In Florida, bus accidents frequently happen mainly due to the large volume of motor coaches and the volume of traffic. Bus drivers and bus companies owe a duty of care to their passengers and other road users, including pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists. Many people in Jacksonville has had the experience of a loved one being killed or injured in a bus accident. Most bus accidents occur due to an individual's negligence or reckless behavior. You are entitled to compensation if you are involved in a bus accident that occurs due to the driver's negligence or the bus company. No amount of money may be enough to compensate you for injuries suffered in an accident. However, personal injury compensation will help you recover any economic losses caused by an accident. At the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, we are committed to ensuring that you get fair compensation for your injuries.
Overview of Bus Accidents
Most people consider buses to be a safe mode of road transport. However, the statistics from the federal Department of Transportation prove otherwise. Every year, the department releases an annual report involving bus crashes. A recent report revealed that numerous road crashes involving buses happen each year in the United States. Around 40% of all bus accidents involve school buses while around 34 % of bus accidents involve transit buses. Thousands of people are injured in bus accidents each year, including school children and hundreds of people succumb to injuries resulting from bus accidents.
Employers are often at fault for the negligence of their employees. There, if a bus driver causes an accident, the bus owner or the operator is liable even if the owner was not directly involved or negligent in the accident. In a bus accident, liability depends on the nature of the bus accident and the leading cause of the accident
In some instances, a bus accident may have several defendants are liable for the charges associated with the accident. At times, an accident victim may also have contributed to the occurrence of the accident; even in such cases, the victim is still entitled to compensation. Under the Florida comparative fault law, a victim can still claim some compensation even in instances where the victim shares some degree of liability in the bus accident.
In a personal injury case, the plaintiff (victim) has to prove that the negligence of the offender (Bus Company or operator) led to the bus accident. The plaintiff has to prove that the offender:
- Owed the accident victim a duty of care
- The offender breached his/her duty of care
- The defendant's breach of his/her duty of care made the plaintiff suffer injuries
As long as the plaintiff can prove that the bus driver or bus company was negligent and the negligence led to the bus accident, which made the plaintiff suffer injuries, the plaintiff is entitled to personal injury compensation.
The common types of bus accidents include:
Accidents involving School Buses
A study conducted by the Department of Health revealed some disturbing facts about accidents involving school buses. According to the study, about 23.5 million school going kids use school buses in the United States. Every year, about 17,000 school children visit hospitals for injuries sustained in an accident involving school buses. The accidents mainly happen when children are boarding or leaving school buses.
The majority of children involved in bus accidents are between the ages of eleven years and fourteen years. Children between the ages of five and nine years sustained the most severe injuries in case of a bus accident. More than 50% of injuries in the case of school bus accidents are head wounds.
A school bus driver has to ensure that he/she operates the bus with due care. The driver must employ some safety measures such as using a stop sign and flashing red lights as students alight or board the bus. Before permitting students to leave the bus, it is the responsibility of the bus driver to ensure traffic has stopped. School bus drivers should monitor children as they cross the streets. If the bus driver fails to exercise care, and a child is injured, the driver may face negligence charges.
If the negligence of a bus driver causes an accident, liability will vary depending on whether the school owns and operates the bus or contracts school transportation from an outside company. If the school operates the bus, it may be liable for the bus accident. If an outside company operates the bus, the company may be liable for the negligence of the bus driver. According to the law, an employer, in this case, the bus company is vicariously liable for any negligence by his/her employee as long as the employee is acting in the scope of employment.
The extension of negligence liability to the employer gives the victim a higher chance of receiving compensation. A bus driver may not have the ability to pay victims for personal injuries sustained during an accident. However, a school or bus company would have the ability to pay for personal injuries.
Public Transportation Bus Accidents
Accidents involving public transportation buses will involve making personal injury with the government as the defendant. Often, county, state, or any other regional authorities in Florida operate public buses. Filing a lawsuit against the state/government may have some unique requirements, unlike making crimes against private companies.
Some state governments may have a shield of sovereign immunity from a wide range of lawsuits. This is not the case in Florida State; under the Florida Statutes section 768.28, the state of Florida waives its right to sovereign immunity. The state agrees to be sued for various torts as outlined in the act.
However, in Florida, the concept of sovereign immunity may apply for some bus accident cases. The state may accept liability up to a certain level. In Florida, for instance, the government is liable as any other party for cases not exceeding a compensation of $200,000. However, for personal injury claims for amounts exceeding $200,000, the state does not waive the law of sovereign immunity. For compensation exceeding $200,000, you may have to base your claim against several defendants who can share the compensation.
If a public bus driver acts negligently and causes an accident, the victims of the accident are free to seek compensation from the government or the local authority in charge of operating the bus.
Usually, personal injury cases are under a statute of limitations. In Florida, the statute of limitations is four years; you will have four years from the time an accident takes place to file for personal injury compensation in Florida civil courts. The law of statute of limitations is outlined under the Florida Statutes section 95.11 (3). If you do not seek a personal injury compensation within the stipulated statute of limitations, you may lose the personal injury claim.
However, when filing a lawsuit against the government, a shorter statute of limitations often one year applies. Therefore, when making a claim against a government agency or bus company for wrongful death or injury, you have to do so within one year to avoid losing the claim.
Accidents Involving Tour Buses
Several tour bus establishments have operations in Florida and across the neighboring states. They involve both short distance tour buses that transfer visitors to tourist attractions within Florida and tour buses that cover long distances. Many tour bus drivers have to keep up with tight time schedules. The drivers operate buses for extended periods, and at times, the tour buses they drive are not well serviced and maintained
When a tour bus is involved in an accident due to negligent acts of the driver, the tour bus owner may face charges for damages and injuries suffered by victims. Tour bus companies may be directly at fault after a bus accident if it is evident that the company did not offer proper training and supervision of the driver.
A tour bus company/operator may be at fault for negligent hiring the driver. This happens if the company did not review the driver's qualification or record at the time of hiring. All drivers owe other road users a duty of care. However, commercial drivers have a higher responsibility to exercise care, and this includes tour drivers. According to Florida Statutes, a commercial driver must exercise the best care when operating commercial vehicles.
It is the responsibility of the tour bus owner to inspect their buses for safety reasons, repair any damage, and conduct routine maintenance. It is also the tour bus company's duties to train and sharpen the skills of bus drivers regularly. If a tour bus owner violates his/her duties, and an accident occurs because of the violation, the company is liable.
Lawsuits and Liability for Bus Accidents
Often, bus accident lawsuits revolve around the issue of negligence. Negligence is the failure to behave reasonably leading to the injury of another party. In proving a personal injury case, your attorney will collect all the facts surrounding the accident to prove that the other party behaved negligently.
How can you prove negligence in a bus accident? To prove that the bus driver or the bus operator/company was negligent, you will need evidence gathered at the time of the accident. Evidence may include photographs taken immediately after the accident and during medical treatment. Witness statements are also crucial; people who may have witnessed the accident may give their statements. Incident or police reports will also form part of your evidence. The court may also use your notes about the accident and the injuries.
Besides collecting evidence to prove the fault of the other party, you will need evidence to prove your injuries and expenses. The reports from the doctor outlining your injuries, and the medical care accorded will also form good evidence for your injury case. To prove out of pocket expenses incurred, you would need expense receipts.
Other elements of bus accident lawsuits include:
In the event of a bus accident, the bus manufacturer may be at fault if the bus was faulty at the time of the accident. You can only file a claim against the bus manufacturer if the defect led to the accident. Your personal injury attorney will assess the facts surrounding the bus accident and ascertain if the bus was faulty.
The personal injury attorney may work in conjunction with other experts to determine if the bus had mechanical defects. For a successful lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the defective bus was very dangerous, the bus was being driven as intended, and since the bus's initial purchase, and its performance had not changed. Bus accident victims have filed countless lawsuits against bus manufacturers based on defective vehicle parts such as brakes, accelerators, and faulty fuel systems.
After losing a loved one through a bus accident, you may seek compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Compensation may not bring back your loved one but will help you recover all the losses and expenses incurred because of the accident. During a wrongful death lawsuit, the claim proceeds along the line of negligence or product liability. After causing death, a bus driver may be guilty of other charges in addition to negligence. For instance, the driver may be at fault for wanton disregard for human life.
What are the Common Causes of Bus Accidents?
The leading cause of bus accidents in Florida is negligence on the side of the driver or the driver's employer. Some leading causes of bus accidents include:
Fatigued Bus Drivers - After operating a bus for very long hours, a bus driver may be fatigued and exhausted. This reduces his/her concentration on the road and may lead to accidents. An employer must ensure that a bus driver has reasonable targets and gets ample time to rest.
Operating a Bus under the Influence of drugs or alcohol - A bus accident may occur if the driver is under the influence of alcohol. A driver is under the influence if he/she has a BAC of .08% and above. The driver may be under the influence such as narcotics or stimulants. Operating a vehicle under the influence may impair the driver's ability to operate a vehicle.
Inadequately Trained Bus Drivers - It is the responsibility of the bus company to ensure that a bus driver is competent and well qualified. Hiring an incompetent driver may make the bus company liable for negligent hiring.
Poor Bus Maintenance - Just like other vehicles, buses require regular maintenance to ensure that they are safe to use on the roads. The bus owner or a bus company may be liable if a bus accident results from a poorly maintained vehicle
Distracted Drivers- A bus driver may face distractions from other road users, including drivers and pedestrians, and cause an accident. The driver may also cause an accident for failing to follow traffic rules.
Other causes of bus accidents include overloading. At times, bus accidents may result from the negligence of other parties other than the victim. A victim may be partly to blame for a bus accident.
Who is Liable for Bus Accidents?
Certain parties may be liable for a bus accident. The bus driver may be guilty of driving the bus negligently and failing to exercise a reasonable duty of care. Bus owners, including individuals, schools, or even the Florida State and other government agencies, may be liable for hiring incompetent drivers or failure to carry out routine maintenance of the bus. The manufacturer of the bus may be at fault under the product liability lawsuit. The bus maintenance company may be at fault, especially in cases where the bus had undergone routine maintenance, but the maintenance company failed to identify the fault. Any other negligent third party may be guilty.
Common Injuries in Bus Accidents
Injuries resulting from bus accidents are often more severe than injuries that result from other vehicle accidents. In most instances, buses lack safety features such as safety belts, airbags, bucket seats, crumple zones, and rollover protection. Bus passengers do not have safety protections; on a bus, passengers often sit facing each other, sideways, or the rear side. In case of an accident, bus passengers suffer excessive injuries.
Some common injuries for bus accidents include brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, whiplash, lacerations, broken bones, seizures, and burns. In severe bus injuries, death may result.
Compensation for Bus Accident
If you were a passenger in a bus accident or a driver involved in an accident with a bus, you could file a personal injury lawsuit. During personal injury negotiations with an insurance company, the state government of Florida, or other bus operators, you may recover compensation for certain losses caused by your injuries:
Medical Expenses- After being involved in a bus accident, you may sustain injuries, and this will prompt you to seek medical treatment. During a personal injury claim, you may get compensation for all related medical costs incurred in seeking treatment after the accident. Often, bus accident causes severe injuries such as head injuries and back injuries. These injuries may have recurring effects in the future. Therefore, when seeking medical compensation, you should consider both the current and future medical expenses.
Lost Wages-After sustaining injuries during a bus accident; you may not be able to work and generate wages. Therefore, you may get compensation for the income lost; the income you would have earned if you could work. However, if you were unemployed at the time of the accident, you would have to prove that you had an earning potential before the accident to get compensation.
Pain and Suffering- Injuries sustained during a bus accident may cause you immense pain and suffering. You may receive compensation depending on the magnitude of the pain suffered. When assessing pain and suffering, the court may consider factors such as the extent of injuries sustained and the length of time you are likely to suffer; how long will the pain last?
Emotional Suffering & Mental Anguish- After a bus accident, you may experience emotional pain in addition to physical pain. Common emotional distress includes fear, anxiety, and grief. The physical injuries may also lower your self-esteem; for instance, the scars from the accident may lead to embarrassment and low confidence. In making a personal injury claim, emotional suffering is also included.
Lack of Enjoyment of Life- After an accident, injuries may force you to withdraw from social activities you used to take part in before the accident. Therefore, you may get compensation for the loss of enjoyment.
Loss of Consortium- The spouse of the accident victim may seek this compensation. The uninjured spouse may seek compensation for lost marital benefits, including intimacy, comfort, and affection.
How Will a Personal Injury Attorney Help?
Filing a bus accident personal injury lawsuit may be complex; especially in instances where several entities may be liable for the accident. In some instances, a third-party driver may have struck the bus and led to the accident. In that case, your attorney may help you file a personal injury lawsuit against the third-party driver and their insurance company.
If the bus driver led to the accident, your attorney has to make some considerations. For instance, the state or another government agency owns the bus; the attorney may attempt to negotiate with the state's insurance company. If the insurance company fails to comply, you may have to file a lawsuit against the government.
While filing for a personal injury claim, you have to act within a set period according to the statutes of limitations, failure to which may lead to loss of the claim. Your attorney will offer insight on when to initiate the personal injury negotiations.
A personal injury attorney may carry out specific tasks, including reviewing police and accident reports. The attorney may also interview other bus passengers and witnesses. The attorney will analyze your medical statement and record your damages. With the help of experts, the attorney may recreate the accident scene. Above, your injury attorney will handle all the communication from the opposing party (defendant) and the liable insurance company.
Contact a Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you suffer injuries in a bus accident either as a passenger, a driver or at a bus stop, you are entitled to compensation under the Florida personal injury law. At the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, we are committed to seeking the best compensation for your injuries. Our attorneys fully understand Florida personal injury law. Contact us at 904-800-7557 at and speak to one of our attorneys today and begin your journey seeking deserved personal injury compensation.