it. The investigations done are often thorough because the people who conduct them are usually retired cops or professionals in investigating accidents.
Attorneys will help you win your case because they will avail accident reconstruction experts where there is a dispute on how the accident unfolded. Other experts that might be needed to help with the investigations will be provided by your personal injury attorney to ensure that the outcome of the case is in your favor.
Better Evaluation of the Damages
After a bus accident causing injuries, you will be thinking of how to pay your medical bills or trying to make up for income lost for the time you have been away from work. You might also be focused on the repairs of your vehicle or bus so that you can get back on the road. During these times, you might not assess your damages the right way.
But your attorney will have a clear mind when evaluating the damages, and he or she will not only focus on your short-term needs but also the long-term. They will also make correct estimates of the costs to be awarded, keeping in mind how the current injuries will affect you in the long run. An attorney will also consult with economists when assessing the impact of the harm in the future.
Connections with Medical Providers
If your insurance policy cannot cover the whole medical treatment, you will need to consider alternative sourcing. If you can’t afford the procedure, your attorney can connect you with medical professionals who will provide treatment but receive payment later after settlement or judgment. An experienced personal injury attorney will also understand some of the severe injuries that might impact your case.
Parties Responsible for Bus Accident Injuries
The circumstances surrounding the bus accident will determine the party to be held responsible for the injuries. Some parties that might be held accountable for negligence in a personal injury claim include:
1. Bus Drivers
If an accident occurs due to distracted driving, reckless driving, or drugged or drunk driving, the bus driver is the person responsible for the accident. Failing to observe traffic signs is also negligence, and the driver should be held accountable.
2. Carriers or Bus Companies
Where negligence such as poor bus maintenance, inadequate training of drivers, and hiring inexperienced drivers by the owner of the bus causes an accident, the company that owns the bus will be responsible for your injuries. Bus owners, in this case, include a school district, the government municipality or Florida state government, or a private bus entity.
3. Bus Maintenance Firms
In the event of a bus accident due to tire blowout or brake failure, the company that does maintenance should be held responsible for the collision due to poor maintenance. These cases are common if the bus owner provides evidence to prove that they perform regular maintenance on their buses. If a bus owner pays for maintenance, but the company doing the work does it poorly, the company should be sued for negligence.
4. Bus Manufacturer
Where a faulty product or equipment on the bus is the cause of the accident, you could sue the manufacturer of the parts for negligence.
Buses are not always the cause of these accidents. Sometimes third parties like the driver of a standard vehicle could be liable for the bus accident. A thorough investigation must be done and included in the police report to establish the facts where a third party is responsible for the injuries.
Determining Fault in a Florida Bus Accident
Even after suing the party accountable for the accident, you must prove the party was legally responsible for causing harm. Some of the elements you must prove are:
Your attorney must establish to the court that the defendant or the party you are suing for the damages owed you a duty of due care.
Also, you must show that the defendant violated the legal duty of reasonable care by acting or not acting in a particular manner.
You must also prove that the violation of a duty of due care by the respondent caused your injuries.
Finally, your attorney must prove that you suffered loss or harm due to the actions or inactions of the party you are suing.
The defendant will also have a chance to defend their actions or inactions and prove that you are also partly to blame for the accident. Even if you are at fault, but the defendant is responsible for a certain percentage of error, you will receive compensation based on your percentage of fault.
In case you have been in a bus accident and believe that you are accountable for the crash, you should do some of the following things:
- Do not apologize because that is admitting fault
- Call law enforcement authorities
- Check on all those involved in the accident and ensure everyone receives medical attention.
- Take notes and photographs
- Get witness statements and contact information
- Notify your insurer about the accident but don’t give details of the accident before speaking to your attorney.
Regardless of the person responsible for the accident, you should turn to your insurer for compensation. If the costs exceed the insurance policy coverage, you can use your medical insurance, pay from your pocket, or sue the liable party for payment if you believe someone else caused the accident.
Damages in a Bus Accident Case
Victims of bus accidents suffer severe harm and property damage. The costs depend on the circumstances surrounding the accident and the injuries sustained during and after the collision. If you want a win in your personal injury claim, you must assess the damages you want to pursue to ensure you receive all the compensation you deserve. Some of these damages include:
Scars and other disfigurements after an accident would have long term effects on your appearance. This might result in mental conditions like stress, which is why you need to pursue compensation.
2. Future Medical Expenses
You will need to recover this type of damage if your injuries will be requiring future medical attention. Your medical professional will be required to give their opinion on the injury and the cost estimate of the treatment in the future.
3. Loss of Consortium
When an accident leaves you unable to provide marriage benefits to your spouse, such as society help, companionship, affection, solace, and sexual relations, you should pursue these damages. The spouse who is not injured is usually the person who tries to recover these financial damages for loss of consortium. The injured spouse can also file this claim. Value is attached to this type of damage by considering the benefits the marriage life provides, the stability of the marriage, and the personal life expectancies of the couple.
4. Loss of Earning Capacity
You will recover these damages if you lose the ability to make money in the future because of the accident. The jury handling your case will consider your earning capacity before the injuries, your age, life expectancy, talent, occupation, and experience to determine if to award these damages or not.
5. Medical Expenses
After the accident, you will need medical attention. Your insurance coverage might not cover the whole amount so you can pursue financial compensation for medical bills like nursing services, ambulance fees, and doctor fees. Make sure you keep proper medical records to ensure you get reimbursement for all your hospital expenses.
6. Lost Wages
These damages seek to compensate you for the amount you should have received from the time of the accident to the date of judgment, but you were not able to earn because of the injuries. Even unemployed persons can recover lost incomes if they can establish the sum of money you could have received from the time of injury until the date of settlement.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
In case you suffer injuries from a bus accident and want to file a claim for compensation, the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney is here to help. Call us today at 904-494-8242 so that we can guide you towards winning your case.