From school-age children to working professionals, all different kinds of people ride the bus on a daily basis. Throughout California, and especially in big cities like Los Angeles, buses are responsible for transporting literally tens of thousands of passengers every day.
When you board a bus or when you entrust your child to a school bus, you expect that the driver, the company operating the bus, the manufacturer of the bus, and other parties will do their duty to ensure that each trip is safe. Unfortunately, mistakes can lead to bus wrecks, presenting a threat to the safety of the passengers on the bus, the occupants of other vehicles, and to people walking nearby – often with catastrophic consequences.
Legally, a bus may be considered a commercial vehicle which falls under the same federal and state regulations that govern commercial vehicle accident litigation. Many buses, including school buses, are operated by government entities. Claims against commercial motor carriers and the government are complex areas of law. As such, it is important to work with a qualified attorney who can build a strong claim and pursue full and fair compensation on your behalf.
Attorney Kate Harvey-Lee has been handling accident claims involving buses and other heavy vehicles for more than 15 years. Contact California Truck Law at (213) 214-1234 today to discuss your case at our office in the heart of Los Angeles. Your initial case evaluation is complimentary and you pay nothing upfront.
Types of Bus Accidents
Buses are a common sight on the streets and highways in and around Los Angeles. California law defines a bus in two different ways:
- “[A]ny vehicle, including a trailer bus, designed, used, or maintained for carrying more than 15 persons including the driver.”
- “A vehicle designed, used, or maintained for carrying more than 10 persons, including the driver, which is used to transport persons for compensation or profit, or is used by any nonprofit organization or group.”
Based on these terms, a variety of different vehicles may meet the legal definition of a bus. Our bus accident lawyer handles claims involving:
- Public buses (also known as city buses or metro buses)
- School buses
- Commuter buses
- Tour and charter buses
- Passenger vans
- Shuttle buses and vans
- Party buses
Accidents involving these large, heavy vehicles frequently result in very serious injuries. Fatalities are not uncommon. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recorded 308 deaths and 3,473 injuries in California in 2020 in the annual FMCSA survey of crashes involving large trucks and buses.
Common Injuries in Bus Accidents
Passengers of buses are at a serious risk of injury in the event of a bus crash. Transit buses are typically not outfitted with seatbelts and often carry multiple passengers who may be standing in the aisles rather than sitting down. Crashes involving tour or charter buses are often very severe, and passengers are less likely to be wearing seatbelts or aware that a crash is about to happen.
As a result of these issues, bus accident victims may sustain the following injuries:
- Head and brain injuries: Passengers may be thrown forward if the bus collides with a vehicle or a stationary object. The brain may sustain blunt-force trauma if a passenger’s head strikes the back of a seat, a pole, or even another passenger. Brain injuries can range in severity from a concussion to life-threatening trauma.
- Injury to the neck and back: Although buses may seem sturdy enough to withstand a fairly serious impact, passengers are susceptible to a range of injuries involving the neck and the back in the event of a crash.
- Paralysis: The most extreme outcome of a spinal cord injury is paralysis. Paraplegia (paralysis of the lower body) and quadriplegia (paralysis of the upper and lower body) are both possible if the spinal cord is severely traumatized or severed in a bus accident.
- Internal injuries: When a bus is involved in a rollover accident or careens off-course (such as down a hill or embankment), unrestrained passengers may be catapulted out of their seats and sustain injuries to multiple parts of their bodies. Bruising, lacerations, broken bones, and crush injuries are all possible.
- Amputation injuries: The loss of a limb is a life-altering event. Limbs may be traumatically severed in the course of the accident, or amputation may be necessary if doctors are unable to repair the damage. In either case, the loss of a hand, arm, leg, or foot can result in long-term disability, extensive therapy, and costly prosthetics.
- Impalement injuries: The interior of a bus consists largely of poles, railings, and other parts. If these parts become dislodged due to the impact of an accident, passengers may suffer penetrating injuries in the event of an accident. Severe blood loss and organ damage may be possible.
- Burn injuries: Despite efforts to introduce alternative fuels, most buses in California run on natural gas. Natural gas is flammable and combustible. An accident may rupture the fuel tank, creating the risk of a fire or explosion. Buses are small, confined spaces, so a fire can lead to serious and even life-threatening burns.
Of course, riders on the bus are not the only ones who can suffer serious injury or death in an accident. The occupants of other vehicles on the road, as well as pedestrians, may be in even greater danger than those inside the bus.
Who Is Liable in a Bus Accident?
Buses may be operated by a private business or by a government entity. An experienced attorney like Kate Harvey-Lee will explore all the many possible causes for a bus crash.
Negligence on the part of the bus driver is crucial to consider when building a bus accident claim. However, one or more additional parties may be liable as well.
The liable parties in a bus accident claim may include:
- The bus driver: Driver negligence is a leading factor in bus accidents. Many of the same issues that arise in truck accident claims, such as careless driving and driving while distracted, fatigued, or intoxicated, should also be considered in determining what caused the bus accident. It is also important to assess potential violations of the regulations governing common carriers, including hours of service limits (i.e., the length of time a driver is legally allowed to operate the bus before resting), physical fitness requirements, drug and alcohol screenings, etc.
- The bus company: Private companies that hire bus drivers are legally responsible for the negligence or wrongdoing of their employees. Negligence on the part of the company may also be a factor in the accident; investigation of company records may reveal widespread violations of the rules meant to protect drivers, passengers, and the public.
- A public transit authority: Public transportation is generally handled by local governments. In Los Angeles, for example, LA Metro is the agency responsible for the city’s bus lines. Negligence on the part of the bus driver may expose the transit authority to liability for accident damages.
- A school district: The districts that make up the public school system are also part of the government. If you or your child was injured in a school bus accident, you may be able to recover compensation in a claim against the school district. Private schools that offer busing for students may also be liable for accidents.
- Third parties: Depending on the circumstances, one or more additional parties may be liable for injuries and damages sustained in a bus accident. These may include:
- A third-party mechanic or service provider that performs inadequate maintenance
- The manufacturer of a defective part on the bus
- The government entity responsible for a road that is unsafe
- Another motorist that was negligent and was a cause of the bus wreck
Liability is a complex issue in bus accident claims and other cases involving common and private carriers. It is crucial to work with an experienced lawyer who can thoroughly investigate the crash and advise you of your options for pursuing compensation.
Contact Attorney Kate Harvey-Lee Today
How Do I Make a Claim Against a Bus Company?
Taking legal action against any private business is daunting. Although you have every right to handle the claim yourself, both the company and its insurance carrier will have the advantage in terms of money, resources, and experience.
An experienced bus accident attorney can help even the playing field. While you focus on healing from your injuries and putting your life back together, your lawyer can handle the complexities of your claim, including:
- Investigating the cause of the accident
- Determining who is at fault and identifying all liable parties
- Assessing the severity of your injuries and how they impact your life
- Calculating the damages you have suffered
- Filing one or more claims on your behalf
At California Truck Law, Ms. Harvey-Lee handles all aspects of your case. Her knowledge of complex accident claims allows her to represent you effectively in negotiations with the bus company and other liable parties, as well as their insurers.
How Do I Make a Claim Against a School District?
Claims against the government are subject to special rules. If you or a member of your family was injured in an accident with a city bus or school bus, the following may apply:
- Government entities (such as a public school or school district, as well as public transit agencies) are liable for the negligent actions of employees when they are performed in the course of the employee’s job duties.
- Depending on the entity responsible for the bus and its operation, you may need to file a claim with the city or county and/or with the Office of Risk and Insurance Management (part of the California Department of General Services). Claims may have specific filing requirements that vary by agency.
- Claims must be filed within just six months of the accident.
Depending on the response of the school district or government agency, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages after a bus accident. California Truck Law has extensive experience with a wide range of personal injury claims, and attorney Kate Harvey-Lee can assist you by ensuring your claim is filed correctly and on time.
What Compensation Can I Recover for a Bus Accident?
Given the high likelihood of serious injuries and the number of victims that may be affected, the amount of damages sought in bus accident claims is often significant. The compensation you may be able to recover for your injuries and the losses you sustain as a result of the accident could include:
- Current medical expenses and the anticipated cost of future medical care
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity
- Out-of-pocket costs for assistive devices, modifications to your home and vehicle, etc.
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium (compensation for adverse effects on familial relationships, such as loss of intimacy and household contributions to your spouse, loss of parental guidance for your child or children, etc.)
If a member of your family was killed in a bus accident, you may be able to recover compensation through a wrongful death claim against the party or parties responsible for the crash. Wrongful death damages can cover both the economic losses you face as a result of the accident, such as funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support, and medical expenses prior to your loved one’s passing, as well as non-economic damages, including the loss of the love, care, comfort, and companionship from your loved one.
Punitive damages may also be recoverable in some personal injury and wrongful death claims if certain conditions apply. Your attorney will need to seek out and present clear and convincing evidence that the actions of the defendant(s) showed a conscious disregard for the safety of others. Based on the evidence, the court may decide to award punitive damages in your case as a means of punishing the defendant(s).
Contact Our Los Angeles Bus Accident Attorney Today
From passengers to other motorists and pedestrians, multiple victims may suffer injuries in a bus crash. In the worst-case scenario, these injuries may prove fatal.
Claims involving catastrophic injury and wrongful death require experienced, determined, and caring legal counsel. At California Truck Law, we handle bus accident cases with professionalism and compassion. Ms. Harvey-Lee has a distinguished reputation in the area of commercial passenger accident law, recovering significant compensation on behalf of clients.
Please call California Truck Law at (213) 214-1234 today for a complimentary case evaluation. California Truck Law serves clients throughout California, including throughout Los Angeles and the Southern California region.