We always hear about the safety issues involved with major forms of transportation—cars, planes, and even motorcycles. All of these get mentions. But what about those who are injured in an accident involving a different form of transportation? According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), over 200 million passengers are carried in the United States each year on a bus, including public transit and charter buses. Of these trips in buses, there were about 1,000 that resulted in accidents in 2009 with 44 fatalities. If you have been involved in an accident involving a bus (either as a passenger or as a result of being struck by a bus), then you need to know all of the rules and regulations that may affect your potential to be compensated for your injury. The litigation process can be quite complex and it is important to be aware of all of your rights in such a case.
The first thing that you have to understand with these types of cases is the term “common carrier.” As far as the federal government is concerned, this means that the company is in the business to transport people from one place to another. (This is the same designation that is used for everything from cruise ships to taxis.) The common carrier designation applies for public transport buses, charter buses, and even school buses. This means that a bus driver who acts negligently, by driving too fast for conditions or operating the vehicle while intoxicated, can be held responsible for any injuries incurred as a result of the negligence. However, a bus driver who is acting reasonably but is hit by a negligent driver will not be held liable in court.
Types of Injuries
One of the more common aspects of bus accidents injuries occurs because the buses are not usually equipped with seat belts or airbags. Also, because of the different weight distribution on a tall bus, the probability of rolling over upside down is higher than it is with cars. In a high velocity impact, the passengers can be tossed around the bus resulting in traumas such as broken bones. As with any type of vehicular accident, whiplash or similar traumas can also result when the neck is jerked suddenly, leading to a variety of medical problems such as back and neck pain and headaches. Finally, if the impact is great enough, the accident can lead to substantial brain injury and even death.
If a person is injured in a charter bus accident as a result of negligence on the part of the bus driver, then the lawsuit should be fairly straightforward. The injured party can sue both the driver and the company that he or she works for. These parties are required to carry a fairly high insurance policy to cover such accidents; as a result, the insurance company will probably move to settle the case out of court to prevent a higher payout from a jury. If you are injured as a result of a negligent driver striking the bus you are on, then you would file against that driver and also his or her insurance company. This will, again, probably result in a settlement because of the risk of a jury awarding an even higher payout to the plaintiff.
If, however, you are injured because of negligence from a government bus driver such as a public bus or a school bus, then you will ultimately be bringing your lawsuit against the government (be it a city or county government). Then, you will file a claim directly with the government entity that is usually self-insured. It is important here to make sure that all government paperwork is handled properly and that time limits for filing are strictly adhered to as this may negatively impact your claim. Furthermore, some states not only have a statute of limitations but they may also have limits placed on settlements and jury awards.
Because of the tricky nature involved in filing against the government, it is imperative that you hire a law firm to represent you. This is not the type of undertaking you can make yourself. Additionally, you should find a law firm that is experienced in filing these sorts of claims. The attorneys at Wolf & Pravato have a great deal of experience in such matters and are very capable when it comes to assisting you. They will be happy to consult with you for free and give you an evaluation of your case and discuss your rights in this matter.