You probably love taking the bus to and from your work. There is also a possibility that you have never considered a situation where your trip ends up in a bus accident. Such a situation follows with attempts to seek compensation for the damages incurred and nursing the injuries sustained from the incident. It can be daunting and complicated to follow through every step needed in your compensation hence the need for hiring a professional personal injury attorney. We at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm are in the best position of offering the best legal services when you need it most.
Definition of Common Carrier in California
Under Civil Code Section 2168, common carriers are defined as everyone who offers public transport of persons, property, or message except telegraphic messages. Therefore, it involves any entity that puts itself to the public generally and indifferently to transport goods and people from one point to the other for profit. This includes taxis, airlines, school buses, public buses, railway, escalator, cable cars, and other public transport means.
Common carriers are considered unique from other types of transport due to the responsibility that they have on passengers and the general public. Therefore, they are expected to carry out their duties in higher standards compared to private carriers.
Common Carriers in California
As provided by the statute, a common carrier hold itself in public to offer services without discrimination to ensure public convenience and necessity. A common carrier has the responsibility of demonstrating to the regulator that he or she is fit to willing to provide services as granted by the authority.
There are three rules that a common carrier should follow to meet the requirements of the authority. This include:
- Transport passengers regardless of religion, gender, race and so on and must offer their services without discrimination
- Must make their prices known by the public
- Must ensure a duty of care in their services. The passengers that they have been entrusted to transport must be delivered from their embarkation to the destination unharmed
The Duty a Common Carrier has to Their Clients and Passengers
Under Civil Code section 2100, common carriers are responsible for their negligence and must take all appropriate and reasonable steps to prevent any injuries or damages from happening. Therefore, the carrier's duty of care arises during the purchase of the ticket and remains in force until they discharge the passengers. The common carrier also has the mandate of discharging the passengers in a reasonably safe location.
Simply put, the common carrier must consider the following:
- Treat their passengers in a civil way
- Ensure that their vehicles are safe and fit for the duties that they should perform
- Guarantee a reasonable degree of attention to the passengers
- Warn passengers of the possibilities of danger that exist during transportation
- Ensure that their passengers have proper accommodation as well as a place for the elderly and disabled
- Avoid erratic driving or making sudden stops
- Protect their passengers from external harm or fellow passengers
- Ensure that their employees are adequately trained and monitor them to maintain their reliability
Definition of a Common Carrier's Passenger
Generally, one would argue that a passenger is someone on board a vehicle, vessel, train, or any other means of transport. However, California laws do not require one to be o nboard a vehicle to consider them as a common carrier's passenger. Instead, California law considers a passenger when:
- The person shows the intention of becoming a passenger
- The person was recognized and accepted as a passenger by the common carrier
- The person willingly placed himself or herself under the control of the common carrier
From this explanation, it would be right to say that there was a mutual agreement to engage in a carrier-passenger relationship, and the mutual consensus was executed. With this agreement, the passenger owes the common carrier an elevated duty of care, which puts them responsible for any harm that might occur.
Determining Liability in a Common Carrier Accident
As a claimant, you must prove that the common carrier that caused your accident was at fault for your injuries. Therefore, your attorney must prove:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to you. This is based on the requirement of a common carrier to carry the utmost diligence and care to their passengers
- The defendant breached the duty of care. In this case, the common carrier would probably have failed to maintain the bus which led to the accident
- The breach of duty was directly involved in causing injuries on you
- You suffered damages such as loss of wages, emotional distress, and physical injuries as a result of the accident
For a plaintiff to prove that the common carrier breached the duty of care, there must be evidence to prove this consideration. Your attorney can use evidence such as:
Testimony from an Expert Witness
An expert witness is someone who the court accepts as an expert by training, certification, or skills of experience. Your attorney can use the testimony provided by the expert witness to explain that the injuries that you suffered were a result of the carrier's negligence.
Testimony from an Eyewitness
Eyewitness represents anyone who saw the accident or any factor that led could have reasonably led to the crash. This includes a fellow passenger, other road users, and people serving the driver on the road, such as a shop vendor.
Negligence per Se
Negligence per Se is a doctrine whereby an act is considered to be negligent since it violated particular regulations. Therefore, in a bus accident, if the common carrier failed to maintain the bus or consider any other responsibility as required by the law, this will put them liable for the injuries sustained.
Photographs of an imminent danger that lacks reasonable signage warning the passengers on a bus provide enough evidence of the carrier's failure to consider the duty of care. Also, any traffic images showing the proceedings of the accident are enough to hold the common carrier liable.
A public bus is required to be inspected after the particular duration provided by the law. Therefore, if proper installations were not done and the neglect is directly involved with the accident, then the carrier is responsible for the accident.
Responsible Parties in a Bus Accident
A bus accident can be complicated since different parties can be held accountable for the accident. These parties include:
The Bus Company
The bus company takes the lion's share when it comes to taking responsibility for an accident. The company is responsible for ensuring that its buses are well-maintained, and their drivers are well-trained to provide safe transportation for its passengers. If the bus accident resulted from their negligence, then the bus company should be held responsible.
The Company Responsible for Maintaining the Bus
If the bus accident resulted from a mechanical failure, there are high chances that the maintenance company did not adhere to their expectations. The company should be hired independently by the bus company to be considered liable for the damages.
The Bus Driver
Bus drivers also have significant responsibility for compensating bus accident victims. However, most of the blame ends up on the bus company since the driver is under their obligation. Most bus drivers lead to an accident due to their erratic behaviors, such as speeding and failing to observe basic traffic rules.
Auto Parts Manufacturers
If the bus accident resulted from a defect with the auto part, then you have the grounds of claiming your damages from the auto manufacturer, distributor, or designer.
The School Board
The school board is responsible for the transportation of students under their jurisdiction. Therefore, if the accident involves the school bus, then you should hold them accountable for the damages.
Sometimes a bus accident might be caused by another driver using the road. If you can prove that, then the other driver should take responsibility for your damages.
Exceptions in a Common Carrier Accident
Under California law, particular situations can make the responsible party to be pardoned of their fault. For instance, if the accident resulted from poor weather, no one can be considered liable for the accident, other situations include pirating, carjacking, robbery, passenger negligence, and shipper negligence. These situations are beyond the carrier's regulations and probably could not be avoided.
Since most buses are owned by public entities such as the school, government, and public transport bureaus, things might get complicated when it comes to filing an injury claim. Typically, a victim should start with filing a notice of claim to the government entity that is reasonably and potentially liable for the accident. In California, the document must be filed within six months.
The California Tort Claims Act (CTCA) determines all liability claims on a government entity. As a rule of thumb, a government entity is responsible for its negligent act as long as the negligence was acted within their employment's scope of action and was carrying out a government function during the accident. You can also claim damages from the government entity if the negligent act was conducted by an independent contractor whose directly related to them.
Filing a Notice of Claim
Most government agencies or entities have online claim portals that you can use to file your claim. For instance, in Los Angeles, their website has claim assistance that people can use on their website. However, if you fail to get a claim form, you need to write a notice of claim in letter form. The letter should include:
- Your full name and mailing address
- The mailing address that you expect the reply to your notice to be mailed
- The date, location, and full description of the incident and how you came to be injured
- A general description of your injury and the damages incurred
- The amount that you claim and how it came to be
Compensation of Common Carrier Accidents
No amount of money can satisfy the injuries sustained from a bus accident. All you can get is compensation for the damages that result from the accident. A bus accident victim can claim both compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are further divided into two categories, which include economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are those types of damages that have a financial value. They include loss of wages and medical bills. Therefore, they include:
- Hospital bills
- Emergency room treatment
- Medication and treatment supplies
- Physical therapy
- Lost income
- Vehicular repair
- In-home care
Non-economic damages represent those types of losses that one cannot put any financial value on them. They include:
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional pain
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment
Punitive damages are quite different from compensatory damages and are rarely given. They are meant to punish the wrongdoer rather than compensate the victim. Even so, if one gets rewarded with punitive damages, the total damages recovered might shoot upwards since they are usually three to nine times the compensatory amount. It requires a high standard of proof to satisfy the requirement of punitive damage.
If the bus accident victim dies as a result of the injuries, the surviving family can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the common carrier. Under California laws, family members who can file a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- A domestic partner
- Domestic partner
- Anyone else who is legally authorized to receive property on behalf of the deceased or his or her property
Damages that are recoverable in wrongful death include both economic and non-economic. They include:
- Funeral expenses
- Burial costs
- Loss of companionship, affection or support
- Financial losses due to the lost income of the deceased
Determining the Value of Compensation in a Bus Accident
There are a lot of factors that are involved in determining the value of compensation after a bus accident. However, there are particular factors that your attorney will use in the claiming process. This include:
1. The Severity of Your Injuries
Injuries are vital in determining the amount that one can get from a compensation claim. They are directly involved with the negligent conduct act of the common carrier. Also, injuries are financially devastating and can leave the victim in financial trouble. Common injuries in an accident include:
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Spinal cord damage
- Neck injury
- Internal organ injury
- Soft tissue injury
- Facial trauma
2. The Need for Life Care
Unfortunately, some accidents might leave the victim unable to recover fully, needing long term disabled care and rehabilitation. The average cost of life care includes the cost of nursing care, transport expenses, daily home care, and other factors. Such situations might cause high financial strains on the victim, which is vital in determining the value of compensation.
3. Salary Loss and Future Losses
The common carrier is liable for the wages that are lost due to severe injuries. Such economic damages are evident in the pay stubs of the injured party. Also, if the injuries resulted in the inability of the victim to return to vocational responsibility, the liable party will be responsible for compensating the future income. This depends on the average life expectancy of the victim and benefits such as retirement benefits and promotions.
4. Pain and Suffering
It is hard to determine the amount that one can get in compensating pain and suffering. Therefore, the California law allows the insurer or liable party to calculate the damages using the per diem method. In simple terms, this is a calculation that involves generating the monetary amount that the victim will be receiving daily or weekly after suffering from injuries.
5. The Plaintiff's Age
The age of the plaintiff can play a significant role in determining the worth of compensation. The logic behind this consideration is that a younger person can suffer many years of pain, suffering, and mental anguish more than an older victim. Therefore, the younger person deserves substantial monetary compensation than the older victim.
Please note that every attorney has different criteria to determine the value of compensation. Therefore, you need to go through the method used by your attorney and decide whether or not it is worth your consideration and if it guarantees a high compensation.
Statute of Limitations in a Bus Accident
In California, a plaintiff has two years to file a personal injury case after a bus accident. If the plaintiff is filing a lawsuit against a government entity, then one has 180 days( six months) to file the claim. If one does not file within the required timeline, he or she will be barred by the court from recovering any allegations from the at-fault party. California civil courts allow halting or tolling of the timeline deadline under the following situation.
- If one is mentally incapacitated
- If one is a minor. Minors cannot file any case with the court until their 18h birthday
- The injury has not manifested itself until a later date after the collision
Things to Do After a Bus Accident
A lot of people end up losing their case due to the decisions that they make once they get involved in a bus accident. It is necessary to know what you should do to avoid doing something that would jeopardize your case. Here is a typical procedure that one should follow.
1. Seek Medical Attention
Your safety matters a lot. You need to take care of yourself more than anything else. If the accident is not quite severe, you can reach out to emergency medical services on behalf of the others. You need to seek medical assistance even if you are not feeling any pain or cannot locate any injuries. There might be severe internal injuries, which can take quite some time to manifest. Report any signs of blurred vision, headaches, lightheartedness, blurred vision, dizziness that might occur after the accident since they might indicate a bigger problem.
2. File a Police Report
You expect the police to be at the scene of the accident once it happens. The police offers will write down a report of the accident based on their observations and testimonies from eyewitnesses. It is recommendable to get a copy of the report through contacts with the police department, county, or township. You can also check if the local police department provides accessibility of the copy online.
3. Document every Bus Accident Fact
It is also necessary to document everything that you are experiencing, including every step you are making to deal with the injuries. Therefore, you have to document things such as:
- All your doctor's visit, lab services, over-the-counter- medications, medical documents, physical therapy, and hospital visits
- The date of medical service that you seek and the amount that you spend
- Your dairy pains, emotional distress, fatigue, tenderness, inconvenience, and fatigue
- How the injuries that you sustained have impacted your relationship and daily life. Take photos of the injuries as soon as the accident occurs
- Maintain your medical records, medical bills, and any document of your health since the accident
4. Beware of your Time Limits
Do not wait too long before you seek legal intervention. As learned earlier, you need to file your case within two years if it is against a private common carrier and take three months if you are filing against a government entity. Remember, failing to regard these deadlines will have your court disregard your case.
5. Seek a Professional Personal Injury Attorney
You cannot manage to handle the bus accident case alone. You need the help of an attorney to guarantee that justice is served accordingly. Not all attorneys who consider themselves as an expert are ideal for your choice. You should find an expert who has the experience and can allow enough time to deal with your case.
Find an LA Personal Injury Law Firm Near Me
There are a lot of complexities that follow a bus accident. It is hard to keep track of every step needed to ensure that you get compensated, especially when you are nursing your injuries. You should seek a professional attorney's help to get compensated as required. We at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm have the resources and expertise needed to provide the best legal service. Contact us at 310-935-0089 and speak to one of our attorneys today.