El Paso Bus Accident Lawyers
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When people think of an automobile accident, they tend to think about a passenger automobile colliding with another passenger automobile. However, bus accidents are more common than most people would think. According to data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, thousands of people are hurt or killed in accidents involving at least one bus each year. Bus accidents, because of their large size and the fact that seat belts are not required, can often have more severe consequences than a typical car accident.
If you or a loved one has been hurt or injured following a bus-related accident, or if you would like to discuss the details of your case, call Zinda Law Group at (888) 435-1046 for a 100% free case evaluation with our experienced El Paso bus accident attorneys.
THE DANGER OF BUS ACCIDENTS
As mentioned, multiple factors can make a bus accident more dangerous than a typical automobile collision.
Many buses, especially those that are designed for public transit, have a limited number of seats. This means that, particularly during busy hours, passengers may be forced to stand shoulder to shoulder with only a small handhold for protection. An overcrowded bus that is involved in a high-speed collision may result in injuries to several of the passengers on board, not to mention the other driver.
Lack of Seatbelts
A recently passed Texas law will require new buses that are purchased by schools to include seatbelts. However, many older models that are still in use to transport children to school and field trips still don’t include this critical safety measure. It is also not a requirement for public transit buses to make seatbelts available for their passengers. This means that, although some students will be more protected by seatbelts in new bus models, most people riding buses in the state of Texas won’t have this additional layer of safety in the case of an accident.
The average bus weighs many times more than a standard passenger vehicle. This simple fact is perhaps what adds the most danger to bus accidents. The added mass of a bus means that when they collide with a passenger vehicle, they supply much more force to the collision and can subsequently cause much more damage to the other vehicle and much more serious injuries to its driver.
TYPES OF BUS ACCIDENTS
The term “bus accidents” is a catch-all phrase. Bus accidents can actually be broken down into subparts based on the type of bus involved in the accident. In turn, the type of bus may affect your rights following an accident. Listed below are the most common type of bus accidents.
El Paso’s Sun Metro provides residents with public transportation. Although city buses may be affordable and a convenient way of traveling across the city, city buses pose a unique set of risks, particularly for passengers. For instance, many of these buses do not have seatbelts installed. Drivers who are involved in an accident with a city bus must also deal with the additional obstacle of filing a suit against the city government.
Private groups such as businesses, sports teams, and churches often rent or lease charter buses to travel long distances. Like city buses, charter buses carry unique risks. If you have been injured in an accident with a charter bus, consider consulting a personal injury attorney.
School buses are also frequently involved in accidents. Some accidents involve injury to a child. For instance, a child may be thrown across a bus if the bus driver suddenly brakes or hits a bump in the road. Other accidents involve injury to other drivers. Discussing the facts and circumstances of your cases with a bus accident attorney may help you understand your rights following an accident with a school bus.
TEXAS COMMON CARRIER 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, bus companies and the bus drivers they employ 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 other 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 company or bus driver who fails to abide by any of these duties may be found negligent and thus may be held legally responsible for any subsequent accidents or injuries.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A BUS ACCIDENT
Being involved in a car accident is a stressful event as it is. The novelty and uncertainty that comes with being involved in a bus-related accident may compound the stress. If you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation, it may be helpful to know ahead of time what steps to take following an accident. Listed below are several important steps that should be taken after a bus accident.
1. Seek Medical Attention
The first and most important step you should take following a bus-related accident is to seek prompt medical attention from a medical professional. 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 manifest. Whatever the case may be, calling for medical attention after a bus accident may ensure that you receive proper treatment, thereby putting you in the best position to recover from your injuries.
2. Report the Accident
Another important step to take following a bus-related accident is to report the accident to the appropriate parties. This may include local law enforcement, the company that owns the bus, or the school district that operates the bus. Reporting the accident may have several benefits. For instance, a police officer who responds to the scene of the accident may create an official accident report which can serve as helpful evidence and strengthen the value of your claim against the at-fault party. If anything, informing the bus company or school district of the accident may prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future.
3. Document the Accident
One critical yet often overlooked step that should be taken by a bus accident victim is to document the accident. Documenting the accident 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 (or school district)
- 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 may be helpful when it comes to establishing the value of your claim and recovering compensation for injuries.
4. Call an Attorney
Finally, you should contact an El Paso bus accident injury attorney. An attorney may want to speak with you in person or over the phone to listen to the facts of your case. From there, the attorney may be able to provide you with legal advice regarding your rights. If the attorney agrees to handle your case, the attorney may conduct a thorough investigation into the matter to discover relevant and helpful evidence. An attorney may also be able to negotiate a favorable settlement deal with the at-fault party or the at-fault party’s insurance company. Lastly, an attorney may advocate on your behalf should your claim be litigated in court.
WHO CAN I SUE?
When it comes to bus accidents, liability may exist for several individuals or entities. Listed below are several parties that may be liable for a bus accident victim’s injuries.
Bus Driver/Bus Company
The most common suspect responsible for bus accidents is the bus driver or bus company. For instance, a bus driver may be held liable if the driver is speeding, runs a red light, or is engaging in distracted driving. The bus company itself may also be held vicariously liable for the negligent actions of its employee. A bus company may also be held directly liable if it negligently hired, trained, or supervised the bus driver.
A bus accident may occur even if the bus driver drives responsibly. These situations often involve other drivers acting negligently In such cases, a bus accident victim may be able to sue the negligent driver.
A manufacturer of car parts may 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 difficult, it is important to consider consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney before filing any lawsuit.
El Paso City Government
The local government may itself be held liable if the bus was operated by the city (e.g., Sun 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.
LEGAL TIME LIMITS
A “statute of limitations” is a legal time-limit on which an accident victim must initiate a lawsuit. If the victim fails to file a claim within the relevant statute of limitations, the victim may be effectively barred from litigating the claim in court.
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 bus accident victim must file a lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident. In cases of minor children, the statute of limitations may be 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 cases, the two-year statute of limitations may be extended or “tolled.” Tolling has the effect of giving a victim extra time to initiate a lawsuit. However, it is important to remember that tolling a statute of limitations is an exception, not the norm.
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 requirements, thereby ensuring that your claim is filed in a timely fashion.
A bus accident victim may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and damages if the victim can establish that another party is responsible for causing the accident. In calculating the amount of monetary relief that should be awarded to the victim of a bus-related accident, courts divide damages into two general categories 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);
- Lost income and wages;
- Loss of earning capacity; and
- Property damage (vehicle repair costs and personal property damages in the collision).
Non-economic damages refer to intangible losses that cannot be assigned a numerical value. Non-economic damages are subjectively evaluated by a jury. Types of non-economic damages in a bus accident case 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 capping the amount of damages that an injured individual can receive from the government. The Texas Tort Claims Act only permits you to sue a municipal government entity, like Sun 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 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 recover from the government.
ZINDA’S EL PASO ATTORNEYS MAY HELP PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS
At Zinda Law Group, our El Paso bus accident attorneys may offer years of legal knowledge and experience. Our attorneys have plenty of experience handling and settling bus accident cases, including those caused by city buses. Finally, our team has the resources necessary to help build the strongest claim following a bus accident.
Our firm also believes that an injury victim should never have to worry about being able to afford excellent legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free consultations, and why you pay nothing unless we win your case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
If you would like to discuss the details of your case with an experienced El Paso injury lawyer, or if you would like to learn more about what options are available to you after being involved in a bus accident, call Zinda Law Group at (888) 435-1046 to receive your free case evaluation.