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Though only a small percentage of Americans utilize public transit, this still means that tens of thousands of Americans ride buses every day. Though bus accidents that are caused by a vehicle that is not a bus can be straightforward, bus accidents where the bus itself caused the accident can be complicated as there are more parties likely involved. Because of the complexity of a bus accident lawsuit, you may wish to speak with an attorney.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a bus accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our Phoenix bus accident lawyers.
Causes of Bus Accidents
Lack of Sleep
Some bus drivers must drive for long stretches of time. Though drivers are expected to take breaks at rest stops and the like after a certain amount of time, these breaks are often very short and do not provide enough rest for drivers. A fatigued bus driver is less responsive to obstacles and hazards on the road, which increases the likelihood of an accident.
Although cameras are generally installed on buses to deter bad behavior, some bus drivers disregard that there is a camera watching them and still engage in reckless behavior such as texting and driving. Texting while driving means that your eyes are off the road. Even if your eyes are off the road for two seconds, it can mean a fatal crash.
Just like other automobile accidents, speeding is a major reason why bus accidents occur. Because buses are heavier, speeding can be a danger since even if a bus driver decelerates after noticing a hazard in front of him or her, it will take longer than an average-sized vehicle to decelerate.
Driving a bus is much different than driving the average vehicle. There are certain differences that a bus driver must know to operate the bus safely. If a bus driver does not know to make wide turns to compensate for the bus’s length, this can mean an accident. Unfortunately, many bus companies do not train their drivers for an adequate amount of time.
Lack of Maintenance
Some bus companies fail to perform routine checks on their fleet. Checking the wheels and engines of buses is vital to prevent unnecessary accidents on the road. A bus that loses a wheel with dozens of passengers on the road can cause it to flip and cause severe and fatal accidents to all those on board.
Typical Injuries in an 18-Wheeler Accident
- Back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal organ injuries
- Cuts and scratches
Types of Buses
Depending on the type of bus that was involved in an accident, the legal procedures for filing an insurance claim and a lawsuit will be different. For instance, in Phoenix, Valley Metro, a government-sponsored entity, handles the main local and regional public transportation. Therefore, if you are injured on a Valley Metro bus, the legal process will be different than if you were injured on a private tour bus. To put it simply, public entities are more protected from legal actions than private ones. One example is the concept of punitive damages. Punitive damages are compensation awarded to a party because of the extreme recklessness of the defendant in causing the accident. Though private bus companies may be ordered to compensate for punitive damages, public entities cannot be liable for punitive damages.
Buses that are operated by cities or municipalities. The local governments are generally liable for any injuries that arise on these buses. However, if the local government outsources the bus service to a private contractor, then the private contractor may be liable for any injuries.
Private or Charter Buses
Like any other private company, a private or charter bus that causes a bus accident may mean that the company, its insurers, and the bus driver may be liable.
Tour buses can involve many parties as well. If a group of tourists directly hired a bus, the bus company and its driver may be liable for an accident that arises. However, if the group of tourists hired an intermediary to get a bus for it, the intermediary may also be liable if an accident arises.
Though school buses tend to have low accident rates because of the safety regulations around them. They nevertheless get into accidents on occasion. When a school bus gets into an accident, the school board and district may be liable.
Arizona Bus Drivers Only Need to Provide Reasonable Care
In 2012, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in the case Nunez v. Professional Transit Management of Tucson, Inc. that bus companies only need to provide reasonable care for their passengers. The plaintiff in that case argued that bus companies owe a much greater standard of care to their passengers because of the special relationship bus companies have with their passengers. However, the Court ruled that bus companies do not need to provide above and beyond care for their passengers. It stated that bus companies just needed to provide reasonable care as it saw no reason why bus companies needed to provide above and beyond care. For plaintiffs in bus accident lawsuits, this ruling was detrimental. Obviously, if bus companies owed a higher standard than reasonable care to their passengers, passenger-plaintiffs had a greater chance of obtaining legal victory.
Slip and Falls on the Bus
Do not think that a bus accident only means a crash between vehicles. A bus accident can also mean slipping and falling on a bus. Bus drivers are expected to provide reasonable care for their passengers. This means that bus drivers must make sure that their bus’s floors are free from hazards. If you slip on a bus because the bus driver failed to make the passageway reasonably safe for walking across, you may have a potential lawsuit.
Compensation in a Bus Accident Claim
Like any other personal injury claim, you may be awarded compensation for your economic damages and non-economic damages. Compensation for economic damages can be calculated objectively. For instance, a jury or a judge will look at the medical bills, lost wages, and repair bills the plaintiff incurred and determine the compensation accordingly for economic damages. Non-economic damages are those injuries that are less objective and more subjective. For instance, pain and suffering is included in non-economic damages. It is, of course, difficult to place a dollar amount on pain, but juries and judges try to place an amount.
You may also be awarded punitive damages if the bus driver for a private company drove extremely recklessly when he or she caused the accident.
There Is a Duty to Mitigate
Just because a party is at fault for your injury does not mean that you have no responsibilities for your own injuries in the aftermath. After a bus accident, if you do not do anything about your injuries and your condition gets worse, the party responsible for the accident may not be liable for the resulting expenses. For instance, if you break your arm after a bus accident and you fail to get a splint or other medical procedure in a timely manner, you may not be able to ask the party responsible to compensate you for the expenses that arise because you failed to seek treatment.
Can an Injured Bus Driver Recover?
Yes, if you were a bus driver involved in an accident, you may recover through workers’ compensation, an insurance claim, or a lawsuit. Because Arizona is a no-fault workers’ compensation state, you may recover through workers’ compensation even if you were at fault for the accident.
Statute of Limitations
Every state has a statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit. In Arizona, the statute of limitations states that a plaintiff has two years to file a lawsuit for a personal injury. This means that after a bus accident, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the company. However, this only applies to private bus companies.
If a public entity or public employee caused your injury, there are different rules involved. For instance, if you were injured because a Valley Metro bus driver was negligent, you must first file a claim with the public entity that was responsible for Valley Metro within 180 days. In the claim, you must include specific facts that can provide a basis for your claim. You must also include a specific amount that you feel that you are entitled to. If your injury was caused by a public entity and you fail to file a claim within 180 days, you may lose your opportunity to receive compensation.
CONTACT A PHOENIX BUS ACCIDENT LAWYER
The experienced Phoenix attorneys at Zinda Law Group may be able to help you if you have been injured in a bus accident. After an accident, you shouldn’t have to worry about affording legal representation, which is why we work on a contingency fee basis. You don’t owe us anything unless we win your case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys by appointment only.