Although traveling by bus is a relatively safe means of transportation, accidents involving school buses, public buses, and charter buses can cause serious injuries to passengers, pedestrians, and other motorists. In states like Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, bus accidents are far too common. If you or a loved one has been injured in a bus accident, you may be able to obtain significant compensation by pursuing a personal injury lawsuit.
Common Causes of Bus Accidents
While numerous factors are involved in bus accidents, some of the common causes include:
- Distracted driving – Bus drivers can be distracted by eating, talking to passengers, or using cellphones and GPS navigation devices. While many states have laws prohibiting the use of handheld devices for talking or texting, distracted driving continues to be a leading cause of traffic accidents in general.
- Speeding – Because bus drivers operate under strict schedules, they are prone to speeding through traffic, which can lead to serious accidents. Due to their size and weight, buses are difficult to stop, and even more so when a driver is speeding.
- Driver fatigue – Bus drivers who work long hours or cover long distances can become fatigued, which may affect their ability to maneuver the bus or respond to traffic and road hazards.
- Drugs and Alcohol – Drivers who operate a bus under the influence of drugs or alcohol pose a serious risk to passengers, pedestrians, and other motorists.
- Mechanical Defects/Poor Maintenance – Bus companies are required to properly maintain buses according to applicable state safety standards, however, faulty brakes, brake lights, worn tires, and other defects contribute to numerous accidents.
Determining Liability in a Bus Accident
Assessing who is at fault in a bus accident can be complicated, particularly when a number of parties may have contributed to the accident, including:
- Bus Drivers – Poorly trained drivers, those who commit traffic violations or drive while fatigued, distracted, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, can be held liable for an accident.
- Bus Companies – Bus companies are obligated to conduct routine vehicle inspections and maintenance, hire qualified drivers and comply with a variety of state and federal regulations. A bus company can be held liable for failing to meet these obligations or for the negligent actions of a bus driver.
- Other Motorists – Another vehicle driver who causes an accident, or drives recklessly and cause a bus driver to lose control, may be held liable for injuries and property damage caused by the accident.
Bus Accident Injury Claims
There are unique issues related to bus accident injury claims, in part because many buses are operated by government entities such as public transportation bureaus and school districts. Although most municipalities and government agencies are self-insured, it is still necessary to file a notice of claim before pursuing a personal injury lawsuit. It is important to note that there are strict time limits and procedural rules that apply to these claims.
Additionally, if the bus accident involved a private carrier, such as a charter bus operator, it may be necessary to negotiate a settlement with an insurance company. Armed with teams of claims adjusters and attorneys, private bus companies often attempt to settle claims for as little money as possible. Finally, in states that have “No-Fault” insurance laws, these claims can be even more complicated. In New York, for example, a passenger who is injured in a bus accident and owns an automobile may be required to file a claim with his or her own insurance company.
Because most buses do not provide passengers with safety belts or other restraints, an accident can cause devastating injuries. These cases are challenging and often hinge on conducting a thorough investigation to ascertain the defendant’s liability. In the end, successful claims require the skills of an experienced personal injury attorney. At Palumbo Law, we will fight aggressively to get the justice you deserve. Contact our Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut law firms today to schedule a consultation.