Bus Accident Lawyers in Austin
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A city populated with nearly a million residents is bound to have its fair share of traffic. Austin is no exception. A significant part of the traffic system in Austin are city buses. Each day thousands of individuals ride the bus to and from work or home. Given the number of buses within Austin and the frequency at which these buses operate, there will inevitably be bus-related accidents from time to time.
According to data collected by the Texas Department of Transportation, there were over 4,000 bus-related crashes in 2017. Of these, approximately 1,000 resulted in some form of injury, and about 25 resulted in the death of one or more persons.
If you or a loved one were injured in a bus accident, call Zinda Law Group today on (888) 671-5127 for a FREE consultation to find out more about how to seek compensation with the help of a personal injury lawyer in Austin.
Austin Bus Laws
Under Texas law, commercial buses are referred to as “common carriers.” The purpose of a common carrier is to carry passengers from one place to another. Because common carriers are in the business of transporting people, the bus drivers and bus companies are held to a high standard when it comes to exercising their duty of care.
The higher expectation imposed on bus drivers and bus companies is reflected in the responsibilities that they assume. These responsibilities differ from those that exist within the normal traffic laws that most of us are accustomed to. Examples of these responsibilities include:
- Keeping a safe distance between the bus and other automobiles
- Properly maintaining the bus and bus equipment
- Ensuring that passengers safely board and exit the bus
- Stopping at railroads before crossing
- Taking proper evasive action when necessary
A bus driver who fails to carry any of these responsibilities may be found negligent and thus can be held liable for any accidents or injuries. The bus company itself, by extension, may also be liable for the negligent acts of its drivers.
What To Do After a Bus Accident
Suffering an injury from or being involved in a bus accident can be a frightening and stressful experience. If you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation, it can be extremely helpful to know ahead of time what steps to take following the event. Listed below are several critical steps that should be taken after a bus accident. Following these steps may promote a speedy recovery and strengthen your case.
1. Seek Medical Attention
The first and most important step you should take following a bus-related accident is to seek prompt and proper medical treatment. Many bus accidents result in immediate injuries, some of which can be severe or life-threatening. Other accidents result in minor injuries which may take hours or days to kick in but can last for weeks or months. Calling for medical attention after a bus accident ensures that you receive proper treatment, thereby putting you in a good position to recover from your injuries as quickly and efficiently as possible.
2. Report the Accident
Another important step to take following a bus-related accident is to report the accident to local law enforcement or to the busing company. Reporting the accident to the police and to the bus company can be beneficial to you for several reasons. For instance, a police officer who responds to the scene of the accident will create an official accident report which may serve as evidence and strengthen the value of your claim against the at-fault party. Informing the bus company of the accident will encourage the company to take the proper measures to ensure that similar accidents do not happen again.
3. Document the Accident
After the accident, it is very important that you document the accident. This means creating and maintaining a personal file where you keep every important document relating to the accident and your resulting injuries. Examples of documents and information that should be stored in the file include:
- The name and contact information of the bus driver and bus company
- The license plate number and vehicle identification number (VIN) of the bus
- The names and contact information of any witnesses
- A copy of the police report
- A copy of your medical records and bills
- Photographs of the scene, injuries, physical damage
Documenting the accident by keeping a thorough and organized file can be very helpful when it comes to establishing the value of your claim and recovering the compensation you deserve.
4. Call an Attorney
Finally, you should contact a personal injury attorney. An attorney will listen to the facts of your case and provide valuable legal advice based on and relevant statute or ordinance. An attorney can also represent you in the battle against stingy insurance companies. Lastly, an attorney will fight on your behalf should your claim be litigated in court.
Filing a Bus Accident Claim
In order to seek compensation for your injuries after being involved in a bus accident, you will likely need to file a bus accident claim. Listed below are important components that comprise the claim filing process.
1. Call a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you wish to file a claim, one of the first and most important steps you should take is to contact a personal injury lawyer. Bus-related accidents can contain several complex legal issues such as multi-party fault and contributory negligence. Contacting a lawyer can be helpful to your case because the lawyer will be able to provide legal advice which can preserve or strengthen your claim.
2. Investigation Phase
The investigation phase is a critical part of the claim filing process. This is because an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident can strengthen the credibility of your claim. Part of this phase involves your attorney gathering the facts of your case ,such as where and how it occurred. The attorney will then collect important pieces of evidence by interviewing witnesses, reviewing important documents, and developing the best legal strategy. This process also involves accounting for each of your damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
3. Case Settlement and Negotiation
After investigation is completed, it is likely that an insurance company will want to settle your claim. The case settlement process will consist of back-and-forth negotiations between you and the insurance company. Hiring an attorney will allow the attorney to advocate on your behalf to get the insurance company to pay the full value of your claim.
4. Litigation (if necessary)
If a settlement is unable to be reached during negotiation, your claim may litigated in court. In this scenario, your attorney will fight for you to help seek the compensation you deserve.
Legal Time Limits
A “statute of limitations” is essentially a legal time-limit on which a person must initiate a lawsuit. If an injured or wronged party fails to bring a claim within the relevant statute of limitations, that party is effectively barred from litigating the claim in court. Statutes of limitations vary from state to state.
In Texas, there is a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. A claim following a bus-related injury is considered a type of personal injury claim. This means that a party that is injured following a bus accident must file a lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident.
In cases of minor children, the statute of limitations is extended until the child reaches the age of majority or until the child is legally emancipated. The child then has two years from that date to file a lawsuit.
In certain, rare situations, this two-year statute of limitations may be “tolled,” or paused. Tolling has the effect of giving you more time to initiate a lawsuit. One example is the injury of a minor child described above. However, it is important to remember that tolling a statute of limitations is an exception, not the norm.
In addition to this legal time limit, there is also a requirement that an injured party give notice to a governmental agency if it intends to sue. This requirement essentially acts as a statute of limitations within a statute of limitations. Although it is true that you still have two years to file a lawsuit, you must submit this notice to file suit within the mandatory time frame or else your claim will vanish. In Austin, there is a 90-day window from the date of the accident to give proper notice. Discussing the facts and details of your case with an attorney can help you grasp a better understanding of the statute of limitations and notice requirement, thereby ensuring that your claim is filed in a timely fashion.
An accident is not always caused by just one party. Liability may exist for several individuals or entities. In the context of bus accidents, there are several common parties that may be liable for your accident and injuries:
Bus Driver/Bus Company
Commonly, the bus driver or bus company is liable for bus-related accidents. A common scenario where the bus driver may be liable is where the driver is speeding, runs a red light, or is engaging in distracted driving. The bus company itself may also be held liable if it can be established that it negligently hired, trained, or supervised the bus driver.
A bus accident can occur even if the bus driver exhibits perfect driving. This is because other drivers on the road do not always drive perfectly. If you have been injured in car crash while on a bus, it is possible that another driver who was driving negligently can be found liable.
A manufacturer of car parts can also be held liable. These scenarios typically arise when the manufacturer supplies the bus company with a broken or defective part. Because establishing liability on the part of a manufacturer can be tricky, it is important to consider consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney before filing any lawsuit.
Austin City Government
The local Austin government may itself be held liable if the bus was operated by the city (e.g., Capital Metro). In these situations, the bus is an extension of the city government. Thus, the city government may be held liable for an accident involving one of its buses.
Common Bus Accident Claims
Bus accidents and bus-related injuries occur in a variety of ways. Some of these claims involve single vehicle accidents. Others involve collisions between two or more vehicles. Some accidents even involve pedestrians or bystanders. Listed below are several of the most common bus accident claims:
Crash with Another Car
One of the most common types of bus accident claims involves the bus crashing into another vehicle. In these cases, passengers on the bus may sustain various injuries as a result of the collision. Fault for these accidents requires examining the conduct of the bus driver and the driver of the other vehicle.
Single Vehicle Crash
A single-vehicle crash is an accident that most commonly occurs when the driver loses control of the vehicle. For bus accidents, a single vehicle crash may occur if the bus driver falls asleep at the wheel, engages in distracted driving, loses control of the bus, or experiences a mechanical malfunction. These accidents are likely to result in the onboard passengers sustaining injuries.
Pedestrian/Cyclist Struck by Bus
Pedestrians and cyclists are always at risk of being struck by automobiles, and this includes buses. These accidents can occur in severe injuries such as broken bones, concussions, or even death.
Fall on a Bus
Another common bus-related accident occurs not when the bus is accelerating, but rather when it is coming to a stop. Inexperienced bus passengers, particularly those who are standing, are susceptible of falling and hurting themselves when a bus driver hits the brakes. The injuries resulting from these accidents range from minor (e.g., small cuts and bruises) to severe (e.g., broken bones and concussions).
Bus-related accidents can result in a wide assortment of injuries ranging from minor to life-changing. Listed below are several common injuries that may occur as a result of a bus accident. Always keep in mind that the first step you should take after being involved in an accident is to seek immediate medical attention.
Concussions and Head Injuries
One common type of injury that can occur during or after a bus accident are head injuries, including concussions. Many passengers on a bus do not wear a seatbelt. As a result, a collision or sudden stop can lead to a person shifting around inside the bus cabin. This shift may lead to a person hitting their head against another object inside the bus.
Cuts, Scarring, and Permanent Disfigurement
Many bus accidents end up with one or more passengers sustaining a laceration, cut, bruise, or scar. In extreme cases, a collision may lead to a passenger being ejected from the bus, which may cause permanent disfigurement of the face or body.
Spinal Injuries and Paralysis
Bus-related accidents can also lead to severe spinal cord injuries. For example, a passenger without a seatbelt may be thrown from his or her seat and suffer a cracked vertebra. If a bus hits a pedestrian or cyclist, the victim may sustain temporary or permanent paralysis.
Unfortunately, a substantial number of bus-related accidents result in death. This is particularly so for accidents involving pedestrians or children.
A person who is hurt or injured in a bus-related accident may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and damages if he or she can establish that another party is liable for causing the accident resulting injuries. In calculating the amount of monetary damages that should be awarded to the victim of a bus-related accident, courts divide compensatory damages into two main components: Economic damages and Non-economic damages.
Economic damages reflect expenses that can be assigned a numerical value and quantified. In a bus accident case, economic damages may include medical expenses (present and future bills; pharmacy costs, rehabilitation services, etc.), lost income and wages, and property damage (vehicle repair costs and personal property damages in the collision). Accidents resulting in severe injuries lead to greater awards of economic damages than relatively minor accidents.
Non-economic damages are awarded to the victim to compensate for intangible losses that cannot be assigned a numerical value. Non-economic damages are subjectively evaluated by a jury. Although these types of damages cannot be easily quantified, it is possible for non-economic damages to be greater in value than economic damages. Types of non-economic damages may include pain and suffering, loss of affection or companionship, emotional distress, disability or disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.
It is important to note that the Texas Legislature has enacted a law which caps the amount of damages that an injured individual can seek from the government. The Texas Tort Claims Act only permits you to sue a municipal government entity, like Cap Metro, for $250,000 per person, with a maximum of $500,000 per incident.
Although each of the buses is likely insured for $5 million dollars in liability coverage, the law only lets you get to $250,000 per individual. If your damages exceed these limits, you may be able to get more from third-parties, but that is the maximum amount you can seek from the government.