People all across the U.S. ride buses every day as their primary form of transportation. As cities across the nation grow, congestion rises on our highways and roadways. As a result, more and more individuals choose to use public transportation each year. With more of the public using buses, the number of injuries and even death increases.
Each year, hundreds are killed in bus and motor coach accidents across the country. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 19,000 people were injured in bus accidents in 2002. The principal causes of bus accidents are driver negligence, defective equipment, dangerous roadways, poor weather conditions and improper maintenance.
In addition to city buses, there are school buses, and each school day more than 25 million children ride the recognizable yellow school bus back and forth to school and school related activities. Additionally, millions take these vehicles to camp, religious, athletic and youth events. There are an approximate 450,000 school buses in service to date. School buses travel 2 million miles every school day. About 16,000 school bus collisions occur annually, resulting in 12,000 injuries and 130 deaths.
School bus injuries result from several different causes. Most full-size school buses are not equipped with seat belts, thereby exposing children to a greater risk of harm. School bus injuries do not occur only on the bus itself. Eighty percent of the children killed in school bus accidents were either boarding or leaving the bus at the time of the accident. Additionally, with the severe budgetary pressures facing many school districts, bus maintenance schedules get stretched, vehicles are kept in service for longer periods of time, and many districts seek to save costs by using lower paid and less experienced bus drivers. These factors can also lead to school bus injuries.
The injuries that can result from bus-related accidents include brain and spinal cord injuries; sprains; fractures; abrasions; internal and soft tissue injuries; burn injuries; and just about every other injury associated with the operation of other motorized vehicles, including death.
When it comes to the legal responsibility owed by bus drivers and bus companies to their passengers and others, a bus is considered a “common carrier.” A common carrier is an individual, company or a public utility (like city buses), which is in the regular business of transporting people and/or freight. This designation as a “common carrier” is important because under state laws, “common carriers” owe their passengers a greater duty of safety and protection than an ordinary car. Common carriers have a higher level of responsibility to drive with the utmost care and protect the passengers and other vehicles sharing the road. In some cases, this means that establishing liability against a “common carrier” may be easier than proving a case against a private carrier.
However, despite this higher level of responsibility, bus drivers do not always drive safely, and in some cases are not trained properly. As a result, in some cases innocent people are injured. Given the size and weight of most buses, a bus accident can cause severe injury to anyone involved.
In most states, many buses are owned or operated by local governments, such as city, county or regional transportation departments. Because of this, the bus company may be a governmental entity and the bus driver may be a government employee. Bus companies and local governments vigorously defend bus accidents. Therefore, it is important to immediately investigate a bus accident while the physical evidence is still fresh on the scene. It is also important to immediately inspect the bus driver’s training history and driving record. Dealing with a bus company, the local government, or the insurance company after a collision with a bus is very different than dealing with an insurance company that insures a private passenger car. It is very important that you have someone to act quickly on your behalf to file the required notices and preserve your claim against the bus company or governmental entity.
An accident attorney can assist passengers, pedestrians, drivers and passengers in other vehicles, or anyone injured as a result of a bus accident. Experienced attorneys are primarily concerned with recovering the financial losses their clients suffer as a result of a bus accident. The cost of emergency room treatment, coupled with physical therapy, surgery, and lost wages, are often more than what bus companies and insurance companies are willing to settle for.
At Munley, Munley & Cartwright, our goal is to provide exceptional legal services to our clients. We strive to achieve the highest standard of excellence for the protection of individual rights through team work and the use of our considerable resources and experience. For a free consultation regarding your legal concerns, please submit the below, or call us at: 1-800-318-LAW1