Bus Accident Lawsuits in California
(Personal Injury Lawyers Explain)

When someone is injured in a bus accident, the injury victim may be left with expensive medical bills, lost wages, and have to deal with serious pain and suffering. A California personal injury lawsuit allows the victim and their families to seek compensation for their 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 injury victims and their families 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 California personal injury lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about bus accident injuries in California:

If you have further questions about bus accidents after reading this article, please contact us at Shouse Law Group.

Bus accident
When someone is injured in a bus accident, the injury victim may be left with expensive medical bills, lost wages, and have to deal with serious pain and suffering.

1. Can I file a personal injury lawsuit after a bus accident?

A personal injury lawsuit includes a claim for damages for any injuries or harm caused in an accident. When a passenger, pedestrian, or other driver is injured in a bus accident, the injury victim 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 he or she was not directly negligent in causing the accident. For example, employers are liable for the negligence of their employees.

2. Who is responsible for causing the accident?

The individuals or groups responsible for causing the accident may depend on the type of bus accident and cause of the accident. In a personal injury lawsuit, those responsible are named as “defendants,” by the injury victim (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. The injury victim may even have some blame for the accident but he or she may still be able to claim damages. Under California's “comparative fault” law, the plaintiff can recover damages, even if he or she shares some level of fault in causing the accident. However, the damages are reduced based on the plaintiff's share of fault.1

In most bus accident personal injury claims, the plaintiff would claim damages by showing the defendant's negligence caused the accident. The elements of negligence are:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
  2. The defendant breached their duty of care; and
  3. The defendant's breach was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's injuries.2

If the plaintiff shows the defendant was negligent, the defendant may be responsible for causing the accident and have to pay the plaintiff's damages.

2.1. School Bus Accident

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.

Under California's “respondeat superior” laws, an employer is vicariously liable for damages caused by a negligent employee who is operating within the scope of his or her job.4

This also gives the injury victim 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

2.2. Tour Bus Accident

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, 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.

2.3. Public Transportation Bus Accident

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 that 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, the injury victims 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 a plaintiff has to bring a lawsuit. If the plaintiff does not file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, they may not be able to recover damages.

However, claims against the government may have other notice deadlines that the injury victim has 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 the victim does not submit a notice of the claim within 6 months, he or she may not be able to recover damages.10

3. What compensation is available in a bus accident lawsuit?

No amount of money may be enough to compensate an injury victim after an accident but compensatory damages are intended to do provide for the victim's economic and non-economic losses. In some cases, the injury victim may also be able to claim punitive damages to punish the wrongdoer for their actions.

Economic damages include the costs the victim will lose or have to spend as a result of the accident, including medical bills and wages. Non-economic damages include harms that don't necessarily have a fixed cost, like emotional harm or losing a limb. Compensatory damages in a bus accident lawsuit may 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.

4. Can I file a lawsuit if I was injured at a bus stop?

When injured at a bus stop, the victim may feel like they are at the wrong place at the wrong time. However, anyone injured at a bus stop can still file a lawsuit against those who caused the accident.

Many bus stop accidents are caused by reckless or negligent drivers. The injury victim can show the driver was negligent to claim damages for their injuries. In some cases, the plaintiff can show the driver was responsible by using evidence that the driver was breaking 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, the injury victim may also have a claim against the government agency responsible for the bus stop.

5. What are common injuries in a bus accident?

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:

  • Airbags,
  • Seat belts,
  • Bucket seats,
  • Rollover protection, and
  • Crumple zones.

Unfortunately, bus passengers don't 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
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of a limb

6. What should I do if my child or spouse was killed in a bus accident?

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:

  • Spouse;
  • Domestic partner;
  • Children;
  • 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.
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Call us for help....

For questions about bus accident lawsuits in California or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled California personal injury attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group. For Nevada cases, please visit our page on lawsuits for bus accidents in Las Vegas Nevada.

We have local law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. 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.”).
  2. 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.”)
  3. 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.”)
  4. 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.”)
  5. Mary M. v. City of Los Angeles (1991) 54 Cal.3d 202. See also Bailey v. Filco, Inc. (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 1552.
  6. 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.”)
  7. 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.”)
  8. California Government Code 945 (“A public entity may sue and be sued.”)
  9. 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.”)
  10. 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.
  11. 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.”)

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