Tour bus accidents do not only ruin your vacation but can be life-threatening. You could sustain catastrophic injuries that have a permanent impact on your well-being.
If you are injured in a tour bus accident, you can receive compensation for these damages. Florida has common carrier laws, which require tour buses to exercise great caution when transporting tourists.
Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney helps people injured in tour bus accidents to recover the damages they suffer. We understand the laws involved in establishing fault, obtaining a settlement for your injuries, and pursuing your claim until we reach a fair resolution.
Overview of Tour Bus Accidents
Unlike a car accident, tour bus accident lawsuits follow different regulations and have issues such as the person responsible for the vehicle's safety. Most of these accidents end in catastrophic injuries due to different safety features and mechanics of an accident. For instance, most buses lack seatbelts; therefore, passengers are tossed about in case of an accident and suffer more harm than they could have.
These accidents could be of different types, including:
- Rear-end collisions
- Accidents involving pedestrians
- Rollover accidents
- Intersection accidents
- Single or multi-vehicle collisions
Tour bus accidents occur due to several reasons, including:
1. Failure to Obey Traffic Rules
Traffic rules are designed to protect all road users and create harmony on the roads. However, if a motorist fails to adhere to these rules, then the chances of causing an accident are high. For instance, if the driver fails to observe the speed limit, he or she might end up colliding with another car or killing a pedestrian.
2. Driver Fatigue
Tour bus drivers often have to visit multiple areas with different sets of tourists, exposing them to a lot of fatigue. A driver could be fatigued from all these trips leading to inattentiveness and distractions.
Fatigued drivers have reduced reaction time to hazards that could be avoided.
3. Distracted Driving
Distractions such as twitching the radio, communicating with passengers, paying attention to the outside environment, and talking on the phone increase the chances of an accident occurring as the driver's focus is not on the road.
4. Design Defects
Even the most careful driver cannot prevent an accident due to a defective auto part. Defects such as tire defects, brake failure, and steering failure can make it impossible to control a car leading to accidents. These accidents could include rollover crashes, which have a high fatality rate, and survivors often have lifelong injuries.
5. Poorly Maintained Bus
The law requires that tour bus companies and owners maintain their vehicles regularly and check them for safety features before and after every trip. Failing to maintain the bus in a safe condition allows problems to fester and cause accidents later. A tour bus owner or company that fails to maintain its fleet is responsible for injuries that arise due to poor maintenance.
Common Carrier Laws in Florida
Tour buses are common carriers, that is, they offer transportation to the public at a cost. They include buses that are privately owned or charter buses.
The government regulates common carriers requiring them to adhere to strict standards of responsibilities to their passengers. They have a higher duty of care to their passengers as they create a special relationship with their customers; the customer surrenders their safety to the driver or the tour bus company.
This duty of care requires that common carriers provide the highest degree of care, diligence, and prudence reasonably required during the time they are providing their services to the passenger. However, this high standard of care does not require that common carriers protect their clientele from unforeseeable danger; the requirement is to protect them from foreseeable harm.
An example of foreseeable harm is the risk of speeding along a sharp bend or speeding during a storm. These are situations where the driver knows that speeding increases the passengers' risk of an accident and injury.
Florida requires the owners and operators of tour buses to:
- Hire drivers who have the necessary skills and qualifications to operate a tour bus
- Maintain their buses regularly, subjecting them to monthly inspection, and daily inspection of fluids, engines, and tires.
- Drop and pick tourists at designated areas
- Warn the passengers of impending danger
- Provide safety instructions to passengers
- Observe traffic rules
- Working for specific hours to ensure that drivers are not fatigued when operating a tour bus
Breaking these laws results in liability for the employer or tour bus company in case an accident occurs. The injured parties can sue that employer or company for any damages they suffer from the accident.
Catastrophic Injuries From tour Bus Accidents
Tour bus accidents can leave you with injuries that are either fatal or have a lifelong impact. The common injuries include:
1. Traumatic Brain Injuries
Head injuries are common during bus accidents when the head receives a jolt or blow from the impact of the collision. Traumatic brain injuries can be of different types and severity depending on the force of the crash. TBI can occur even without fracture of the skulls.
When the accident occurs, the sudden movement of the head causes the brain to crash back and forth in the skull leading to mild, moderate, or severe brain injury.
Mild TBI includes symptoms such as disorientation, confusion, and headache, loss of consciousness, and memory loss. In moderate TBI, the symptoms include lethargy, losing consciousness for between 20 minutes and six hours, and sleepiness.
Severe TBI includes symptoms such as loss of consciousness for more than six hours. The person cannot open their eyes even when stimulated. Severe traumatic brain injuries kill about half of their victims within the first 24 hours; therefore, you must seek medical help immediately after the accident.
Other types of traumatic brain injuries include concussions, contusions, diffuse axonal injury, traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage, and hematomas. These injuries sometimes co-occur, making it hard to pinpoint the exact area of the brain that is injured. They come with symptoms such as:
- Memory loss
Recovery from traumatic brain injury depends on the severity of the injury and the brain’s plasticity, but it usually involves three steps for most patients:
- The patient is in a coma where he or she might respond to stimulus or have automatic responses.
- Confusion or amnesia where the patient begins to wake up and process the environment around him or her
- The patient then begins interacting with the environment and might respond to stimuli, such as following an object with the eyes.
The rate and state of recovery often depend on the patient, but most of them require long-term care and rehabilitation to learn basic daily activities.
2. Spinal Injuries
Spinal injuries are those that affect one or more of the four sections of the spinal cord. They can be on
- The thoracic spinal cord,
- The sacral spinal cord,
- The lumbar spinal cord, or
- The cervical spinal cord
Regardless of their location, spinal cord injuries can be complete or incomplete. Complete spinal cord injuries cause permanent damage to the areas below the affected area. These injuries are responsible for some cases of paraplegia and tetraplegia.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries cause partial damage to the spinal cord. The person can still move or feel the areas beneath the point of injury and recover based on his or her health and medical history.
Spinal cord injuries cause death within the first 24 hours. However, 85% of those who survive the first 24 hours can live ten or more years after the injury.
The common symptoms of spinal injury include:
- Loss of movement
- Loss of sensation
- Loss of bowel control
- Exaggerated reflexes
- Difficulties when breathing or coughing
- Extreme pain or stinging sensation
- Extreme back pain
- Paralysis or weakness in some body parts
- Balance and stability problems when walking
The outlook for most people with spinal cord injuries depends on the recovery they make within the first year of the injury. Some patients record an improvement after the first year and require help to handle most activities, such as getting out of bed and feeding.
Most of them have to deal with conditions such as bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. Modern medicine has made it possible to manage the most deadly conditions, such as pneumonia, that usually cause the death of people living with spinal cord injuries.
Other complications that arise with spinal cord injuries include:
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
- Urinary and bowel incontinence
- Pressure sores
- Muscle atrophy
- Chronic pain
3. Multiple Fractures
Multiple fractures are common in rollover tour bus accidents. The passengers are tossed in the vehicle, hitting different parts of the vehicle and each other. The impact can result in breaking bones in different parts of the body. The common fractures include:
- Simple or closed fractures where the bone breaks under the skin
- Compound or open fractures where the broken bone pierces through the skin
- Transverse fractures where the fracture runs horizontally across the bone
- Oblique fractures where the fracture occurs diagonally across the bone
- Comminuted fractures that shatter the bone into three or more parts
- Segmental fractures which break the bone in two places thus creating an unconnected piece of the fractured bone
- Compression fractures which occur when the bone is crushed
- Greenstick fractures where the bone fractures partially, but the bone does not separate. These fractures are common in children and teens whose bones are still developing and flexible.
- Spiral fractures in which the bone breaks forming a spiral shape, especially where the affected bone was twisted
Fractures from bus accidents affect the legs, arms or wrists, the collarbone, the ankles, and the hip. Most fractures are obvious, but some can be undetectable. The common symptoms of fractures include:
- Extreme pain in the injured area
- The limb appears deformed or out of place.
- Numbness and tingling
- Difficulty in moving the affected limb
- Discoloration in the affected area
- Bleeding especially for open fractures
The treatment of fractures includes the realignment of the broken bone and immobilization of the affected limb until it is fully recovered. In some cases, you might need surgery where the doctor will realign the shattered pieces of the bone and hold them together with screws and rods until you recover.
Fractures take weeks to months of healing, during which time you cannot go to work. You could also need physical therapy after recovery due to muscle atrophy of the unused limb.
Amputations can occur during the accident, where the impact of the crush causes the loss of one or more of your limbs. The doctors could also amputate your legs if the injury caused the death of the cells surrounding the injury. Amputations could involve the loss of body parts such as the toes or fingers or the loss of an entire limb.
Depending on the number of limbs you lose, you will require rehabilitation to relearn the skills such as using your non-dominant hand, learning to move on a wheelchair, renovating your home to accommodate your needs.
These changes can be depressing and expensive. The outlook for people who suffer amputation injuries alone is better than those with more severe injuries such as spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries. However, the impact of that accident stays with you for the rest of your life and affects your mental health and career choice.
Paralysis is one of the most severe injuries that result from a tour bus accident. Paralysis includes the loss of mobility and control of muscles in one or different parts of the body.
Paralysis is a common occurrence amongst people who suffer spinal cord injuries. The types of paralysis once can experience include:
- Paraplegia which is the paralysis of the lower limb due to injury to the thoracic vertebra
- Quadriplegia which causes loss of mobility and control of all limbs due to injury below the first thoracic vertebrae
- Partial paralysis occurs when you lose the ability to control one side of the body or one part of the paralyzed side. Partial paralysis is a result of spinal or brain injury.
Paralysis could be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the injuries. However, treating and managing paralysis is an expensive and mentally draining process since the victim will require ongoing rehabilitation or special equipment for mobility.
6. Internal Injury and Bleeding
Internal injuries due to the trauma from the accident, for instance, if you are thrown about in the car, your organs could be compressed and injured. The common internal injuries include:
- Bleeding in the brain due to head injuries
- Broken ribs
- Perforated lungs
- Abdominal aorta aneurysm
- Spleen damage
- Kidney damage
- Damage to the liver
The common causes of internal injuries include:
- Blunt trauma causing the compression of internal organs
- Deceleration trauma
- Fractures of broken bones that release blood into the body or perforate blood vessels around the injured are
Internal injuries are often hard to detect, which increases the death statistics from accidents. Some of the symptoms that indicate the presence of internal injuries include:
- Extreme pain
- Loss of vision
- Low blood pressure
- Slurred speech
- Vomiting blood or bloody urine
Thousands die in bus accidents every year. Whether they are pedestrians, passengers in the bus or occupants of another vehicle, they leave behind families, which depend on them for a livelihood, moral support, and companionship. Death can result immediately during the accident, on the way to the hospital, or because of the injuries sustained in the accident.
The bereft have the right to sue for wrongful death damages, including the funeral expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and medical costs of the deceased.
Injuries from tour bus accidents often have permanent physical and psychological effects on the vim and the victim's family. They are injuries that could force you to relearn basic skills such as feeding, leaning to live without your limbs, or having to depend on caregivers for your basic needs.
The treatment and recovery from these injuries can drain your finances and lead you into debt. However, you can cushion your family from the financial shock of these injuries by filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party. Through that lawsuit, you can recover the financial and non-financial costs of living with the injury.
Compensation for Damages Due to Tour Bus Accidents
In Florida, people injured in tour buses have the right to recover compensation for their injuries. The same rights to compensation exist if you lost a loved one through a tour bus accident. The parties you can file a claim against tor your damages include:
- The tour bus driver if he or she was negligent
- The bus company: tour bus companies are responsible for maintaining their buses in a safe condition, training and hiring trained drivers, and setting work limits to prevent driver fatigue.
- The tour company which has the responsibility of hiring bus companies that maintain their buses and hire qualified drivers
- The state, county, or local government agency responsible for maintaining safe roads, proper road signs and functioning traffic lights
- The bus manufacturer if the accident occurred due to a design or manufacturing defect
- Other drivers (except the bus driver) who could have been responsible for the accident
Determining the party responsible for the accident is not as easy as reading the police or insurance report. You might need to explore deeper issues such as negligence and the duty that a person had towards you or your loved one.
Some of the rules under which you can establish liability for a tour bus accident in Florida include:
- No-fault law requires all drivers to carry a policy that covers up to $10,000 of the injuries from an accident regardless of the party at-fault. the driver can then follow other laws to pursue compensation for damages exceeding $10,000
- Comparative fault: when multiple parties are responsible for your injuries, the court will determine the contributory negligence of each party and require them to cover the damages of the victim.
- Negligent hiring: employers must vet their drivers to ensure that they have the legal licensing and qualifications to operate a tour bus. If they lack the necessary experience, then the employer is responsible for your damages because of negligent hiring.
- Vicarious responsibility places employers of tour bus drivers responsible for injuries that arise due to employee negligence. The theory behind vicarious responsibilities is that the employee works under the employer's command and instruction for the employer's benefit.
- Negligence arises when the liable party has a duty of care towards you, but he or she breached that duty, leading to your injuries. You must also have suffered damages to cement a personal injury claim under negligence laws.
Some of the damages you can recover after a tour bus accident include:
- Special or economic damages to cover medical costs (including future costs), lost wages, benefits, and lost earning capacity.
- General or non-economic damages to cover the unseen and unquantifiable losses you suffer due to the accident. These damages cover aspects such as pain, suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium or parental care.
- Punitive damages punish the liable party for causing the accident. They are rarely awarded in most personal injury cases unless the judge establishes that the defendant acted with gross negligence.
Tour bus accidents can leave you with catastrophic injuries requiring intensive medical care, sometimes for the rest of your life. Therefore, you should be keen on recovering the compensation you deserve so that you can, at the minimum, cover the financial costs that arise from the accident.
Find a Tour Bus Accident Attorney Near Me
Navigating the legal system to obtain compensation after a tour bus accident can be overwhelming, especially if you have injuries to deal with, or are left with the burden of being the sole provider for your family.
Hiring an attorney can relieve this burden and help you file your case within the statute of limitations to recover the damages the negligent party owes you.
Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney focuses on helping victims of tour bus injuries in obtaining compensation for their damages. We have worked on thousands of personal injury cases in Florida, to help victims and their families get closure and financial relief after the loss or injury of their loved ones.
Contact us at 904-800-7557 for a free consultation.