Where a large group is planning on visiting a tourist destination, chartering a tour bus is the most efficient and safe mode of transport. Tour bus drivers and companies are required to operate and drive the buses safely to ensure the safety of passengers and other road users. However, this is not always the case because tour bus accidents occur due to negligence causing catastrophic injuries. At the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we help tourists injured in these accidents receive compensation.
Understanding Tour Buses as a Common Carrier
Florida laws consider all buses as common carriers. Under the law, a common carrier is any business that moves people or merchandise from one point to another. The coaches included under common carriers are:
- Tour buses
- Commercial airplanes
- Commercial buses
- Particular trucks
All common carriers must exercise a specific level of care and diligence when it comes to the safety of passengers. A breach of these safety standards is a significant cause of bus accidents in Clay County, FL. If you are a passenger on a tour bus enjoying the beautiful scenery and you sustain catastrophic injuries because of an accident caused by negligence, you can pursue a personal injury claim against those liable. The court relies on the reasonableness standard to prove negligence in these cases.
Causes of Tour Bus Accidents
Tour bus accidents occur for the same reason auto accidents happen. The leading causes include driver error, recklessness, or poor maintenance. Poor road conditions and disregard of traffic laws by other motorists are also causes of tour bus collisions. But the most prevalent causes of these accidents are:
Fatigued Tour Bus Driver
Florida has safety regulations that govern the number of hours drivers can spend on the road. These regulations prohibit common carriers from allowing drivers to operate buses when they are fatigued or likely to be tired. But tour companies are in the business of making money, so the majority of them will not be willing to alter their tour schedules because a driver is resting.
For this reason, a driver who has been on the road for long hours will continue to drive to keep up with the schedule. In the process, a driver might fall asleep while driving, causing a significant accident. Remember, fatigue affects the driver the same way alcohol or drugs does thus exposing the driver, passengers, and other motorists to the risk of sustaining catastrophic injuries. In case you sustain life-changing injuries because of a tour bus accident caused by a fatigued driver, you should sue the bus driver to receive benefits.
Excessive Speeding and Aggressive Driving
Tour bus companies believe in keeping tour schedules to strive in the competitive market. As a result, they might encourage drivers to over speed, tailgate, and weave in and out of roads as long as they keep the tour schedule. Every stop that a tour bus makes is pre-planned and allocated a specific duration. If the driver delays at one point, the time for the next stop is consumed, hence the reason these drivers drive aggressively to stay on schedule and make up for the lost time. In the process of speeding and driving aggressively, tour bus accidents occur, causing severe injuries.
The same way standard vehicle drivers’ text or make calls while behind the wheel, tour bus drivers might also do the same despite being prohibited by the federal law from texting while on the road. A few seconds of not focusing on the roadway could result in a tour bus accident.
Tour and bus companies rely on senior drivers a lot because of the shortage of experienced commercial bus drivers. Many of the aging commercial bus drivers are either people who have put off their retirement or have retired in another industry and received training to become tour bus drivers. Senior drivers lack the stamina required in this industry, and in case something sudden happens on the road, their reaction time is slow, thus increasing the risk of tour bus accidents.
Drugs or Alcohol
When an accident occurs involving a tour or any other commercial bus, the common carrier that owns the bus administers alcohol or drug tests. If the test results are positive, the bus driver should lose the job. But because of the shortage of commercial bus drivers, companies are forced to retain drivers known to abuse drugs or alcohol. By putting a driver with a history of drunk or drugged driving back on the road with a tour bus full of tourists, the risk of the bus occupants sustaining catastrophic injuries increases significantly.
Bus Company Negligence
Although common carries are regulated, the regulations on buses are not the same as those or airlines. For this reason, tour bus companies might be tempted to take shortcuts when it comes to record-keeping and bus inspections. Some tour buses are ancient while others lack safety features like seatbelts. Others do not train their drivers adequately after recruiting or provide continuing education programs to keep drivers up to date with the latest developments in the industry. Tour bus accidents, therefore, end up occurring because of inadequate bus maintenance and bus driver training.
Tour bus drivers understand what causes most of these accidents, but still, accidents keep occurring. Particular precautions can be taken by the drivers and tour bus owners to mitigate the various causes of accidents. Some of these precautions include ensuring buses are regularly and properly maintained. All seatbelt and other safety equipment should be routinely checked to ensure they are in good shape. Besides, tour bus drivers should be extra careful not to harm passengers and other road users by doing the following:
- Ensuring the bus keeps a proper turning distance
- Making sure all tour bus passengers, especially the elderly, are on their seats before moving.
- Ensuring all passengers have boarded or departed the bus before pulling into the road.
- Stopping at safe locations for passengers to get off
- Coordinate with the tour bus company to ensure the bus is always in good shape to transport tourists.
Catastrophic Injuries Resulting from Tour Bus Accidents
Tour buses are safe and carry a large group of tourists to their destination at affordable rates. The problem is that they are not immune to accidents. The colossal size and power of tour buses can have adverse effects on the occupants and other road users in case of an accident. Some of the injuries sustained from these accidents leave the victims unable to perform their routines permanently.
Aside from the permanent and life-changing effects, catastrophic injuries from a tour bus accident have on the victims; even their loved ones are affected a lot. The reason being the victims require constant assistance for the rest of their lives. The medical bills and rehabilitation costs that come with the injuries also put families of the victim in a financial crisis and deny them the enjoyment of life. The common catastrophic injuries resulting from tour bus accidents include:
1. Traumatic Brain Injuries
The impact of a tour bus accident can force your brain to hit the skull, thus damaging some brain tissues. TBI happens as a result of direct trauma on the brain. The reason these injuries are common in tour bus accidents is the fact that most of these buses don’t have seatbelts. In the event of an accident, passengers are tossed in all directions exposing them to trauma on the head. The side of the brain where the injury happens is where damage occurs. If the skull is hit back and forth after trauma on the head, you could suffer brain damage on the opposite side of where the injury happened.
Remember that sometimes the trauma can be severe enough to cause bleeding in the brain, which sometimes is fatal. The other effect of a brain injury is that you might stay unconscious or in a coma for days after a tour bus accident. Victims remain in a coma or without an understanding of their surroundings, even for the rest of their lives. Those lucky enough to get out of coma experience various challenges after the brain injuries. Some of these challenges include:
- Speech difficulties
- Difficulties maintaining balance, movement or coordination
- Challenges controlling emotions
- Loss of memory
- Problems focusing or paying attention
If you or someone you know has sustained TBI, you should know that these injuries will affect everyone around the victim. For this reason, it is essential to file a claim against those liable to receive compensation for damages caused by the injuries.
2. Third-Degree Burns
Third-degree burns are also a type of catastrophic injury sustained after a tour bus accident. Burns occur when a tour bus catches fire after an accident and passengers are trapped inside. These cases are common where a tour bus collides with another car or truck catching fire or where the tour bus rolls over trapping passengers and catching fire. The burns from these accidents affect your bones, muscles, or nerves below your skin layer.
Third-degree burns completely change the lives of the victims or plaintiffs. Those who recover are left with severe disfigurement or scars that lower their self-esteem. The majority of burn victims will be afraid to go out in public. The victims with mental and emotional stress, on the other hand, end up developing other psychological conditions like depression or social anxiety.
People who suffer these injuries spend most of their lives in hospitals to receive surgeries and therapy. Money is also spent on treatments and caring for the victims. For this reason, getting reimbursed for medical expenses is vital.
3. Spinal Cord Injuries
Another catastrophic injury you can suffer after a tour bus accident is trauma on your spinal cord. These injuries happen when the trauma from the crash causes damage to the disks or ligaments of the spinal cord. Tour bus accidents can also cause the sudden and traumatic shock of the spinal cord breaking, dislocating, or crushing the vertebrae.
Aside from the SCI occurring immediately after the collision, others have delayed symptoms that occur days after the accident. What forces these spinal cord injuries to happen is the inflammation, swelling, or bleeding around the spinal cord due to the impact of the accident.
Trauma from tour bus accidents damages the nerve fibers that pass through the area where the spinal cord is injured, impairing the muscles and nerves in the sections below the SCI. Impairment of this extent might lead to temporary or permanent paralysis. Also, if you sustain a lumbar injury, the side effects are more devastating because it interferes with your bowel or bladder regulation. The trauma can even have worse side effects if they affect your sexual function or torso.
If your spinal cord is injured around the neck, you will develop respiratory system conditions or lose the ability to move the hands or arms. Note that paralysis can only happen below the area where the spinal cord is injured. If all the muscles and nerves are affected, it results in complete loss of sensory function. But if not all the nerves or tissues have been affected, you lose the ability to move your legs but not entirely.
Keep in mind that SCI can keep you or a loved one in the wheelchair for the rest of their life which is why you should try to recover damages resulting from the injuries. Some of the costs you can recover for these injuries include lost wages, loss of consortium, medical bills, loss of future earning ability, and pain and suffering.
Tourists or passengers involved in fatal tour bus accidents also suffer a loss of limb. Sharp glass from the tour bus, debris, or metal might injure your limb to a great extent. Some lose their hands, arms, legs, or fingers immediately after the accident. Where the bones are too damaged to be repaired in the areas of the hands, legs, arms, or fingers, medical professionals opt for amputation as the only solution.
You might lose a limp in a tour bus accident and still have it reattached if you take good care of the lost limb after the crash. Although reattachment is possible, you might not regain the nerve function, which is why a lot of people do not consider reattachment. The majority of people who undergo amputation rely on prosthetic limbs. The prosthesis can only be fitted after the section that had surgery fully recovers. It might take weeks or months for the wound to heal, but this is the duration you will need to wait to receive the prosthetic limb.
Keep in mind that as you recover from the amputation, you will need both occupational and physical therapy to recover fully. Rehabilitation helps the victim regain strength and endurance. Physical exercise during recovery helps the victim learn how to function or engage in routines without a limb or to use a prosthesis. Rehabilitation also helps those who have undergone amputation to accept their new body changes and learn to live with them.
The recovery process from an amputation is lengthy and costly; thus, the reason you should put effort into ensuring the person responsible for the amputation compensates you for the losses.
5. Internal Organ Damage
Internal injuries are common in tour bus accidents. When a body organ is punctured or injured from the inside, you will need an emergency organ transplant. If no organs have been damaged, you might be bleeding from the inside, thus requiring a surgical procedure to control the bleeding. Remember that internal injuries can be fatal or life-changing, which is why after an accident, always make sure you go for a hospital examination even if you have no physical injuries.
Parties Responsible for Tour Bus Accidents
If you have sustained the catastrophic injuries above, it would only be reasonable to have the liable party reimburse you for the economic and non-economic damages. But to receive these financial benefits, you must prove the person responsible for the accident. Various parties might be held accountable for the accident, including the company contracted to perform repairs on the tour buses, the bus driver, or the tour company. Some of the parties that could be held liable in these accidents are:
Tour Bus Companies
Tour buses rarely own their buses. They enter into contracts with bus companies to hire coaches. A tour company must ensure they work with a reputable bus company, one that has a clean safety record. If they breach this duty by entering into a contract with a bus company known for causing accidents or violating traffic laws, then the tour company should be held responsible for injuries sustained after the tour bus accident.
Florida has common carrier laws that govern entities like bus companies. According to the statutes, bus companies must exercise reasonable care to keep passengers, bus drivers, and other parties safe. The bus companies do this by ensuring they recruit adequately trained and licensed drivers, keep proper records, and ensure their buses are in excellent shape and appropriately maintained. When an accident occurs because of negligence by the bus entity, then they should be held responsible for your injuries.
Various Bus Destination
Tourists in tour buses suffer catastrophic injuries when departing from the bus at a stop or destination. Remember, these buses have multiple stops where they stop, and every destination has its condition. If, when departing the tour bus, a passenger slips after stepping on a slippery surface and breaks their hip, the people in charge of the destination should be held accountable for the injuries.
Understanding Florida Personal Injury Law
Florida is a no-fault state. People injured in tour bus accidents should turn to their insurers for compensation. But if they have suffered catastrophic injuries, their insurance coverage might not be enough to cover all the medical costs and lost wages. For this reason, victims of tour bus accidents or their families should file personal injury claims against the people that are responsible for the injuries. You will, however, need to consult with your attorney to know if your injuries meet the standards of catastrophic injuries.
In every personal injury claim, you must prove the accused acted negligently, thus causing your injuries. You can do that by showing that the defendant owed you a duty of care but failed to uphold the duty, thus causing your injuries.
Once you have filed a claim, you should begin negotiation for a settlement with the insurer of the at-fault party. If you agree to a settlement, you lose the legal right to file a claim against the responsible party. All the evidence and facts of the accident will come into play in determining the amount of compensation. Work closely with a personal injury attorney if you want to ensure you receive maximum compensation.
Keep in mind that the statute of limitations for tour bus accidents claims is four years. If the duration elapses, you cannot seek compensation for your catastrophic injuries. Also, because some catastrophic injuries don’t manifest immediately after the accident, the statute of limitations begins when these injuries are discovered.
Where a claim is against a government agency, you have up to three years to file a claim.
Misconceptions in Tour Bus Accidents Causing Catastrophic Injuries
People will give you different opinions on the legal action to take after a tour bus accident. It’s not easy to tell who is talking the truth or not. Some of the myths people have about these claims include:
- An attorney is not necessary after these accidents. This is not true because although you turn to your insurer for compensation if they offer you little amount to cover all the costs associated with the injury, you will need an attorney to file a claim or negotiate with the insurer.
- Lawsuits take time before they are resolved. The myth is not true because the duration of the claim depends on the strength of the evidence and witness statements. If you are working with an excellent attorney, they can focus on the case as you heal.
- Also, there is a myth that your family law or bankruptcy attorney can handle your personal injury claim. This is untrue because these attorneys lack personal injury knowledge and experience to handle the lawsuit.
Find a Tour Bus Accident Attorney Near Me
The legal challenges experienced after a tour bus accident needs help in addressing them. Victims of tour bus accidents with catastrophic injuries should reach out to a personal injury attorney. Our Clay County Personal Injury Attorney team is ready to help. Call us at 904-494-8242 for a free consultation.