Bus Accidents & Injuries
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.