Bus accidents are relatively few in Los Angeles compared to other traffic accidents. However, this type of accident can occur at any time, and the resulting injuries can be life-altering. It is also essential for you to understand that a common carrier accident is different from regular traffic accidents. Therefore, it can be challenging to receive fair compensation, and many victims end up recovering inadequate lost wages and medical expenses. That is why you need to consult an experienced attorney like The LA Personal Injury Law Firm to help you seek fair compensation.
Liable Parties in a Bus Accident
The liable party in a bus accident depends on what caused the accident and the kind of bus accident. Common defendants in accidents include:
- Tour bus operator
- Bus driver
- School bus operator
- Bus driver supervisor
- Contract bus operator
- Bus owner
- Other motorists
- Bus maintenance firm
- Bus manufacturer
- State, city, or county entity
- Bus parts manufacturer
Sometimes, there can be multiple liable parties. You could even be partially at-fault for the bus accident. According to pure comparative negligence rule, you will still be in a position to recover damages. However, your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
For you to recover damages in a personal injury claim, you need to prove that the defendant's negligence caused your accident. The facts of negligence include:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care
- The at-fault party violated the duty of care
- The breach of duty of care was a significant cause of your injury
School Bus Accident
Your children are safer when in a school bus compared to riding in a vehicle. Nonetheless, an accident can happen, and when it does, the bus driver, together with the education institution district, could be held accountable for injuries.
If the accident was as a result of the driver's negligence, accountability could depend primarily on whether the education institution outsourced another firm or managed the buses. If the institution owned the vehicle, the school would be liable. If another firm was contracted, the firm might be held accountable for the driver's carelessness.
According to respondeat superior law, a company is vicariously accountable for injuries caused by a careless worker provided the employee was operating within the scope of their job.
This gives you a better opportunity to receive fair compensation because chances are the company has more money to compensate you. Moreover, it is a method to prevent similar bus accidents from taking place.
Tour Bus Accident
Several tour bus firms operate across neighboring state lines as well as in Los Angeles. This entails both local routes which visit casinos and tourist destinations and long-distances buses. Usually, most of these companies push motorists to operate vehicles for long as well as keep tight schedules.
If the motorist is careless, the company could be held accountable for the damages. Also, the tour bus firm may be directly responsible for the motorist's conduct if the company was careless in supervising, hiring, and training the driver. Failure to analyze the driver's qualifications and driving record could make the company responsible for careless hiring.
All drivers on the road owe others a duty of care, but a motorist who transports persons for profit owe others a higher duty of care. Generally, commercial bus operators like tour buses are referred as to common carriers.
Common carriers are enterprises which transport goods or people at a cost. The law holds common carriers to a higher safety standard. In pursuant to the Civil Code, carriers of people for a reward should:
- Use the greatest diligence and care for their safe carriage,
- Offer everything that is required for that purpose, and
- Exercise a rational level of skill.
The bus company may also violate their responsibility as a common carrier when it fails to:
- Inspect their buses for safety challenges
- Supervise or train divers
- Repair the buses properly
The company will be held accountable for the damages if any of the mentioned above safety violations caused an accident.
Public Transportation Accident
Generally, public bus accident claims involve lawsuits against a government entity. This is because the state, county, city, or any other regional agency operates public buses in California. It is worth noting that lawsuits against a government agency have different requirements compared to claims against private defendants.
Typically, state governments have a lawsuit of sovereign immunity from various categories of claims. Nonetheless, the state of California has waived sovereign immunity in some claims of worker negligence. That means when a careless public bus motorist causes a bus accident, you can bring a personal injury lawsuit against the local or state entity that manages the bus.
Unlike other personal injury lawsuits, wrongful death claim or a personal injury lawsuit against a government entity should be filed not later than six months following the bus accident. If you fail to file your claim within that deadline, you might not be in a position to be awarded compensation.
Can You File a Claim If You Were Injured at a Bus Station?
In most cases, when a victim is injured at a bus station, they feel that they were at the wrong location. Nonetheless, you can still bring a claim against those at fault.
Negligent or careless motorists cause most accidents at the bus stop. You can prove the bus driver was careless by using proof that the motorist violated traffic laws like running a red light, driving the bus while drunk, or speeding.
Sometimes, the bus station could be located in a hazardous place. It may include a location where the bus stop is near the street or where several people were injured in previous bus stop accidents. In this case, you can file your lawsuit against the government entity accountable for the bus station.
Common Injuries Suffered in an Accident
Injuries resulting from a bus accident could be more complicated than other vehicle injuries. Truck and cars come with several safety features that protect passengers. These features include seat belts, crumple zones, rollover protection, bucket seats, and airbags.
As a bus passenger, you could be seated facing sideways or forward. You could even be standing in a packed vehicle. In the event of an accident, you could be thrown in the vehicle or hit by other passengers, seats, windows, floors, or bars. This may lead to various injuries which are unique to bus accidents such as:
Soft Tissue Injury
A soft tissue injury is an injury to tendons, nerves, ligaments, and muscles. Victims with soft tissue injury are often incurring huge medical expenses and are left not in a position to return to work. Discussed below are various types of soft tissues injuries that you may be entitled to receive compensation for:
Whiplash is the pain experienced as a result of damage to the neck's soft tissues. It is caused by the sudden impact of the bus accident. It manifests differently in different people. Common symptoms experienced include swelling, tenderness, reduced mobility, headache, and neck pain.
It can get worse if not properly treated. Therefore, to avoid further complications, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately.
- Muscle Contusion
A muscle contusion occurs after a blunt force trauma to your body. Normally, the impact crushes connective tissues and muscle fibers and tears blood vessels beneath your skin. You will experience symptoms like a limited range of motion, stiffness, muscle weakness, pain, and swelling.
- Tears, Sprains, and Strains
A sprain occurs when your ligaments are overstretched. Strains, on the other hand, are due to overstretched tendons and muscles. These injuries occur when a victim is violently twisted, shaken, or thrust by the accident's force. They are very painful and require surgery. They are common in shoulders, arms, legs, neck, back, feet, and hands.
- Nerve Damage
Nerves offer a sense of touch and regulate several body's motor functions. The effect of nerve damage is focused on the injury's area. You are likely to suffer total or partial paralysis if you sustain a spinal cord injury.
When a vehicle stops suddenly, there is always a likelihood that your head might strike on a window or seat. The sudden blunt force trauma to your head can have life-changing effects on you. Minor blunt force head injuries could lead to blurred vision, insomnia, loss of consciousness, and nausea. Serious head trauma, on the other hand, could result in paralysis, cognitive challenges, loss of mobility, and seizures.
Different types of brain injuries suffered include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Diffuse anoxic injury
- Intracranial hematoma
- Parietal lobe injury
- Temporal lobe injury
Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord is a bundle of vertebrae, nerves, and tissues that runs down the back and connects to the brain to form the central nervous system. Spinal cord injuries are sustained when you get ejected from the bus or thrown around on the bus. Generally, when your vertebrae are damaged, body parts below the injury site will be affected. When the injury occurs on the spine, especially at the cervical spine, you risk suffering from quadriplegia (complete paralysis) or even dying.
It is imperative to seek medical care immediately if you're experiencing the following symptoms:
- Challenges while breathing
- Digestive challenges
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of sensation of touch or temperature
- Sexual dysfunction
- Pinching sensation in the back
Deep Cuts and Lacerations
Buses come with several breakable parts that include glass windows. That means if an accident took place, you risk sustaining deep cuts and severe lacerations. These injuries may seem minor, but they can have severe long-term consequences. Therefore, they ought to be treated immediately to reduce the risk of infections. While deep cuts require stitches, lacerations require reconstructive plastic surgery, among other emergency procedures. Moreover, the injuries could damage your nerves, skin, and tissues as well as leave permanent scars.
As a result of the impact in an accident, you could be thrown from your seat violently hence striking the bus's interior. If this occurs, there is a possibility that you will sustain injuries such as bruises and broken bones. Severe fractured bone injuries require prolonged physical therapy, expensive medical expenses, and surgeries. They could also affect your ability to return to work.
It is essential to note that there are numerous ways in which bone fractures happen. For instance, a fracture that does not tear through your skin or adversely affect the surrounding tissues is known as a closed fracture. A fracture that penetrates your skin, on the other hand, is called an open or compound fracture. An open fracture is severe compared to closed due to the risk of health complications like infections.
Damages Awarded in A Bus Accident
When you bring a personal injury claim, you are simply asking the liable party to reimburse you for the losses incurred. The purpose of a personal injury claim is to make the plaintiff whole again. In layman's language, the accident victim seeks to bring back to the state they were before the accident occurred.
Certainly, you cannot return to the state you were in before the bus accident or bring back your loved one who succumbed to the injuries. Instead, the compensation should restore the bank account. It ought to offer money to cater to your future and current medical bills, therapy costs, and assistance with daily activities.
Damages awarded in California can either be economic or non-economic.
Economic damages are damages to which a dollar value can be attached to easily. They are designed to compensate for out-of-pocket money which you have already spent or will spend in the future. They often include:
- Medical Expenses
Almost all personal injury damages awards include the medical expenses associated with the accident. This is the reimbursement for the medical care you have already received as well as compensation for an estimated cost of medical attention you will require in the future due to the bus accident. Your attorney will work together with your doctor and other experts like an economic analyst to tell what the future medical needs will include and the cost.
- Property Loss
You are also entitled to compensation if your clothing, car, or any other asset was damaged due to the accident. You will be compensated for repairs or fair market value of the asset damaged.
- Lost Income
You are entitled to receive compensation for wages and salary lost as a result of the bus accident. This includes:
- The time you had to be away from work after the accident
- Loss of earning capacity
- Reduction in income if you had to take another job other than the one you had before the bus accident
Loss of earning capacity can be defined as the variation between what a victim would have made for the rest of their life and what they will make as a result of the bus accident.
Non-economic damages are damages that do not involve out-of-pocket costs. They include subjective losses like:
- Loss of Enjoyment
You could also receive loss of enjoyment damages if the injuries are stopping you from engaging in recreational and daily activities like hobbies and exercise.
- Loss of Consortium
The loss of consortium goes beyond the loss of the sexual relationship between spouses. This type of damage is awarded to family members whose loved one has lost the capacity to offer affection, love, comfort, companionship, and do household chores.
- Emotional Distress
Emotional distress damages seek to compensate you for the non-physical consequences of the injury like anxiety, fear, and insomnia.
Punitive damages are different from compensatory damages. If the defendant acted carelessly or egregiously, the judge could rule out that the liable party should be punished. Also known as exemplary damages, punitive damages are awarded besides the compensatory amount. The law requires the judge to put the following factors into account when analyzing the validity of a punitive damage award lawsuit:
- Reprehensibility of the liable party's conduct
- The financial situation of the defendant
- Injury sustained by the victim or the total amount of compensatory damages
What to Do After a Loved One Dies Following a Bus Accident
When your loved one dies due to bus injuries, the decedent is not there to fight for their rights. Fortunately, surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim to ensure the at-fault party is held responsible. In California, you can recover compensation if you have either of the following relationships with the decedent:
- Domestic partner
- Grandchild (if the deceased's children are dead)
You can receive the deceased's asset under intestate succession law.
Damages awarded in wrongful death claims are meant to compensate you for your loss. They can be both economic and non-economic. They include:
- Burial cost
- Loss of support, loss of companionship or loss of affection
- Losses incurred due to loss of income and loss of future earnings
Statute of Limitations
If you are contemplating filing a personal injury claim following a bus accident, it is imperative to know and adhere to the statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is the deadline by which a claim should be brought.
Under the California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1, you have two years from the date of the accident to file your claim. If you attempt filing the claim after the two (2) years have passed, the liable party will likely point this fact out to the judge, and the judge will dismiss the case. If this occurs, you will lose the entitlement to recover damages irrespective of how strong your evidence is or how essential the damages may be.
Sometimes the statute of limitations may be tolled (fail to start running for a given period or suspended). It could occur when the defendant is lawfully insane, in prison, or out of California. After the condition causing the tolling has ended, the statute of limitations resumes.
Personal injury claims involving tolling are complicated. It's therefore advisable to consult with a qualified attorney to determine whether you can still take legal action.
Steps to Take After a Bus Accident
The steps you take following an accident can determine whether you will be awarded damages or not. These steps include:
- Call for Help
If you aren't seriously injured, the first thing you need to do is assess your injuries and then call for help. This should bring emergency medical technicians and the police to the accident scene. You should describe the location so that you can get faster help.
Remember to check on other victims and the seriousness of the injuries. Make those injured as comfortable as possible.
- Remain at the Scene of the Accident
If you have been injured, remain at the scene of the accident until law enforcers arrive unless you require immediate medical attention.
- Move to a Safer Location
Move your vehicle to somewhere safe, if it is safe to do so. When cars block traffic, it could result in further injuries.
However, it is essential to leave your vehicle if moving it would be dangerous.
- Seek Medical Attention
Make sure you seek medical attention whether your injuries are minor or not. Sometimes an injury may look minor only to be severe later.
- Exchange Contact Information with Other Motorists and Witnesses
Take note of the bus driver's name, driver's license, registration, and insurance card. If possible, take a picture of these documents.
Remember, to get the contact information of other victims and witnesses.
- Take Photos
If you are not severely injured, take pictures of the accident scene. The photos will assist your attorney and the insurance adjuster in determining what occurred.
Make sure you take photos of all visible injuries.
- Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Your attorney should assist you in protecting your rights as well as determining whether you are entitled to compensation or not.
The lawyer will draft a demand letter that will get a fair settlement from the insurance provider.
Moreover, your lawyer is familiar with insurance providers' tricks. Therefore, they will save you the headache of dealing with the insurance adjuster.
Find a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you have lost a loved one or been involved in a bus accident, you could be entitled to compensation for the injuries sustained. Chances are you might want to give up the battle with the insurance provider and the responsible party. This is because the process is both intimidating and complicated. Let The LA Personal Injury Law Firm work on the case as you pay attention to healing and recovery. We offer personalized representation to Los Angeles residents in all matters regarding personal injury cases. Call us at 310-935-0089 to schedule your initial consultation.