When you are injured in a bus accident, you may be left with expensive medical bills, lost wages, and have to deal with serious pain and suffering. A personal injury lawsuit allows you and your family to seek compensation for your injuries.
Bus accidents can be caused by bus driver negligence, bus companies cutting corners, or lax county regulations. When an individual or group is negligent in causing an accident, they are liable for the damages. It is important for you and your family to go after those responsible to help prevent others from suffering similar accidents.
In a fatal bus accident, the family members may be left to deal with the loss of a loved one. However, a wrongful death lawsuit will allow the family to seek compensation for their loss and to hold the wrongdoer accountable for their actions. This can include an award for
- funeral expenses,
- loss of financial support, and
- loss of emotional support.
Below, our bus injury lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about bus accident injuries in California:
- 1. Can I file a personal injury lawsuit after a bus accident?
- 2. Who is responsible for causing the accident?
- 3. What compensation is available in a bus accident lawsuit?
- 4. Can I file a lawsuit if I was injured at a bus stop?
- 5. What are common injuries in a bus accident?
- 6. What should I do if my child or spouse was killed in a bus accident?
- Additional resources
If you have further questions about bus accidents after reading this article, please contact us at Shouse Law Group.
A personal injury lawsuit includes a claim for damages for any injuries or harm caused in an accident. If you are a passenger, pedestrian, or other driver injured in a bus accident, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to claim damages.
Most bus accident injuries are caused by someone’s negligence or reckless actions. In some cases, the bus company owner or operator may be liable for damages even if they were not directly negligent in causing the accident. For example, employers are liable for the negligence of their employees.
The individuals or groups responsible for causing the accident may depend on the type of bus accident and the cause of the accident. In a personal injury lawsuit, those responsible are named as “defendants” by you (the “plaintiff”). In bus accidents, the defendants may include:
- Bus driver,
- Bus driver supervisor,
- Tour bus operator,
- School bus operator,
- Charter bus operator,
- Other vehicle drivers,
- Bus maintenance company,
- City, county, or state agency,
- Bus owner,
- Bus stop property owner,
- Bus manufacturer, or
- Bus part manufacturer.
In some cases, there may be multiple defendants who share responsibility for causing the accident. Under California’s “comparative fault” law, you can recover damages even if you share some level of fault in causing the accident. However, the damages are reduced based on your share of fault.1
In most bus accident personal injury claims, you would claim damages by showing the defendant’s negligence caused the accident. The elements of negligence are:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care;
- The defendant breached their duty of care; and
- The defendant’s breach was a substantial factor in causing your injuries.2
If you show the defendant was negligent, the defendant may have to pay your damages.
Note that Vehicle 21702 makes it a misdemeanor in California for a bus driver to be behind the wheel for too many hours in a day. A drowsy bus driver who drives in excess of the Vehicle Code 21702 limit and causes an accident may be liable under California’s negligence per se laws.
School buses may be statistically safer for children than getting a ride to school in a car.3 However, school bus accidents do occur, and when they do, the driver and the school district may be liable for damages.
If a school bus accident was caused by the negligence of the bus driver, liability may depend on whether the school operated the buses or contracted school transportation to another company. If the school operated the bus, the school could be liable for the negligence of the driver. If a private company operated the bus, the company could also be liable for the driver’s negligence.
This also gives you a better chance to get full compensation for the accident because the employer is more likely to have the money to pay for damages. This is also a way to help prevent similar accidents from happening in the future, by holding the employer responsible.5
A number of tour bus companies operate in California and across neighboring state lines. This includes local routes that visit tourist attractions or casinos, as well as long-distance tour buses. Many of these tour bus companies push drivers to keep tough time schedules and drive for long periods of time while operating buses that may not be maintained safely.
Again, when the driver is negligent, the tour bus company may be liable for damages. However, the company or operator may also be directly liable for the driver’s actions if the employer was negligent in hiring, training, or supervising the driver. Failing to review the driver’s record or qualifications may make the employer may be liable for negligent hiring.6
All drivers have a duty to others on the road, but drivers who transport people for profit have a higher duty of care. Commercial bus operators, including tour bus companies, are generally considered “common carriers.”
A common carrier is a business that transports people or goods for a fee. Common carriers are held to a higher safety standard under California law. According to the California Civil Code,
“a carrier of persons for reward must use the utmost care and diligence for their safe carriage, must provide everything necessary for that purpose, and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill.”7
If the tour bus company does not
- properly repair the buses,
- inspect the vehicles for safety issues, or
- train and supervise drivers,
the company may be violating their duties as a common carrier. If the safety violations result in an accident, the bus company may be liable for the damages.
Public bus accident lawsuits generally involve claims against the government. Public buses may be operated by the city, county, state, or some other regional authority in California. Claims against the government may have different requirements than lawsuits against private parties.
State governments generally have a claim of “sovereign immunity” from many types of lawsuits. However, California has waived sovereign immunity in certain cases of employee negligence.8 When a negligent public bus driver causes an accident, you can file a claim against the state or local government who operates the bus line.9
Most personal injury claims in California have a “statute of limitations” of 2 years. This means the amount of time you have to bring a lawsuit. If you do not file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, you may not be able to recover damages.
However, claims against the government may have other notice deadlines that you have to meet. A personal injury claim or wrongful death claim generally has to be presented to the government no later than 6 months after the accident. If you do not submit a notice of the claim within 6 months, you may not be able to recover damages.10
No amount of money may be enough to compensate you after an accident, but compensatory damages are intended to provide for your economic and non-economic losses. In some cases, you may also be able to claim punitive damages to punish the wrongdoer for their actions.
Economic damages include the costs you will lose or have to spend as a result of the accident, including medical bills and wages. Non-economic damages include harms that do not necessarily have a fixed cost, like emotional harm or losing a limb. Together these include:
- Emergency room treatment,
- Hospital bills,
- Medications and medical supplies,
- Physical therapy,
- In-home care,
- Lost income,
- Future lost earnings,
- Vehicle repair,
- Loss of consortium,
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional pain,
- Loss of enjoyment, and
- Court costs and fees.
Yes. Many bus stop accidents are caused by reckless or negligent drivers who broke a traffic law, such as speeding, running a red light, or driving under the influence.
In some cases, the bus stop may have been in a dangerous location. This could include an area where multiple people were injured in prior bus stop accidents, or where the bus stop is too close to the street. In these situations, you may also have a claim against the government agency responsible for the bus stop.
Common bus accident injuries can be more complicated than other motor vehicle accident injuries. In car accidents or truck accidents, the people involved may be protected by many safety features, including:
- Seat belts,
- Bucket seats,
- Rollover protection, and
- Crumple zones.
Unfortunately, bus passengers do not have those safety protections. Bus passengers may be sitting facing forward, towards the rear, or sideways. Bus passengers may even be standing in a crowded bus. This can result in a number of injuries that are unique to bus accidents.
In a bus accident, bus passengers can be thrown around inside the bus and could hit other seats, passengers, bars, windows, or the floor. As a result, common bus accident injuries include:
- Head injury
- Neck injury
- Back injury
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
- Burn injuries
- Crushing injuries
- Loss of a limb
When a spouse or child is killed in a car accident, the deceased is not around to fight back to hold others responsible for their actions. However, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to make sure those who caused the accident are held accountable.11
In a California wrongful death lawsuit, the family members who can be awarded damages may include:
- Domestic partner;
- Grandchildren (if the children are deceased); or
- Anyone else who can receive the property of the decedent by California intestate succession laws.
Damages in a wrongful death claim are intended to compensate the family members for their loss. This includes economic and non-economic damages, such as:
- Funeral costs;
- Burial expenses;
- Financial losses to the family from lost income and lost future earnings; and
- Loss of companionship, loss of support, or loss of affection.
For more information, refer to the following:
- Safety Matters: The “So What” Behind Bus Safety Records – Info sheet by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
- Passenger Carrier Safety Information – Regulatory information by the FMCSA.
- Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts – Statistics by FMCSA.
- School Bus Safety – Video by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- Evaluating Bus Accident Risks in Public Transport – Scholarly article in Transportation Research Procedia.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 405. See also California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 406. (“… you must then decide how much responsibility each has by assigning percentages of responsibility to each person listed on the verdict form. The percentages must total 100 percent.”).
- California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 400. See also California Civil Code section 1714(a) (“Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.”)
- National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) — School Bus Safety. (“Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a school bus instead of traveling by car.”)
- Perez v. Van Groningen & Sons, Inc. (1986) 41 Cal.3d 962, 967 (“Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is vicariously liable for his employee’s torts committed within the scope of the employment.”)
- Mary M. v. City of Los Angeles (1991) 54 Cal.3d 202. See also Bailey v. Filco, Inc. (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 1552.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 426 — Negligent Hiring, Supervision, or Retention of Employee. See also Doe v. Capital Cities (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 1038, 1054 (“California case law recognizes the theory that an employer can be liable to a third person for negligent hiring, supervising, or retaining an unﬁt employee.”)
- California Civil Code 2100. See also California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 902 — Duty of Common Carrier (“Common carriers must carry passengers safely. Common carriers must use the highest care and the vigilance of a very cautious person. They must do all that human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to passengers.”)
- California Government Code 945 (“A public entity may sue and be sued.”)
- California Government Code 815.2 (“(a) A public entity is liable for injury proximately caused by an act or omission of an employee of the public entity within the scope of his employment if the act or omission would, apart from this section, have given rise to a cause of action against that employee or his personal representative.”)
- California Government Code 911.2 (“(a) A claim relating to a cause of action for death or for injury to person or to personal property or growing crops shall be presented as provided in Article 2 (commencing with Section 915) not later than six months after the accrual of the cause of action.”) See also California Code of Civil Procedure 341.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 (“A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another may be asserted by any of the following persons or by the decedent’s personal representative on their behalf: (a) The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.”)