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Bus Accidents

Bus Accident Lawsuits

Bus accidents are included in the category of common carrier service. As common carriers, bus operators are subject to a higher standard of care than is imposed on other types of businesses. This is especially true if there are injuries resulting from a bus accident.

Since bus drivers are entrusted of more lives while driving, they must get a special driving license called Commercial Driving License (CDL). This means that their driving is part of their business. These specifications reflect how important their driving is for people's safety and their high level of liability in case they breach their duty of care.

What is a Common Carrier?

Bus accident law falls under common carrier law because buses offer transportation services to people as part of their business. A common carrier is an individual or business that transports goods, people, or services for a fee. The service is offered to the general public under license or authority provided by a governmental body.

Common carriers can be private companies or public entities. Laws governing common carriers are regulated on the local, state, and federal levels. Under the Interstate Commerce Act, the federal government regulates common carriers that transport passengers or cargo across state lines. The individual states regulate travel within the state.

Other means of transportation that fall under the common carrier category may include school buses, taxis, trains, light-rails, trolleys, cable cars, cruise ships, tour boats, ferries, airplanes, and shuttles at airports and limousines.

Common carriers have the legal responsibility to show a higher duty of care since they provide their services to the public for a fee. Non-commercial drivers must operate their vehicles under reasonable care. Still, common carriers must use the highest degree of care and vigilance for the safety of their passengers and the public. Failure to adhere to that highest duty of care can be considered negligence. If you are a bus passenger and are injured as the result of an accident, special rules apply to your situation.

What is the Difference Between a Commercial Bus and a Public Bus?

Some buses, like school buses and commuter buses, are considered public. Other buses are private buses for transporting passengers and goods for a variety of reasons.

If you get into an accident with a school bus, a variety of people and entities could be liable in your accident. These people and entities may include:

  • The school bus driver's employer: The school bus driver's employer may be liable for the negligence of the driver
  • The bus manufacturer: If the bus was defective in any way that contributed to the accident, the bus manufacturer might be liable for negligence
  • Third-party contractors: If any contractors were responsible for supplying deficient parts or hiring unqualified bus drivers, third-party contractors might be liable for negligence.

Likewise, several entities may be liable if your accident happened on a tour bus. Those entities may include:

  • The owner: Whoever owns the bus is responsible for maintaining a safe fleet of buses. The owner is also responsible for ensuring the drivers of their buses are qualified to operate their vehicles
  • The tour company: Tour companies could be liable if they did not adequately evaluate the bus companies they choose as business partners. For example, if you can prove that the bus company's owners had several safety violations, the tour company may also be liable for the accident.

Can Common Carriers Be Government Agencies?

It is important to note that many common carriers are government agencies. Because of this, there are typically very specific and limited time frames for filing a claim in these types of cases. This time period is called a statute of limitations.

Additionally, to sue a governmental entity, there may be special notices that must be filed within a certain time period before filing a legal claim. Therefore, it is wise to consult an experienced common law carrier law attorney if you or a family member has been injured in a bus accident.

What Are Some Common Types of Bus Accidents?

Buses are used to transport many people at one time to various destinations. The majority of buses do not involve seat belts, airbags, or other types of restraint systems normally

found in passenger cars. As such, a bus accident can involve some serious injuries.

Some common types of bus accidents include:

  • Injuries from sudden stops or starts (especially where a bus passenger is standing up inside the bus)
  • Injuries to passengers who are in the act of boarding or unboarding the bus
  • Accidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists (these can be very serious)
  • Collision accidents with other vehicles
  • Accidents caused by bad weather
  • Accidents involving trains or railroad crossings

Some accidents may also involve high-speed collisions on the highways. These can also be very serious, as buses take some time to slow down (similar to big rigs and other larger vehicles). Like other kinds of motor vehicle accidents, liability hinges on determining which party was responsible for causing the accident. Accidents occur for a variety of reasons, and bus accidents are no exception. Bus accidents may be caused by:

  • Distracted drivers
  • Bus driver errors
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Inadequate driver training
  • Poorly maintained buses
  • Violations of bus rules and regulations
  • Speeding or violations of other traffic laws

Bus accidents happen for a variety of reasons, and those reasons directly influence who is liable for the accident. For example, if a bus hits you, and the bus driver doesn't have the proper licenses needed to operate the bus, the bus driver will likely be liable.

Drivers and operators of buses owe a high duty of care to protect passengers from injuries.  While the bus line is not an insurer against accidents, it will be liable for the slightest neglect or lack of care resulting in injury to its passengers.  Most injuries occur while getting on and off the bus or from sudden stopping and starting of the bus.

Injury While Entering Or Exiting Bus

To recover for injuries while entering or exiting a bus, there must have been some defective condition which the bus driver or bus line knew or should have known about.  This may

be anything from a badly worn step to an icy step.  For example, one passenger was able to recover when the heel of her shoe got caught in a raised piece of steel in the bus and she tripped and fell.  Another passenger was able to recover for injuries while trying to get off the bus when she slipped and fell on a slippery step which had no handrails.

Injury From Sudden Starts Or Stops

A passenger boarding a bus is presumed to have reached a place of security or safety when he or she has entered the door of the bus, and the driver has no duty to keep the bus stationary until the passenger is seated.  However, a bus company may be liable if it started the bus with such violence that a passenger in the exercise of reasonable care was injured.  For example, one passenger who was standing holding onto the back of a seat was thrown to the floor by a sudden stop of the bus.  The bus line was found liable because there was evidence that other passengers were jarred and some were thrown to the floor when the bus suddenly stopped.

Passengers who are seated in the bus may be able to recover for injuries they suffer from negligent sudden starts or stops.  For example, one passenger was able to recover where a man was running toward the bus and the operator stopped, applying the brakes so suddenly that the plaintiff was thrown forward from her seat against the seat in front of her and sustained serious injuries. 

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Bus Accident?

This depends on the situation. In some cases, a bus company can be held liable for an accident, especially if it is due to some sort of mechanical failure or defect with the vehicle that the company could have prevented (such as a faulty tire). In some cases, the city or county may be held responsible if the accident involves a public transportation bus.

Buses are also used very extensively for the transportation of children and students. School bus safety violations can lead to a lawsuit against a school district or other similar department if they are found to be in violation of safety codes or are engaged in negligent practice.

Lastly, an individual bus driver can sometimes be held liable if they have engaged in negligent behavior. These can include: driving while intoxicated, speeding, disobeying road rules, or driving in an overall reckless manner.

When Are Bus Drivers Liable for Injury?

While everyone has a duty to everyone else to exercise at least "reasonable care" to avoid causing injury, courts have raised this to a higher standard for bus drivers. Instead of reasonable care, bus drivers must exercise "heightened care," "utmost care," or "highest practical care."

If the bus driver's actions fall below this standard, then they may be held liable for injuries.

There are different factors that the court consider in order to determine if a bus driver was negligent, if he did not exercise the required level of care, or if he was not responsibly at all for the accident. Causation of the accident is one of the factors to determine the bus driver responsibility. If the injuries of an individual were caused "but for" the negligence or breach of the duty of care of the bus driver, he is liable to pay damages and compensation to the victim. Proximity cause is another factor to consider. These elements are part of tort law.

When Are Carriers Liable for Injury?

Suppose a bus accident occurs due to a carrier's negligence, such as speeding, fatigue, maintenance failures, tire failures, or inadequate bus driver training. In that case, the carrier is liable for damages under personal injury law.

The carrier may be liable under wrongful death tort law if a passenger dies. When minor children or ill or disabled people are injured as passengers on a bus, special rules apply as well.

When Should I Sue a Bus Driver or Common Carrier Service?

If the driver or owner of a bus fails to exercise the property level of care and injuries result, the person injured should be able to sue and receive significant compensation.

Compensation for injuries will usually include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the conduct of the bus driver was particularly reckless, anyone who is injured

may also be able to recover what is known as "punitive damages." These damages are not connected with a particular injury, but are meant to set an example and discourage similar conduct in the future, and depending on the type of injury, and the level of recklessness, can be quite high.

Is It Possible to Receive Compensation Through a Bus Accident Claim?

This depends on which party is liable. It may be possible to obtain a damages award for injuries sustained from a bus accident in some cases. These damages can often cover medical expenses and other costs.

Again, it's necessary to prove that the defendant's party was directly liable for the injuries or losses.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with a Bus Accident Claim?

Bus accidents can involve some serious injuries and/or property damage. Hiring a car accident lawyer may be in your best interests if you need help with a bus accident claim. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice on obtaining compensation for your losses. Also, if you need to file any documents or forms, your attorney can assist you with these and can represent you during any court hearings. Call our office today at 212-994-7777 or complete the convenient online contact form to set up a consultation.