California is among the country’s busiest states, with many citizens moving and settling here to start new careers and lives. Subsequently, areas like Los Angeles experience heavy traffic each day as they move to and from workplaces, schools, and homes.
While road safety regulations are available, motorists often drive negligently, putting passengers and other road users at risk. Among the most affected road users are bus drivers and passengers who are often involved in accidents. Since the bus driver is responsible for the passengers' safety throughout the bus ride, he/she is likely to face liability in case of an accident.
Based on the high number of bus accidents that occur daily, you must learn about the risks you face as a regular bus user. Moreover, you also need to equip yourself with essential information on the steps to take after the accident occurs to help you seek treatment and compensation if you sustain injuries.
At The LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we provide our clients with professional legal services to help them file claims for personal injuries sustained because of another party’s negligence. Moreover, we support you by providing details required when filing a compensatory suit. We ensure that you are ready to face the defendants and challenge their claims and defenses.
Types of Buses that Operate in California and Their Accident Statistics
Typically, different buses travel on Los Angeles highways daily, carrying different passengers headed to various locations. For some of these transportation services, the risk of facing road accidents is more prevalent than others because they operate different routes daily.
Consequently, bus drivers may be unfamiliar with new roads, which may lead to unintended collisions. Alternatively, some accidents occur because of a driver's negligence, mainly where he/she feels comfortable operating a particular route based on its constant use. Thus, such a driver may disregard traffic regulations caused by the confidence in using a highway or road for a long time. Some of these bus services include:
Public Transportation Buses
A significant population of California residents commutes to work, amounting to up to 5.5% of the total population. Therefore, the percentage totals to about two million commuters using different means of transport every day to go to work or school. Among these two million commuters, around 65% of them prefer commuter buses to and from their places of work, meaning that about 1.3 million residents use buses to commute around Los Angeles.
Moreover, the United States Bureau of Labor reported about 687,000 employed bus drivers in different companies from the government and private sector. With such a high number of road users, passengers face the risk of bus accidents, especially when the national count causes up to sixty-three thousand bus accidents daily, with around thirteen thousand passengers sustaining injuries.
Children in California go to school using different means, depending on the proximity between their schools and homes. Out of the approximately twenty-four million school bus riders in the country, around 700,000 students take the bus every school day in California. Therefore, the children who use these buses may face occasional accidents during the ride or alighting the bus.
Since most children using buses for transportation to school are relatively young, incidents when boarding and alighting the bus are among the most significant accident causes, amounting to around 21% of all school bus accidents. School bus accidents involving children are also very rampant where the children play or walk around a danger zone, including in front of or behind a bus after alighting it. In most cases, such accidents are more likely to affect younger children aged five to seven years, especially if they do not have an adult to meet them after they alight the bus.
The lack of seat belts for children's safety is another significant factor that brings about high risks to injuries, with the leading cause of high damages arising from children bumping their heads hard upon the application of sharp brakes.
Tour and Charter Buses
Additionally, many tourist attractions are available in the city, leading to about fifty million tourists visiting Los Angeles annually. With such a high number of visitors on trips, charter and tour buses are always in operation to transport the tourists around the city for a great tourist experience. However, there are constant complaints from other users concerning the creation of heavy traffic.
As a result, most motorists are involved in bus accidents by rear-end collisions, sidestepping, or head-on collisions from the small spaces left on the roads to maneuver easily. Such high probabilities of bus accidents occurring are also fuelled by the bus driver’s negligence and carelessness, and other motorists who may engage in aggressive driving tactics.
Hotel and Airport Shuttles
Similarly, based on the high population, tourist, and business attractions in Los Angeles, airport and hotel shuttles operate for long hours to provide private bus transportation services to visiting tourists and business people. Unlike commuter buses, the private shuttles may transport a few passengers at a time, depending on each client’s bookings and exclusivity. Nevertheless, such buses are also prone to collisions and accidents, primarily when they operate the vehicle negligently.
Common Causes of Bus Accidents
As a bus accident victim, you need to understand the causes of bus accidents and their prevalence levels to ensure that you are alert to any malpractices carried out by the driver. Most cases involve negligent activities that remove the bus driver's focus from the road, leading to abrupt collisions. Consequently, the bus driver rarely can avert the danger, as there is little to no reaction time. Some of the common accident cases include:
A driver may face different driving distractions, including fatigue, noise from the bus, and eating or drinking when driving. However, the most common cause of inattentiveness is handling the phone to answer calls or send text messages. A credible report stated that the distraction caused by a bus driver checking the phone for even two seconds increases the chances of an accident by twenty-three times. Moreover, even if the driver does not continue handling the phone, he/she may disengage from the road and focus on formulating an answer to a text, among other thoughts. Subsequently, the focus diminishes, causing a higher risk of bus accident collisions.
Small Road Spaces for Manoeuvre
On top of this, most roads and streets are often packed with traffic as different motorists make way through the city. Consequently, there is barely enough maneuvering space, especially for a large bus that requires a signal space to reverse or park. Therefore, bus accidents involving side-sweeping and small-impact collisions are also common, leading to damage to property. While personal injuries are not common in such cases, you may experience significant effects from the accident, including whiplash from sudden brakes applied by the bus driver to avoid hitting other vehicles.
Reckless and Aggressive Driving
Some bus drivers may also indulge in aggressive driving tactics like ignoring traffic regulations, and engaging in road rage. Among the most common types of aggressive driving, practices are tailgating, whereby the bus driver follows the vehicle ahead too closely. In such circumstances, the bus driver leaves very little distance between the bus and the car in front, such that if any emergency were to occur, the bus would inevitably hit the vehicle ahead. According to the National Highway Transport Safety Administration, tailgating often leads to incidents like rear-end accidents that account for up to 29% of road fatalities.
Aggressive road users often run red lights as well, leading to many intersection accidents that could cause severe fatalities to passengers. For example, a T-bone collision may occur when your bus driver decides to ignore traffic lights requiring him/her to stop. Additionally, rollover accidents may arise from aggressive driving that involves making sharp turns and speeding to overtake other drivers. Overall, such practices result in over 66% of all traffic accident fatalities in the country.
Poor Road Conditions from Construction and Inadequate Maintenance
While the construction and repair of different highways in Los Angeles is a positive step towards development, such road projects often attract serious road incidents, including bus accidents that may affect you and many other passengers. For example, if the debris remains on the road after completing a project, the bus tires may experience sudden blow-outs that can affect the balance, leading to a severe road accident.
Alternatively, the highway maintenance board responsible for authorizing repairs and replacing old tarmac on the roads may delay giving the green light. The effect of such delays in administration is that motorists, including bus drivers, will have difficulty maneuvering such sections of the road, and may even end up causing severe accidents from loss of control and balance of the vehicle.
Driving Under the Influence
While bus drivers should avoid taking alcohol and other drugs when operating the vehicle, some undermine such guidelines and transport passengers when under the influence. Doubtless, such a bus driver will have impaired vision and motor skills to promote a safe and comfortable drive for the bus passengers present during such a trip. Therefore, almost all bus drivers who operate under the influence of alcohol or other drugs are likely to cause an accident, no matter how small it may be.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol and Abuse, DUI accidents add up to about 30% of road fatalities annually. Among these statistics, several bus drivers may be held directly liable for the impact when it is established that intoxication had impaired their vision and judgment significantly.
Determining Liability for a Bus Accident
After becoming a victim of a severe bus accident, it is vital to seek the services of a personal injury attorney who will help you recover losses for injuries and medical expenses, among other claims. Usually, the first step in seeking compensation for an accident involves filing a report to the police or highway patrol authorities, informing them of the incident, and providing any additional information and details like photographs and videos of the accident scene.
We recommend contacting your attorney before filing the report, if possible, to ensure that you do not face numerous unnecessary questions from the police, especially when you are a road user whose vehicle has collided with a bus. For most bus incidents, however, you are likely to be a passenger who experiences a massive impact form a collision, leading to injuries. In either case, your lawyer will provide assistance and guidance as you share information with the officers to begin on the compensatory action in tort.
Determining the liability for a bus accident requires you to provide adequate information concerning the bus driver's behavior just before the impact occurred, the actions of other motorists on the road, and any other detective factors that could have caused the accident. Based on the findings from and your lawyer's investigations, you may file a compensatory suit against the following parties:
The Bus Driver
Several statutory provisions require bus drivers to undergo intense training and practice before obtaining a commercial driver's license to operate the vehicles. Moreover, he/she should also pass several tests to qualify for a job position, including possession of first aid skills and observing safety procedures when allowing passengers to alight and board the bus to prevent slip up accidents.
The bus driver also agrees to be held responsible for every passenger's safety once he/she begins working. Thus, he/she should, therefore, uphold professional skills while on the road like avoiding road rage and using the excessive speed that puts the passengers at a higher risk of accidents. If you and other passengers notice the bus driver acting negligently, you can use your observations to hold him/her responsible for the collision.
The Bus Company In Charge of Bus Operations
A fault may also lie on the bus company that manages a fleet of buses, one of which causes an accident that involved you. In this case, the company may be liable vicariously, through the driver's faults during the scope of employment.
Conversely, the company may be liable for negligent operations like failing to confirm that all their drivers are certified, and the vehicles are in good condition for passengers’ safe transportation. Here, conditions involve the presence of functional safety belts for each passenger, contact maintenance, and replacement of worn-out bus components, among others. If the accident’s primary cause involved a mishap caused by the company's negligence, it should face liability for making compensatory payments.
The Road Maintenance Authority
Since poor road conditions also play a role in causing bus accidents, the body responsible for maintenance and repairs may also become a party in a compensatory suit, especially where there were negligent operations that left motorists prone to sudden dangers. For example, debris from broken glass and rocks on the roads may cause tire blow-outs and swerving to avoid these objects, leading to possible bus accidents if the driver did not identify the debris on time.
Damages You Can Seek Compensation For
After establishing that the identified parties are liable for the harm you suffered, the presiding judge will be ready to consider the application for damages you had listed in your demand letter. With your injury attorney’s help, you can formulate an accurate list of all monetary losses you sustained from the bus accident, including financial and emotional constraints.
An accurate description of each loss will create more credibility on your side to ensure that the judge finds it justifiable to award the amount you stipulated in your submissions. Some of the claims you can seek compensation for include:
Loss of Wages and Earning Capacity
Sometimes, you may fall victim to severe bus accidents that cause irreversible body injuries like paralysis or traumatic brain damage. The leading cause of such severe accidents is head-on collisions, pedestrian accidents whereby a bus hits you as you cross the road, and rollover accidents while you are inside the bus. Among others, these could cause you to leave work for a significant period as you undergo treatment and recovery.
Consequently, you may lose wages from the delayed return to work, especially if you are self-employed and do not receive worker's compensation benefits. Moreover, your injuries may lead to permanent conditions that bar you from working again, meaning that you will lose your earning capacity. In either of these cases, the party liable for the accident should pay damages to provide enough compensation for a reasonable period.
You must immediately receive medical attention after involvement in a bus accident to ensure that you do not experience later complications from delayed treatment. Hence, checking into a hospital or receiving emergency treatment from an ambulance service that delivers you to the emergency room may result in expensive medical costs by the end of treatment.
Your attorney will include all expenses you incurred when drafting your submissions, including in-patient fees, charges for prescribed medication, physiotherapy appointments, and scheduled check-ups during your recovery period.
Pain and Suffering
You can also claim for the physical and emotional pain you suffered after the bus accident to compensate for the ordeals you underwent. Additionally, the basis of the claims also includes reducing the quality of life, mainly when you now have to depend on others to assist you with simple tasks.
Time Limits on Filing Compensatory Suits
The Statute of Limitations sets stringent requirements for any aggrieved person seeking compensation for personal injury claims caused in a bus accident. The rationale behind setting a time limit for accident victims to file for damages is to prevent retrospective claims from victims.
Such retrospective strategies could be misused by victims, whereby they file for injury compensation even after years of continuous exposure to other risks as the person continues with his/her life after recovery. In such a situation, the victim may suffer injuries from a different set of circumstances, then bring a claim against a bus company or driver to receive additional compensation.
Thanks to the time limit clause, such occurrences are avoided by requiring you to file against a negligent party on time, to reduce the doubt of probabilities for your case. For cases involving public bus companies owned and managed by government institutions, an aggrieved party should file a suit within six months of the accident. The short time limit serves to promote expeditious redress to affected victims at a time, primarily because the government often has to handle numerous cases from the different bus companies that operate under it.
On the other hand, if you suffered injury and losses that involved a private bus company, you will have two years to file for compensation. Within this time allowance, you and your lawyer may attempt using alternative methods like mediation and arbitration with the private entity to receive the rightful compensation for your injuries, especially if the company contests your claims. If you and the liable party disagree on compensatory terms, your lawyer can then move the matter to court by applying within the two years.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Bus accident statistics discussed in this article reveal that passengers and motorists alike have a high risk of becoming bus accident victims. After a bus accident, most victims are unsure of where to begin, especially when they want to file compensatory suits for the harm caused. You need to seek the services of a personal injury attorney who will guide you through each process and fight for your compensation.
At the LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we have worked with numerous clients in Los Angeles, California, and have helped them receive compensation after bus accidents. Thanks to our highly experienced professional team, you can rely on us to represent your case and appeal to the judge to award you the best possible damages. If you or your loved ones have experienced any losses during a bus accident, call us today at 310-935-0089.