Both private and public buses are relatively safe modes of transportation, but they’re certainly not immune to accidents. Collisions involving buses can result in devastating injuries to bus passengers and drivers as well as pedestrians and the occupants of other vehicles.
If you were injured or lost a family member in a bus crash, you may have grounds for a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Depending on the circumstances, there are many parties who might be liable for the resulting medical bills and other damages.
Read on to learn the answers to three FAQs about bus accident claims in California:
1. Who Might Be Liable for a Bus Accident?
There are several parties who might be held responsible for a bus crash. It is important that your attorney is able to perform an immediate investigation to identify all parties whose negligence might have played a role in the collision, including the bus company, the owner of the bus, and the company that repairs and maintains the bus.
Below is a brief overview of the parties that might be liable for damages after a bus accident:
- The Bus Company: The bus company has a responsibility to hire qualified drivers and maintenance workers. It also has a duty to keep a bus off the road if it has a defect such as worn tires or faulty brakes. A bus company may also be held liable for damages if a passenger sustains an injury due the company’s lack of safety procedures or failure to enforce them.
- The Company That Maintains the Bus: It is not uncommon for a bus company to contract out its vehicle maintenance needs to another company. If negligent maintenance contributes to a crash, the maintenance company might be liable.
- The Driver of Another Vehicle: Bus drivers are some of the most experienced motorists on the road, so it should come as no surprise that the drivers of other vehicles are often to blame for bus accidents. In this scenario, passengers on the bus and anyone else who was injured can file a claim against the liable motorist. If that motorist was driving as part of his or her work-related duties, then the employer of that driver may be liable for damages.
- The Tour Bus Operator: If you were injured while riding a tour bus, the owner of the bus, the driver, or the company that operates the tour might be responsible.
- The Bus Driver: In most accident cases involving a negligent bus driver, the employer of the driver would be liable for the damages. But under some circumstances, the driver can be held personally liable. This may be the case if the driver was drunk or fell asleep at the wheel.
- A Government Entity: If the bus was owned by the county or city, you might have grounds for a claim against that government entity. Unfortunately, government entities can try to avoid liability on the basis of governmental immunity. There are, however, circumstances when governmental immunity does not apply, so if you were injured in a crash involving a government-owned bus, you should still consult an attorney to learn your rights.
- The Company That Manufactured the Bus or Its Parts: Although driver error is the proximate cause of most bus accidents, auto part defects can also contribute to these collisions. Depending on the cause of the defect, injured parties may have grounds for a claim against the designer, manufacturer, or distributor of the part.
- The School Board: If the negligence of the bus driver was the proximate cause of the crash and he or she was employed by the school board, anyone who was injured may be able to file a claim against the school board. Another scenario when the school board may be liable for injuries is when a child gets hurt due to a lack of safety standards or failure to enforce them.
2. What Damages Might Be Recoverable in a Bus Accident Claim?
No two bus accident claims are exactly alike. The severity of your injuries, the amount of time you had to miss work to recover, and how your injuries have affected your life will be unique to your particular case. These factors and several others will determine the types of damages that might be recoverable.
Generally speaking, California law allows victims of personal injury to pursue compensation for the following damages:
- Medical costs (past and future);
- Lost wages and loss of future earnings;
- Repairs to property damaged in the accident;
- Home modifications, child care, and other costs related to your injuries;
- Loss of consortium;
- Loss of enjoyment in life;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress; and
- If the defendant’s conduct was especially egregious—for example, if you were injured by a drunk driver—you may also be able to pursue punitive damages.
An experienced bus accident attorney can review your medical records, financial documents, video that most bus operators employ, and other evidence to determine the types of damages to pursue. Depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary to bring in financial and medical experts to provide testimony regarding the severity of your injuries and the related costs.
3. What Qualities Should I Look for in a Bus Accident Lawyer?
Because there are so many parties who might be liable for a bus crash, and it is not uncommon for multiple parties to share liability, the attorney you hire should have an extensive background investigating bus accident claims. If necessary, your lawyer should be willing to bring in well-credentialed experts to help with determining the cause of the collision.
Your attorney should also be well-versed in the state and federal laws and regulations that govern bus service operations and be capable of determining whether a violation of those laws contributed to the accident or to the severity of your damages.
It is also important that the lawyer you hire has litigation experience. Although most personal injury cases are resolved out of court, there’s always a chance that your case might go to trial. A seasoned litigator will have the skills and resources to represent your interests in court if the insurance company or opposing party refuses to cooperate.
Discuss Your Case with a Bus Accident Lawyer in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
After being injured or losing a family member in a bus accident, you probably have a lot of questions. At the Law Office of Michael D. Waks, we are here to provide the answers.
Attorney Michael Waks can review your case during a free, no-obligation consultation. Michael and his outstanding support staff will handle all the logistics of your case and make sure you are treated fairly through every stage of the proceedings.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency. PDF
Even the most diligent drivers aren’t immune to accidents. You never know when you’ll encounter a drunk, distracted, or reckless motorist, so it’s important that you’re always prepared for the worst. Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF lists all the information you need to gather at the scene to ensure your claim gets off to a strong start. Click Here to download it for free.