According to the US Department of Transportation, bus travel has the lowest number of annual fatalities, compared to air, railroad and highway transport. Buses are a safe way to get from Point A to Point B, whether they are shuttling students to school or for those not traveling by motor vehicle. Bureau of Transportation statistics from 2017 show buses accounted for 71,000 total highway crashes, compared to 129,000 motorcycle and 7,200,000 passenger car accidents. The number of people who regularly ride buses has increased 35 percent over the past decade and, as a result, more people may be involved in a bus accident. Here’s what you should know.
How Bus Accidents Differ
First, the larger size and higher center of gravity increase rollover risks during a bus accident. Secondly, because most public buses do not have restraints or safety devices like air bags, the chance passengers will be seriously injured also increases. Thirdly, objects carried by passengers may become projectiles that injure others. With these injury risks in mind, passengers may experience:
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal organ damage
At the Scene
After an accident, we always recommend you seek medical treatment right away. If possible, also make an attempt to capture what happened at the scene:
- Take pictures on your phone, including the bus from multiple angles, any weather conditions and the surrounding area, including property damage.
- Write down your own statement detailing what happened.
- Keep records of all medical treatments you received.
- Take statements from witnesses of the accident.
- Get a copy of the police report.
Did another vehicle hit the bus or did the driver crash into an inanimate object? In the former scenario, your lawyer will file a claim through the defendant’s personal carrier. Bus drivers are often employed by a government entity, such as a town’s public transit system or school district, which is typically self-insured. The exceptions would be contractors or those working through a private chartered company. Although the process is relatively similar:
- Your claim may be denied if you submit it to the wrong office or organization.
- The window to submit your claim is fairly small, sometimes just 30 days.
- For certain claims or based on local laws, the transit organization or school district may have immunity.
- The organization may have its own processes for filing a claim.
Common Carrier Law
Any public transportation company, which includes buses, trains, subways, limousine and taxi services, is required to provide a higher degree of care toward passengers than the average driver. Based on common carrier law, the bus driver is expected to go above and beyond to ensure all passengers get to their destination safely. State by state, common carrier law may only apply in the instance an injury occurs or it encompasses all actions of the driver while operating the vehicle. For this latter scenario, it’s a carrier’s responsibility to:
- Keep entrances and exits clear and easy to see for all passengers, including making sure nothing blocks the exit, areas are well lit and removing ice from the steps.
- Have qualified drivers operate all vehicles.
- Provide security as necessary, such as cameras to monitor the bus.
- Keep all vehicles and systems maintained.
- Revise and update any design flaws within the vehicle.
In spite of these points, it’s the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove the driver or bus company was negligent and not upholding common carrier law.
Filing a Claim
State Tort Claims Acts frequently specify the period of time and deadlines for filing claims against government-run transit companies. On a state-by-state basis, these laws cover:
- When you need to notify the public transit company about the nature of the accident. Generally, this action must be taken within six months from the incident.
- Any statute of limitations or deadlines for filing a lawsuit against the transportation company.
- How to file the lawsuit and any restrictions preventing plaintiffs from filing.
- Caps for injury claims.
You will start by notifying the government entity using their claims form. Then specify:
- Who the claim is being made against, whether it’s the driver, the transit company or the city or town that should have been maintaining the road.
- A description of events, including when, where and how the accident happened, and all damages, from injuries and medical costs to property damage.
- How negligence played a role in the accident and injuries.
- A statement to seek compensation for your injuries.
- Your name and address.
Were you recently involved in an accident with a bus or other public transit vehicle and are considering filing a claim? Contact Trantolo & Trantolo’s personal injury lawyers to get the process started. Give us a call today.