If you’ve suffered injuries due to a bus crash or collision, your only focus should be on recuperating from the injuries and bringing your life back to normal. Therapy visits, doctor’s appointments, and working on resuming your duties should come before taking scene pictures, interviewing witnesses, and any other process of collecting proof. However, with every minute that passes by, critical evidence may be destroyed or lost. Valid proof is what you will need to make a claim for compensation for all the damage and loss the accident put you through. Failure to obtain it will mean that you won’t have a lawsuit to file.
You do not need to stress yourself juggling between gathering proof and recovering from your injuries. The best step you can take is hiring a skilled personal injury attorney so that as you focus on recovery, the attorney will collect the needed evidence for you. If you are in Jacksonville, reach out to the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney law firm for an expert lawyer. The attorney will collect critical evidence and ensure it is preserved for when you pursue your lawsuit. In this article, we look at the various examples of proof our attorneys will help you gather, if available.
The Proof You Will Need in Your Bus Accident Claim
For your bus accident lawsuit to be successful, you will need concrete and valid evidence to build a compelling claim before the fault party’s insurers or the jury if the case goes to trial. First, you have to be able to show that the bus crash indeed happened and that the resulting injuries were treated or are being professionally treated. All injury claims for compensation have to be supported by different kinds of evidence for you to recover damages. For example, the treatment for your injuries should be supported by medical proof and your doctor’s statements.
It is crucial to ensure that the information about your accident is appropriately recorded, and it is the hands of appropriate people. The reason you need valid and reliable evidence is that insurance companies will use any area of weakness in your claim to deny you compensation. If you have solid proof, there is no way that these companies will disregard your case, easily defend it, or settle for less. Here are the various things you could do that will help protect your rights:
- Retaining evidence of travel. In case you were issued a bus ticket, you should not throw it away.
- Ensuring you take the full details of the driver, including his/her name, phone number, ID, etc.
- Recording the registration plate and service number of the bus
- Recording the registration plate number of any other automobiles involved in the accident
- Note the location where the accident took place. That is, the name of the street and other landmarks
- Noting the details of other passengers on the bus or standby witnesses.
Taking these steps will also provide you with the valid evidence you need to argue your lawsuit. Let us discuss in detail the different kinds of proof the jury or insurance company will want to see before awarding compensation.
- Medical report
The first step you have to take after being involved in a bus accident is seeking proper medical care and treatment. This is because you may have sustained severe injuries that require the attention of a health professional. Even if you feel like you are not injured, you should get yourself checked up for any minor or hidden injuries that may be problematic in the future. This is to make sure that any injuries you have are treated soon enough. As you undergo your treatment, remember to keep a record of every aspect about it, including:
- Your health progress
- Treatment costs
- Any costs you use to go for doctor appointments
- Hospital bills
- Surgery costs
- Laboratory fees
- Physical therapy bills
- Cost of prescription medication
- Pain management treatment costs
- Family physician expenses
- Other doctor expenses
Also, you should ensure the details of your medical examination and the circumstances of the crash are included in your medical records. Apart from past and current medical expenses, you can also be compensated for future medical bills. This will happen provided you can prove that the future costs are reasonable and related to your injuries. The total amount of future medical expenses you will be awarded depends on the severity of the injuries and how long they will take to heal. It also depends on the kind of care you will need to recover fully.
- Police report
After a bus accident takes place, the police are usually called at the scene of the accident. These officers are to compile a report about the accident and give their account of events. Certainly, in situations that involve fatalities or severe injuries, the police report may also provide an alternate source of proof should your bus compensation case proceed to court.
- Proof that you were on the bus
If you are claiming damages as a passenger, you should have proof to show you had actually boarded the bus at the time of the accident. The insurance company or jury will want to see that you are not lying to have been on the bus before they award you compensation. There have been several cases of fraudulent lawsuits where passengers are incapable of proving they were indeed on the bus at the time of the accident.
Therefore, after boarding the bus, you should note its number as well as the time and date you boarded. It may also be useful to take note of all the events that happened before and after the crash so you can present a broader perspective in court.
- The driver’s logbook
Were you aware that bus drivers have to keep logbooks? A logbook documents the number of hours a driver has spent driving and resting. Its purpose is to make sure a driver rests enough between his/her work periods. The motorist would have to come up with a log detailing when he/she was driving, and when he/she was resting. This keeps motorists in compliance with the federal rules of hours of service.
It is required that all bus drivers keep a record of these details since they must get adequate breaks between their shifts. We have a maximum number of hours a motorist can drive before he/she is required to take a break for a specified period. For instance, a bus driver is allowed ten hours of working after eight consecutive hours off work.
Not all drivers will rest for eight hours. Often, bus crashes are a result of motorists that were overly tired due to overworking. Drivers lose attention, fall asleep, or their ability to timely respond fail, resulting in an accident.
After a bus accident, one of the main things your lawyer will need for proof is the driver’s logbook. The attorney will review the motorist’s logs to see if any irregularities may have led to the accident. Since most of the logbooks are prepared through software programs, it’s easy to determine precisely when the motorist said he/she was working then compare the logs with the black box recorder (event data recorder). A black box recorder may record:
- System status and pre-cash bus dynamics
- Driver inputs
- Bus crash signature
- Deployment status/restraint usage
- Post-crash data like the activation of an automatic collision notification system.
Unlike a logbook, a black box recorder doesn’t record break times. However, they provide details about the minutes before the accident to see whether or not the driver tried to slow down like many drivers would seconds before the accident. If the event data recorder shows that the driver did not slow down, then he/she may be liable for the crash. Also, if the logbook indicates that the motorist had driven for several hours without rest, it could be proof that the accident happened due to driver fatigue.
Additionally, logbooks show the kind of routes the motorist has been operating. If the driver routinely operates from point one to point two, but the accident took place at point three, it may help show that:
- The motorist was possibly unfamiliar with the new route
- The driver had diverged from the expected route
The information may also assist in proving that the bus driver was in the commission of a mistake when the accident happened. Therefore, he/she may be held responsible for the injuries you sustained.
- The driver’s cell phone data
In case the driver was talking on his/her cell phone or texting when the accident took place, proving it can make him/her responsible for your injuries. Your attorney can subpoena the motorist’s mobile phone records to prove this. However, your lawyer needs to be fast about this since mobile phone companies keep this information for only a limited period.
- Proof of Negligence
In Florida, the initial step to take to know whether or not you have a legal lawsuit for your damages and loss is to find out whether your injuries were as a result of another person’s negligence. If the driver or any other party acted unreasonably, given the circumstances, he/she is said to be negligent. For instance, a reasonable driver would not operate the vehicle while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. Therefore, if the motorist was under the influence, then he/she was acting negligently. And in case it was this negligent act that caused a crash and injuries, the motorist will be held responsible.
For you to accuse the bus driver of negligence in a personal injury claim fully and validly, it is critical to collect the necessary proof for the lawsuit. This requires that first, you understand what negligent means and whether or not it contributed to the accident. Still, the bus ought to have better safety measures and protocols to prevent its passengers from incurring injuries. However, in case the motorist removed these safety measures, for instance, cleaning a non-skid floor to the point that a passenger will slip and fall, then he/she will be said to have acted negligently. The same applies if a driver would take safety belts off the seats. This could give strength to your lawsuit.
Additional issues might exist in your negligence case that can protect the motorist even when he/she did commit a mistake that helped or caused the crash to happen. Proving the lawsuit may shift liability for compensation away from the driver and direct it to the specific company that employed him/her. If this is the case, your lawsuit will then have added factors. You may have to show that another element like the driver’s lack or inadequate training, defective equipment, or failure to adhere to safety bus rules caused the crash. The driver’s judgment may also prove that he/she did not understand how to pull through particular traffic situations.
Often, driver negligence is a cause of bus crashes, and therefore, often the reason for injuries and losses caused by the accident or collision. There are several other ways a motorist or bus owner could be negligent. Negligent is held in the same regard regardless of the act. And as we have seen, drivers aren’t the only parties that can be held responsible for negligence. Bus operators and owners could also be blamed for being careless. Bus owners have the responsibility of ensuring the buses are in excellent working condition. Failure to do that means they are negligent.
- Video proof in bus crash cases
Another critical evidence you may need for your bus accident lawsuit is the video recordings on the bus. Buses are often installed with video surveillance cameras. These cameras either record ongoing activity on the bus continuously or will start recording activity in case of a collision or crash. These kinds of cameras are called event-based recording systems or continuous recording systems. Continuous video-recording systems are mostly used in school buses, transit buses, and motor coaches to record passenger and driver conduct and vehicle diagnostics. They are also there for additional security.
In case an accident happens, you can obtain these videotapes and use them as proof to show why and how the accident took place. Though, bus companies keep the video data only for a short period after it’s recorded. As concerns maintenance and records, it is required of companies to maintain records for thirty or more days for buses that are under their management. To make sure that all significant proof is kept for your lawsuit, you should not hesitate to reach out to an attorney.
- Objective evidence of injury
In other cases, you may need to show objective evidence of your injuries if they can be visualized or demonstrated using radiographic evidence. For instance, you can present your MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, or any other scientific test you underwent. Showing proof like this may help determine the exact extent of your injuries. In turn, it usually results in a higher settlement than the injuries that depend only on your believability to prove.
We have many injuries that may result in adverse effects on you and aren’t diagnosable using objective tests. They may include severe headaches, back problems, etc. Experience has proven that jurors get hesitant to grant significant amounts of compensation in situations in which there’s no objective proof of injury. Therefore, the lawsuits’ settlement value is decreased by a lack of objective evidence of injury and increased by its presence. However, you may lack objective proof of your injuries, and this also has to be considered before awarding injuries.
- The automobiles involved in the crash
The vehicles that were involved in the accident may be required to be displayed as proof. Accident reconstruction experts may use them to measure the impact the crash had on the autos and determine at what speeds they were traveling when the accident happened. However, for this proof to work, the bus company needs not to repair the involved bus until the experts have evaluated it.
Similarly, if your car was involved in the crash, don’t let your insurance provider salvage or repair it without consulting an attorney first.
- Black box data
A black box is an onboard recorder that captures the operational data of the bus. The data is beneficial since it shows throttle position, hard breaks, speed, and so on. These details are temporarily recorded and could be erased when new info is recorded. Your attorney may help you obtain the evidence from this box by subpoenaing it. A skilled lawyer will hire a qualified expert to download these details before they are lost.
- Witnesses’ statements
Usually, the police report lists any witness that was at the accident scene. Also, as you gather proof after the crash, ensure you have noted the witnesses’ names, contact details, and their statements. This is because you may need to reach out to them to testify. However, remember it may be hard locating these witnesses after a considerable amount of time passes since they may have changed names or moved because of marriage. Even if you found them, their memories can be fuzzy, depending on how much time has passed. Therefore, you need to ensure you move with speed to file your claim so you can get to have these witnesses testify on time when you can still reach them, and their memories are still fresh.
- Physical proof of the accident scene
Yaw marks, Gouge marks, skid marks, and any other evidence of the scene of the accident can also assist in proving your lawsuit. All these disappear very fast after a crash. Thus, it is crucial to take quality photographs of the accident scene as well as accurate measurements before much time passes.
- Receipts of out-of-pocket expenses
Before your case settles and you are compensated, you may have to use your own cash to move around. For instance, you will need cash to move to and from the court for the case, visiting the doctor, attorney’s fees, etc. You may be compensated for all these expenses once your case is successful. Therefore, every time you use your own cash, you have to keep the receipts. If you are claiming for out-of-pocket expenses, you may need to show the receipts pas proof and to determine how much you used.
- Proof of your lost wages and loss of future earning capacity
The injuries caused by the bus accident may render you unable to return to your duties. This means you won’t earn income as you used to until you recover. In this case, you should be compensated for the lost income. Where the injuries have resulted in a permanent disability, it means you may not be able to go back to work forever. In this case, you have to be awarded damages for lost future earning capacity. Loss of future earning capacity and lost wages are calculated depending on what you used to earn before the accident.
Therefore, for you to claim damages for lost wages or loss of future earning capacity, you have to provide receipts of what you were earning before the accident. This is so they can be used to calculate what you should be awarded.
Hire a Competent Bus Accident Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
It is no doubt that after a bus accident, you will have a handful of issues to deal with that it may be overwhelming. For instance, you will need to have your injuries checked up and, at the same time, gather the evidence you will use in case you are planning on suing the party that caused the accident for damages. All of these are important. You cannot forgo one at the expense of the other. You must get treated so your injuries may not cause any further problems. It is also crucial that you recover damages because they will help you get back on your feet. Therefore, it will be less overwhelming if you seek help from an experienced attorney to help you gather and preserve evidence. If you are in Jacksonville and are looking to hire an attorney to protect the proof related to your bus accident, call Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney at 904-800-7557. Our attorneys will ensure they gather valid evidence that may win your case.