California law requires bus and trucking companies to meet stringent safety regulations. Usually, when an accident involves a bus or a truck, the results are often devastating. Due to their big sizes compared to other vehicles, bus and truck accidents often result in extensive injuries or even fatalities. Having a competent personal injury attorney on your side is crucial when you are involved in an accident involving a bus or a truck. Despite the obvious similarities between bus and truck accidents, there are notable differences between bus accident lawsuits and truck accident lawsuits:
1. The Potential Liable Parties
The liable parties in a bus accident lawsuit differ from those in a truck accident lawsuit. In a bus accident case, the liable parties may include:
Bus Company Or Public Transportation
After your involvement in a bus accident, you will proceed with the lawsuit based on whether the bus company is privately owned or owned by a local government or state unit. If a private company owns the bus involved in an accident, the lawsuit will follow the process that typically applies in negligence and personal injury cases.
On the other hand, the legal process could differ if a government agency owns the bus company. You will have to follow special procedural requirements to file your claim. There will also be a cap on the damages available to you. For the best outcome, you should seek legal counsel immediately.
Determining the cause of the accident is an essential aspect of the claim. It could be road conditions, a maintenance problem with the vehicle, driver error, or something else. The bus company could carry out investigations about the accident, but you will never know the outcome of the investigations. Therefore, you need to seek the services of a personal injury attorney to ensure you are updated on the investigations to help you identify liability.
Sovereign Immunity For Government Workers
If the bus company employees work for the government, the ‘’sovereign immunity’’ will cushion them. However, this does not mean you cannot file a lawsuit against a government-operated bus company. Many government agencies allow you to file a lawsuit against them, but you must follow strict procedural requirements. On the other hand, the conventional interpretation of the ‘’sovereign immunity’’ doctrine outlines that counties, municipalities, cities, and districts are not eligible for sovereign immunity. Your bus accident attorney will closely examine the local interpretation of ‘’sovereign immunity’’ and guide you on your specific lawsuit.
Suing The Government
Things could be complex if the bus driver is liable since government agencies like school districts and local transportation authorities own most buses in California. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, school buses account for a significant percentage of annual bus accident fatalities. Unlike a typical insurance claim, filing a claim against a government agency like the school district could be hard.
Most government agencies self-insure, and if the government denies your claim, you will have to file a complex personal injury claim against the government agency. In addition, most municipalities have complex laws for appealing insurance coverage denials that, if ignored, could also affect your lawsuit. The specific procedural laws that apply to a particular case will be based on the state where the accident happened and the government agency involved. Often, in cases against government entities, you must prove that:
- The failure to prevent the injury exceeded simple negligence and amounted to gross negligence.
- You are claiming a public employee, agent, officer, or the public body that was acting in the course of its duties.
When suing the government, you must describe the events that gave rise to your claim, explaining why the public body is responsible.
The Potential Liable Parties In A Trucking Accident
After your involvement in a truck accident, proving liability is always more complicated than in a car-to-car crash. Several parties could be liable for your injuries and other losses in a truck accident. The parties include the following:
The Trucking Company
Trucking companies sometimes attempt to cover themselves from trucking accident responsibility by requiring drivers to own their trucks as independent owner-operators. However, the trucking company’s allegation that the driver is the only responsible party because of an independent contractor relationship is unrealistic. The court often considers some factors when determining if the trucking company is also accountable, including:
- Is the trucking company using the driver’s independent contractor status to shield it from responsibility even though the driver performs all the functions that an employee would perform?
- Is the driver liable for liability insurance and workers’ compensation?
- How does the company pay the driver?
- Can the driver refuse a load?
- How does the truck company arrange the driver’s routes and working hours?
- Can the driver enter into contracts with other trucking companies, or is the driver exclusive with one carrier?
- How much control does the company have over the driver?
The court will determine the connection between the driver and the company and assign liability after reviewing the above factors. Often, categorizing a driver as an independent contractor cannot relieve the trucking company of responsibility. According to federal regulations, if a trucking company has its name or placard displayed on the vehicle and it gets involved in an accident, then the company is liable for the accident. The trucking company obtains the necessary permits to operate a truck if it leases it from a driver or the owner. In this case, the trucking company must display its name and the permit numbers on the truck.
Truck Driver Liability
You could sue the truck driver if he/she injures you because of negligent behavior like speeding, distracted driving, or fatigue. You could also sue the truck driver if a maintenance problem or cargo shift causes a truck accident. The driver is often responsible for inspecting the truck and ensuring the cargo is loaded correctly. However, your injury attorney could look for other liable parties because a truck driver’s insurance coverage might not be enough to compensate you fully.
Local Government Liability
If roadway defects like broken pavement, flawed design, or an area of pooled rainwater caused a truck accident, you could sue the local government and its contractors. Likewise, lousy warning signs, defective guardrails, and work zone set-up are possible causes of truck accidents attributable to the local government or its contractors.
Truck And Parts Manufacturer Liability
If one of the parts on the truck fails, like a steering problem, brake failure, or a tire blowout, it could be attributed to poor maintenance. You could also hold the manufacturer and the distributor responsible if the failed part or system was defective.
Cargo Shipper And Loader Liability
Often, carriers contract cargo shipping to other trucking companies. When the trucking company deals with the shipment, it is usually sealed. If a person secures or loads the cargo poorly and an accident happens, the loader could be responsible for the accident. For example, a loader that failed to use enough tie-downs overloaded the trailer, or used incorrect straps could be accountable for the truck accident.
2. The Statute Of Limitations
The statute of limitations is when the law allows you to file a lawsuit for your injuries. Bus accident lawsuits and truck accident lawsuits have different statutes of limitations. When filing a claim against a government agency, the statute of limitations is also different.
Statute Of Limitations For Bus Accident Lawsuits
Many bus companies in California are government entities. The common questions regarding the statute of limitations for bus companies are:
- How long do you have to file your injury claim against the bus company?
- What happens if you miss the statute of limitations and do not file on time?
- Can you file a late claim?
Typically, the law allows you only six months to file your injury claim against a public bus company. First, you must file a claim with the transit authority, abbreviated as MTA. You can do so by filling out the accident form on the MTA website. However, you should consult your personal injury attorney before preparing this document. It is necessary to involve the attorney because the document could be used against you to limit or deny your claim for recovery. Once you file a claim with the transit authority, you will have two years to file a lawsuit from the date of the accident.
On the other hand, it could be hard for you to recover your damages if you miss the statute of limitations. In some circumstances, however, you could appeal the statute of limitations if there is a good cause. You could be seriously injured in some situations, which could stall the statute.
However, you will lose your right to pursue a claim for your injuries if you miss the statute of limitations for no good reason. However, if you have serious injuries, you should still try to file a claim even if the statutory period has expired. Missing the statutory period could hinder your recovery, but it is essential to try to appeal the case.
Permission To File A Late Claim
After missing the deadline for filing your claim against the bus company, you are probably wondering:
- Can I still file a claim against the MTA lawsuit after missing the deadline?
- Can I still file a lawsuit against the bus company when the statute of limitations expires?
- Can I still file a lawsuit against the city bus operator after missing the deadline?
You could lose your right to sue if you promptly file your injury claim. Fortunately, the law allows you to seek permission to file a late lawsuit. You will have to apply for permission to file a late lawsuit within one year of the accident. However, you should not always expect approval of your request to file a late claim.
Statute Of Limitations For Truck Accident Lawsuits
Generally, according to the California Code of Civil Procedure, you have two years to file your injury lawsuit against the liable party from the date of the truck accident. If you only suffer injuries from the accident, the statute of limitations starts from when the accident occurred. However, if the accident victim dies from the injuries, it is at the discretion of the law to determine the statute of limitations for surviving family members. In this case, the surviving family members will have two years from the date of the death of their loved one instead of the date of the accident.
If only your vehicle sustained damage in the truck accident, the law allows you to sue for the damages. The law gives you 36 months to file a claim against the at-fault party if you decide to file a claim. However, if the statute of limitations expires before you file a lawsuit, there will be no chance for the court to hear your case. There are rare exceptions in the law for these circumstances, but even if they exist, they are not often applied to some situations. Consulting a personal injury attorney immediately after an accident ensures you do not miss the deadlines.
Special rules will apply if a government employee was driving the truck that hit you. You will only have six months to submit a notice of your claim to the state. Once you submit your notice, the state will set a specific period to respond to your claim. You also need to hire an attorney for truck-related injuries because these cases often take longer than you could anticipate.
3. Caps On The Recoverable Damages
Generally, lawsuits against government entities have a damage cap that limits the recovery of finances.
Damage Caps In Bus Accidents
A personal injury lawsuit is usually the best option for getting your deserved compensation if your property got damaged, you suffered lost income, or you suffered physical injuries in a bus accident. The bus company or its employees could be liable if they caused or contributed to the accident.
Damage caps in bus accidents limit the compensation you can recover from the negligent party in a personal injury lawsuit. There are few damage caps in California. There is only a limit on payment if the liable party is a government agency. Therefore, damage caps will apply if a government agency owns the bus.
Damage Caps In Truck Accident Lawsuits
If the government owns the truck that hits you, you need to consult an attorney regarding damage caps. Civil lawsuits against government agencies are complicated and require the help of a skilled and experienced attorney.
If the at-fault party in a truck accident is a state agency, the damage cap is $1,000,000. This limit exists to cushion state employees. However, if an employee works for a private company or was off duty when the accident occurred, there is no limit on the money you are likely to receive.
Circumventing The Damage Cap In A Truck Or Bus Accident Lawsuit
You cannot circumvent the damage cap in a truck or bus accident if the at-fault party is a state agency. The state agency could agree to compensate you over the limit, but this is highly unlikely. However, if a bus or trucker from another state injures you, you could file a lawsuit in that jurisdiction. You could do it if the other state has a higher damage cap or no cap.
4. Extent Of Damages
The injuries sustained by the victims of a bus accident are often different from those suffered by victims of a truck accident. Therefore, the extent of the damages available in a bus accident will differ from those in a truck accident, depending on the injuries the accident victims suffer.
Some states often limit or deny punitive damages to punish the liable party in a bus accident. They also reject non-economic damages like pain and suffering. However, you could recover economic and non-economic damages in California if the at-fault party is guilty. The compensatory damages include physical therapy, lost income, emotional pain, emergency room treatment, court costs, and fees.
The types and amounts of damages you can receive in a truck accident will depend on the extent of your injuries and the circumstances of your case. You can seek economic and non-economic damages if you qualify for financial awards.
Economic damages include lost wages, medical bills, and loss of future wages, among others. Non-economic damages include mental anguish, pain, suffering, and loss of consortium.
Find A Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Being involved in a bus or truck accident could leave you with multiple injuries, an inability to earn an income, and high medical bills. Whichever situation you are in, you should consider hiring an attorney to ensure you receive your deserved compensation. Most bus and trucking companies quickly send insurance adjusters to an accident scene to interview witnesses and injured victims. These agents could sometimes pressure you or the witnesses to make admissions that the bus or trucking company would use against you. The LA Personal Injury Law Firm has a team of experienced attorneys who can navigate the complexities of any bus or truck accident. Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.