After most car accidents, the insurance company of the at-fault motorist would cover the medical bills, lost wages, and property repairs incurred by the other parties involved, up to the policy limits. But after a bus accident, it’s common for someone other than a driver to be held liable for damages.
If you’ve been injured in a collision involving a bus, you might have grounds for a claim against:
- The bus driver’s employer;
- The bus driver;
- The company that was hired to maintain the bus;
- Someone driving another vehicle;
- A tour bus operator;
- A government entity;
- The designer or manufacturer of the bus or its parts; and/or
- The school board.
Let’s take a closer look at the parties who might be liable for a bus accident:
1. The Bus Driver’s Employer
If the bus driver’s negligence was the cause of the crash—perhaps he or she was speeding, made an illegal turn, or was distracted—it’s likely that the driver’s employer can be held vicariously liable for damages. And this is often a good thing for victims since bus companies tend to have sizeable insurance policies.
2. The Bus Driver
If the driver of the bus was hired as an independent contractor, your claim would likely be filed against him or her directly rather than the bus company. This is because vicarious liability usually does not apply to independent contractors.
3. The Company That Was Hired to Maintain the Bus
Buses are large, complex vehicles that may travel thousands of miles per month. Without proper maintenance, wear and tear will take their toll and may eventually lead to an accident. Tire blowouts, skidding, and brake malfunctions are just a few potential consequences of negligent bus maintenance.
4. Someone Driving Another Vehicle
Were there any other drivers involved in your accident? If multiple parties played a role in the crash, it’s essential that you call an attorney right away because a liability dispute might arise. The insurance company of the at-fault party may contend that their policyholder was only partially responsible. And if two parties were liable, each might dispute the percentage of fault they’re assigned. A skilled bus accident lawyer can gather all available evidence and use the relevant statutes and case law to prove liability and minimize the chances of a dispute.
5. A Tour Bus Operator
If you were hurt while riding a tour bus or if your vehicle was hit by a tour bus, the operator of that tour might be legally responsible for your damages.
6. A Government Entity
Certain government entities are responsible for designing and maintaining the roads. If your crash occurred due to poor road maintenance, unsafe road design, or the negligent setup of a construction zone, you might have grounds for a claim against a government entity.
Another circumstance when a government entity could be liable is if a public bus was involved. Since public bus drivers are usually employees of a government entity, their employer may be held vicariously liable for their negligence.
Bear in mind, however, that bringing a claim against a government entity is not the same and bringing a claim against a private citizen. For example, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit against a private citizen in California is usually two years from the date of the crash; however, before you can file such a lawsuit against a government entity, you’ll have to file an administrative claim with the appropriate agency. In most cases, this claim must be filed within just six months of the date when the injury occurred. That’s not very much time considering your attorney will have to perform a thorough investigation into your case, interview witnesses, compile evidence, and take other steps to ensure your claim is as strong as possible.
After filing the administrative claim, the agency will have 45 days to respond. If your claim is denied, you’ll have to file the lawsuit within six months if you received a rejection letter. The clock starts ticking on the date the letter was personally delivered to you or mailed. If no such letter was received, you’ll have two years from the date of your injury to file suit.
If you believe the negligence of a government employee might have contributed to your accident, it’s important that you speak with an attorney who has extensive experience handling personal injury claims filed against government agencies. One oversight could derail your entire case, but a lawyer with the right knowledge and resources can help you avoid critical mistakes and make sure you are treated fairly.
7. The Company That Manufactured or Designed the Bus or Its Parts
Even a minor auto part defect can have devastating consequences. You may have heard stories about defective airbags that project shrapnel into the faces of drivers and passengers, resulting in serious injury. But airbags aren’t the only components that can have a dangerous defect; in fact, just about any auto part can have an issue stemming from faulty design or manufacturing.
Proving that a defective part contributed to your crash will require an in-depth investigation. Your attorney may have to review blueprints and schematics, assess recall data, search for reports of similar issues in the same type of vehicle, and consult with an auto parts specialist. Even if you don’t suspect an auto part defect played a role, a skilled lawyer will review your case from all angles to identify any potentially liable parties.
Generally speaking, the more parties you can name in your claim, the better. Under California’s joint and several liability law, defendants in personal injury cases have joint liability for the claimant’s economic damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and property repairs. If one defendant doesn’t have the insurance coverage and financial means to pay for the damages that correspond to their percentage of fault, you may be able to pursue the difference from another defendant.
8. The School Board
School bus drivers are often considered employees of the school board. As such, a school board might be held vicariously liable for the negligence of a school bus driver. The school board may also be liable for injuries to a child that are caused by inadequate safety standards or a failure to enforce such standards.
Speak with a Bus Accident Lawyer in Long Beach Today
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you or someone you love was hurt in a bus crash, attorney Michael Waks can help you identify all potentially liable parties, calculate your damages, and fight for the settlement you deserve. Michael has more than 30 years of experience providing aggressive representation to accident victims throughout California.
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