With Los Angeles being one of the largest cities in America, buses are a common feature of the city’s public transport system. Metro, school, church, and tour buses are used by thousands of city residents as well as by tourists to move from one destination to another. The mode of transport is not only affordable but is also reliable, safe, and environmentally friendly. However, compared to car accidents, bus accidents tend to be more dangerous and often result in much more severe injuries for the victims.
Buses' enormous size and a large number of passengers have contributed to the heightened dangerous nature of bus accidents. Another contributing factor is that unlike other vehicles, public transport buses do not have seatbelts and other safety equipment. The fact that buses are sometimes overly crowded also increases the magnitude of bus accident injuries. With a high traffic volume, bus accidents are not uncommon in LA. Therefore, it is crucial to learn of leading causes of bus accidents in LA and how to seek compensation if and when you are involved in a bus accident. No matter the magnitude of your injuries, you are entitled to fair compensation. We at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm are committed to helping you get compensated for your bus accident.
An Overview of Bus Accidents
Generally, bus transportation is considered safer and economical. First, the law in California places a higher duty of care on bus drivers compared to other drivers. Therefore, it is harder to encounter an intoxicated or an inexperienced bus driver. Second, most, if not all bus drivers, are employees of public entities or private companies. Therefore, to avoid vicarious liability, these organizations are usually extra careful when employing bus drivers. These and other factors act as a hindrance to any form of negligent driving by bus drivers. However, despite these measures, buses are still involved in accidents.
Considering the nature of bus accidents, victims usually suffer severe and life-altering injuries, including:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Brain injuries and concussions
- Sprains and broken bones
- Cuts, bruises, and other soft tissue injuries
- Facial injuries
In California, bus accidents vary from one to the other. From colliding with other vehicles or motorcycles, hitting pedestrians to the unfortunate cases of school bus accidents, bus accidents are different. Therefore, it is usually tough to determine the specific cause of a bus accident and who is liable. While some accidents are a result of careless driving, others are a result of poor maintenance or defective equipment, which have nothing to do with the driver. With all this at play, it may be hard for you as the plaintiff to determine the basis of your claims and who the at-fault party/parties are. The fact that the identity of the at-fault party is related to the cause of the accident means that you need to know the leading causes of bus accidents. However, to comprehend this and other complicated matters, you require the services of an experienced personal injury attorney.
Common Causes of Bus Accidents in LA
The most common causes of bus accidents in Los Angeles include negligent bus drivers, poor maintenance, bad weather, blind spots, left-turns, dangerous roadways, and defective equipment.
- Negligent Bus Drivers
Bus drivers owe their passengers a higher duty of care compared to other drivers. However, this expectation has not been enough to force many of them to exercise proper caution while on the road. Similar to other drivers, bus drivers’ negligence takes many forms, including:
- Driving under the influence
- Reckless driving
Bus drivers are also susceptible to distracted driving, including talking on the phone or texting while driving. Some bus drivers even disregard traffic laws put in place to aid them in their duties as a driver. For example, some regulations dictate the duration a bus driver should be on the road, including when they should rest. There are also traffic laws that regulate speed and if and when buses should overtake. A bus driver who fails to abide by these laws is negligent.
Several factors, including fatigue and inadequate training, also contribute to the negligent behavior of bus drivers. Even though they are employees of bus companies and other private and public entities, bus drivers can be held personally liable for their negligence. Therefore, bus drivers are defendants in personal injury cases that are a result of bus accidents. The drivers may either be accused individually or jointly with their employers, government agencies, or bus manufacturers. Whether they are held personally liable or jointly with their employer depends on the specific cause of the bus accident. For example, if the personal injury attorney can prove that the bus accident is a result of inadequate training or fatigue due to overscheduling, the employer will be held responsible for their employee's acts of negligence. According to the legal principle of vicarious liability, such companies are supposed to pay for damages that result from their employee's negligent actions.
- Poor Maintenance of Buses
Annually, buses transport nearly as many people as airplanes do. However, relevant agencies do not subject them to the same safety and maintenance regulations, including inspections. With many companies and public entities neglecting the critical task of properly maintaining their buses, bus accidents have become common. It is common to encounter buses that have stalled due to lack of regular servicing and inspections. While there exists several federal regulations on how both public and private entities should maintain their fleet of buses, most bus companies do not pay attention to them. Poor maintenance has led to buses breaking down on highways and becoming a hazard for other motorists. In extreme cases, the stalled buses have contributed to road accidents. However, faulty brakes in these buses are one of the most dangerous aspects of poor maintenance. Buses with faulty brakes can cause serious accidents resulting in severe injuries to passengers and other road users.
Although bus companies are supposed to adhere to regular inspection, maintenance, and record keeping regulations, most of them don’t. The financial aspect of vehicle maintenance is one of the most bus companies avoid regular inspections and maintenance. However, this is a risky decision that can lead to serious road accidents. In the end, these companies are forced to pay massive amounts as compensation for the injuries and damages caused by their negligent acts. In essence, by neglecting their maintenance duty, they put bus passengers and other road users in danger. The same way reckless driving is a result of the negligence of the bus driver, poor maintenance can be classified as negligence of the bus company.
- Dangerous Roadways
Similar to poorly maintained buses, defective or poorly maintained roadways can cause bus accidents. Dangerous road conditions, including potholes, poor road designs, and improper signage, makes buses and other large vehicles prone to accidents. Generally, state and federal agencies are supposed to maintain public roads to ensure the safety of road users. In addition to ensuring there are no potholes, the government agencies should also make sure that lanes and road signages are clearly labeled. Therefore, in case it is proved in court that a bus accident was a result of poorly maintained roads, these agencies may be held liable for the bus accident.
- Blind Spots and Left Turns
While they may not be as a result of poor maintenance, blind spots on the road make them dangerous hence contribute to bus accidents. Blind spots are areas on the road that the driver is unable to see without aid, including from car mirrors. Related to blind spots is the difficulty of making left turns for buses and other large vehicles. Failure to eliminate blind spots while making left turns for buses can lead to an accident where the driver may knock down pedestrians and other road users. In this case, the elevated position of the bus driver makes him/her fail to see other road users in their low positions. While it is hard to identify the responsible party for blind spot and left-turn accidents, an experienced personal injury attorney can successfully argue that the bus driver lacked proper training. In this case, the bus company will be held liable for negligent hiring.
- Bad Weather
Poor weather conditions can impede a driver’s ability to operate the vehicle hence causing an accident. For example, foggy weather conditions may reduce a bus driver’s ability to see, thus, making him/her more likely to cause an accident. Other poor weather conditions, including heavy rains, snow, and lightning, may also lead to accidents. With poor weather conditions being a rare occurrence in LA, bus accidents as a result of bad weather are not common. Although bus accidents as a result of adverse weather conditions are not as common compared to other causes, bus drivers are required to have proper training on how to navigate the various weather conditions in LA.
- Defective Equipment
The defective manufacturing of the bus or its parts is another leading cause of bus accidents. From its design to faulty labeling, a bus can be flawed in many ways. For example, defective bus tires may blowout and cause an accident. In this case, the bus driver and the bus company had carried out their maintenance duty but have been duped by others into buying a defective product. A faulty braking system may cause an accident as it impedes the driver’s ability to control the bus. Most car collisions are a result of defective breaks. Other examples of faulty equipment include defective doors and other parts of the bus that may injure passengers or contribute to a bus accident.
Where defective equipment is the cause of a bus accident, the bus manufacturer or the manufacturer of the specific defective equipment can be liable. As part of the personal injury case, the plaintiff or his/her lawyer may have to prove the existence of product liability claims. Due to the existence of safety regulations, consumers rarely expect products; in this case, the bus and its parts to be a threat to their safety or even severely injure them. An attorney should prove that injuries or damages that his/her client sustained were a result of a defect in the design of the bus, its parts, or associated labeling. Equipment may be defective from the point of manufacturing point or as a result of improper assembling. In both cases, the plaintiff is required to identify the liable party. However, in most cases, the bus manufacturer or the auto parts manufacturer is responsible for defective equipment.
- Other Drivers
Even after exercising proper caution on the road, a bus driver may still get into an accident as a result of the negligence of another driver. With its significant population and traffic volume, the city of Los Angeles has all kinds of drivers on the road. From intoxicated drivers to drivers who ignore traffic regulations, a bus driver in LA runs the risk of being involved in an accident that is not his/her fault. The negligent driver may either distracts him on the road, block his/her way or collide with the bus. While the mistakes or errors of other drivers usually lead to a minor accident, it is also known to cause major accidents, especially on the highways.
Other Causes of Bus Accidents
In addition to the common causes of accidents, other causes related to some of these leading causes but may occur independently of them include bus driver fatigue and bus fires.
Bus Driver Fatigue
While fatigue is negligence, it occurs independently and may be a result of the bus company's negligence or the driver's negligence. Typically, tight schedules, continuous driving, and long trips leave bus drivers sleepy and tired. Driving under the effects of fatigue can be as dangerous as intoxicated driving. However, some rules regulate the maximum number of hours a bus driver may be on the road. Despite the existence of strict regulations that prohibit bus companies from overscheduling their drivers, many companies do not adhere to them. Overscheduling leaves bus drivers fatigued hence prone to making mistakes on the road that subsequently lead to accidents.
While bus fires may be as a result of improper maintenance, they may also be as a result of defective equipment or some other independent cause. Bus fires usually occur in the engine compartment, but they can also start from the tires and wheels. In both cases, it may be as a result of poor maintenance or defective manufacturing. In addition to bus fires making buses to stall hence becoming hazardous to other road users, fumes from bus fire may also make passengers sick. Bus fire accidents are ordinarily easy to contain without resulting in injuries for the passengers. However, they can also be dangerous, especially where the passengers are small school children who may not be able to get off the bus as quickly as possible.
Bus Accidents and Personal Injury Claims
According to California law, a plaintiff in a bus accident personal injury claim case is required to prove that the defendant was negligent in his/her actions; hence, the harm caused. Mostly, as a plaintiff, you must prove that:
- The defendant or defendants owed you a duty of care
- By their actions, the defendant/defendants breached this duty of care
- The bus accident was a result of the defendant/defendants actions or acts of omission
- The accident has physically injured you or caused you to suffer other damages
The Bus Driver’s Duty of Care
The fact that the legal principle of negligence plays a vital role in determining personal injury claims in bus accidents puts in focus the driver's duties of care. The law in California places a higher duty of care on bus drivers compared to other drivers. This high duty of care means that bus drivers can be held liable even for a small degree of negligence. Although the driver's duty of care is classified as reasonable care and not utmost care, the fact that they have a higher duty of care makes it easy for the plaintiff to argue their personal injury claim lawsuit. However, if found guilty, a negligent driver will at most go to prison or pay a fine. For compensation, the plaintiff is required to follow up with other parties hence the legal principle of vicarious liability.
The Vicarious Liability of the Bus Companies
In addition to the legal principle of negligence, vicarious liability plays a critical role in bus accidents personal injury claims. In this case, the bus companies or private and public entities that employ negligent drivers are liable to pay for damages resulting from the driver's negligent actions. Instead of just going after the driver, many personal injury attorneys also goes after the bus company as a co-defendant. This decision relies on the fact that plaintiffs cannot claim compensation from bus drivers but only from their employers or other co-defendants, including government agencies.
Who Can You Sue and the Aspect of Multiple Defendants
Bus drivers, bus companies, bus manufacturers, county, and state agencies are among the various parties you can sue if you become a victim of a bus accident. Other parties that might you may sue in case of a bus accident include city agencies, auto part manufacturers, and school districts in case of school bus accidents. Plaintiffs in bus accident cases have to identify the different valid claims they have against the different parties. For example, in a single case, a plaintiff may have claims against a bus driver for their negligent driving but still hold county agencies liable for improper road signage.
The fact that there might be several causes behind a bus accident means that a single personal injury claim may have multiple defendants. Unlike typical car accident cases, bus accident cases require additional legal analysis to navigate some of the issues that are unique to them, including the existence of multiple defendants. For example, an attorney is needed to investigate if the accident was a result of the driver’s negligence or was due to poor maintenance.
Since every type of bus accident has a different cause, the defendants also vary. However, in some cases, the responsibility or legal liability of the accident may be spread across multiple defendants. For example, an attorney may discover that while the leading cause of an accident is a result of dangerous roadways, the driver also has a history of careless driving or the bus was adequately maintained. Whatever the case, the attorney in these cases, is required to be aware of the shared liabilities to pursue personal injury claims with the relevant parties and concerning their legal liability.
Statute of Limitations
It is essential to be aware of the different timelines that are permitted by the law when filing various personal injury claims. Compared to claims against private entities, suits against government entities have a different statute of limitations hence a shorter claim period. In California, a plaintiff must file claims for damages against government agencies within six months of the accident; otherwise, you risk losing your compensation. It is important to note that a large number of bus companies in California are government entities. It is, therefore, imperative to immediately file your claim in case you are involved in a bus accident in the city of LA.
Contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
As a plaintiff in a personal injury claim case, it may be hard for you to know whether your bus accident was a result of negligence by the bus driver or by the bus company. You might be able to identify if you have claims against the manufacturer or even against federal or state agencies. The ensuing confusion and the different timelines of lodging claims against the different parties may lead to the loss of your injury compensation. Our attorneys at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm are experts in helping victims of bus accidents and their families to navigate personal injury claims and receive high amounts of compensation for their injuries and damages. To learn more about our services, call us at 310-935-0089.