Buses carrying commuters and students are a common site in cities and towns across the country, and bus companies offer a cheaper long-distance alternative to an airline ticket for thousands of travelers. With so many of these large vehicles on the road, it's no wonder that they're involved in around 63,000 traffic accidents every year (that's according to a recent University of Michigan study).
In this article, we’ll discuss the causes of common bus accident injuries, and some unique procedural rules you may need to comply with if you're making a personal injury claim after a bus accident.
Any traffic accident can run the gamut from low-speed fender bender to catastrophic collision, and bus accidents are no exception. So it follows that injuries stemming from bus accidents fall across the spectrum of seriousness, from whiplash-type soft tissue injuries, to serious head trauma and broken bones. (Learn more about common car accident injuries.)
There are also a few added safety risks that tend to crop up when it comes to bus accidents, owing to the characteristics of most buses and the practical aspects of bus travel.
First, the risk of a tip-over or rollover accident is higher for buses than it is for standard passenger vehicles. Second, many buses don’t feature any form of safety restraint or supplemental safety device -- in other words, no seat belts or airbags. So whether or not the risk of a bus accident is lower when compared with crashes involving other forms of ground transportation, the chances of serious injury are higher when a bus accident does actually occur.
With most kinds of accidents, if you’re negotiating a personal injury settlement with an insurance carrier or even filing a personal injury lawsuit in court, the procedure is pretty straightforward (although the claim itself may not be).
What about bus accidents? In some situations, the crash will be caused by the driver of another car or truck on the road. In that case, if you're injured as a passenger on the bus, you can make a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer, seeking compensation for losses ("damages") like medical expenses and lost income, plus non-economic losses like "pain and suffering."
If the bus driver is at fault, however, this is when the law can get complicated. That’s because many buses are owned or operated by government entities, like school districts and public transportation bureaus. And filing an injury claim with a government body is more complicated. The procedure varies from state-to-state and jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction, but you typically must start by filing a "notice of claim" or similar paperwork with the government entity that is potentially liable for the bus accident. And you’ll usually need to file your documentation within a relatively short period of time.
Again, the specific procedural rules will vary depend on where you live, but typically the "notice of claim" or similar filing must include:
Each state or municipality has its own time limits for filing an injury claim, and you may need to submit your claim using a certain form.
In California, for example, under the California Tort Claims Act, before an injury lawsuit can be filed against the state, the injured person must give written notice of the claim to the agency that is allegedly responsible for the underlying accident, within six months. The government then has the option to accept or reject the claim. If the government rejects all or part of the claim, the injured person may file a lawsuit in court.
Claim filing time limits and other filing rules are important. If you miss a filing deadline or don’t submit the right paperwork, you may lose your right to file a lawsuit. And there may be special time limits that apply if a person has suffered fatal injuries as a result of a bus accident. Speak to a local personal injury attorney if you are unsure about the time limits or how to file the proper paperwork.
Note: Besides injuries suffered as a bus passenger, the same claim filing procedure will apply if you were driving a vehicle that was hit by a government-owned bus.
Sometimes, to help determine liability (fault) for a bus accident, some special investigation will be needed. A number of factors may cause or contribute to a bus accident, including:
After any kind of vehicle accident, it's important to get proper medical treatment. This way, you put your health first, and later on you can use your medical records and bills to document and support any injury claim you decide to make.