Answers To The Most Frequently Asked Questions In Bus Accident Cases
1. If I am injured or a loved one is killed while a passenger on a bus, who can I sue for my losses?
You can sue anyone who is potentially responsible for the accident, including the operator of the bus, the bus company (whether publicly or privately owned), any other vehicle involved in the collision and anyone else that may have caused the collision such as the manufacturer of a defective vehicle or the owner of a dangerous roadway. However, keep in mind that in most bus accidents the bus company is going to be in a better financial position to pay for your losses than other vehicles involved in the accident.
2. If I am a passenger of another vehicle involved in a bus collision or a loved one was killed as a passenger in a vehicle involved in a bus collision, who can I sue?
You can sue whoever was potentially at fault for the accident. This would include the bus operator and bus company, the driver of your own vehicle, the drivers of any other vehicles involved in the accident as well as any other person or entity which may have in any way contributed to the accident. In the case of a serious injury or death, it is usually wise for an attorney to order a thorough investigation to make sure that all potential defendants are included in the case.
3. If I am a driver of a vehicle that is involved in a bus collision, who can I sue?
You can sue the operator and owner of the bus as well as any other person or entity who is responsible for the accident.
4. If I am a pedestrian hit by a bus or a loved one was killed by a bus while walking or waiting for a bus, who can I bring a case against?
Like everyone else who is unfortunately involved in a motor vehicle collision, you can bring your case against any person or entity whose wrongful conduct is responsible for your losses. This can include the bus operator and the owner of the bus that hit you, any other vehicle operator whose improper actions caused the bus to hit you, an illegally parked car that blocked the bus driver’s view of you or a public entity who poorly designed the sidewalk or crosswalk where you were hit. A thorough investigation needs to be performed to learn of all possible defendants.
5. If I am a passenger on a bus, do I have any special protections?
Yes, as a passenger, you do have special protections that other people injured by buses do not have. A bus is considered a “common carrier,” and as a common carrier the bus company owes the utmost duty of care to you.
A bus company must do all that human care, vigilance and foresight reasonably require under the circumstances and is responsible for even the slightest negligence.
6. When does the special duty of care of a bus company owes a passenger begin and end?
The special duty of care begins before you even get on the bus. It can begin while you are at a bus stop if the bus stop is created in a dangerous manner. Further, it certainly begins when you put one foot on the stairs to walk onto the bus. The duty continues until you are safely off the bus and on the curb. If the bus drops you off at an unsafe location, such as the middle of the street, the bus operator and bus company have violated their duty of care to you.
7. Is there anything that I have to look out for if the bus company is owned by a public entity such as the Muni Railway in San Francisco?
Yes. Whether you are a passenger on the bus, the driver or passenger in another vehicle which collides with a bus, or a pedestrian that is hit by a bus, you must bring a claim against the public entity within six months.
This would also be true if you want to bring a case against a public entity claiming that a dangerous condition of public property contributed to the accident.
In the case of a wrongful death, a claim must still be brought within six months by the survivors. Although there are exceptions to this claims statute, there are very few. The claim requirements are very strict and detailed; thus, you should seek the advice of an attorney as soon as you can after an accident. If you have waited more than six months, you should still seek the advice of an attorney because there are a few exceptions to the six-month claim statute of limitations.
8. What if I am assaulted while on a bus. Can the bus company be held responsible for this assault?
Maybe. As part of a bus company’s duty of utmost care, it must use the utmost care and diligence to prevent one passenger from injuring another. However, even under this standard, a bus company is not liable for failing to prevent an attack that it did not know or should not have known was about to occur.
9. If the bus involved in the accident is not publicly owned, how long do I have to bring a lawsuit?
Remember, if the bus is publicly owned, you have six months to bring a claim. You also only have six months to bring a claim against any other public entity responsible for your losses. In the absence of a public entity, you have one year from the date of the accident to bring your case. In certain limited circumstances, this can be extended based on “delayed discovery.”
10. What damages am I allowed to recover in a bus accident?
If you are injured in a bus accident, you are entitled to recover damages for your past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, and past and future pain and suffering.
If your loved one is killed in a bus accident, you are entitled to recover the value of future monetary contributions from the decedent, and the value of any personal services, advice or training that would have probably been given by your loved one. Further, you are also entitled to recover for emotional distress damages for loss of love, companionship, comfort, affection and society.
If the bus is owned by a public entity, you are not entitled to recover punitive damages against the public entity, but can against the bus operator.
In a wrongful death case, you are not entitled to recover punitive damages; but, if the decedent lived for even a moment after the accident, you can bring a survival action and recover punitive damages as long as the defendant is not a public entity.
11. Do I need an attorney to bring a case involving a bus accident?
Think of it this way: within seconds from the time of the accident, the bus operator will have called the claims department of the bus company. If, for instance, the bus accident occurred in an urban area, the claims investigators will be at the scene within five minutes. They will take statements, measurements, pictures, and do everything they can to make sure that you will lose your case against the bus company. Do you think you need an attorney to combat these tactics?
12. Will my case involving a bus accident settle out of court?
Probably. Ninety to 95% of bus accident cases settle at some time before trial.
Most legal questions require complex answers. The answers provided here may not be complete or fully accurate but attempt to provide consumers with abbreviated answers. For more detailed answers to these questions, a consumer should check out other articles in this section of this website, research other legal articles and texts on the subject matter or consult with an attorney.