Just like most other car crashes, bus accidents are often preventable. Examples of such incidents include those caused by reckless or otherwise negligent drivers, or mechanical failures resulting from a lack of proper vehicle care. Still, others are not entirely within the control of the bus driver or their employing agency, as weather events like rain and snow can severely hamper road safety. Whether you are the passenger or the drive, after this type of accident in California one of the most important steps you can take is to contact an experienced bus accident attorney at Salamati Law who will protect your legal rights and ensure you receive the compensation that you deserve.
What Causes Bus Accidents in California?
Firstly, it must be established that there are several different types of buses that operate within the state of California. These are all exposed to various driving conditions according to the demographic and geographic region they serve. For this reason, each bus type will be predisposed to certain traffic pressures that increase their risk of becoming involved in a collision, some more than others. A general overview of the events and habits that lead to bus accidents includes the following causative factors:
- Driving over the speed limit
- Distracted driving (i.e., daydreaming, use of mobile devices behind the wheel, etc.)
- Overcompensating (e.g., swerving back into one lane to correct drifting into other traffic lanes)
- Abrupt stops
- Driving off the road
- Drowsy driving
The leading causes of bus accidents also slightly differ based on the type of bus involved. For instance, school bus accidents are most often caused by the driver’s failure to respect traffic laws, especially yielding when appropriate and remaining inside one lane. On the other hand, Greyhound bus drivers drive for much longer distances than most, so they are more inclined to drowsiness, which endangers all parties within and near the vehicle. Further, tour buses often transport excited bunches of people, so these drivers tend to be quite reckless, often speeding and even driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In all these instances, whether you were a passenger on the bus or driving of a vehicle that was sharing the road at the time, you would have the right to pursue legal action following the accident. If the fault lies with the bus driver, then you have every right to seek compensation for the damages inflicted upon you and the resulting financial losses. Never should you be expected to cover such damages that were no fault of your own, even if the negligent party happens to be a member of your local or state government.
What to Know About Filing a Claim for Bus Accidents
No matter who or what agency the bus driver operates under, your right to pursue legal action in an effort to recover compensation must be upheld. As you exercise this right, you must be aware of the laws in your locale to do so in a timely, legal manner. These laws may differ according to your location and type of service the bus driver was providing (e.g., private busing versus public or government-provided).
When filing a claim against a government bus driver (e.g., the driver of a school bus or city bus), there are a few presiding statutes to be aware of. The most important of these include:
- Statute of Limitations: Although this law varies slightly by state, it holds victims to a predetermined timeline in which they are allowed to pursue legal action for damages incurred in their accident. The average period extends for about two years. However, there are further limitations in the case of filing legal claims against government bodies. For example, if the bus driver was the employee of a Metropolitan or Municipal Transit Authority (MTA) vehicle, you will only have six months to begin your claim since the bus belongs to the city or county.
- Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA): This legislation is primarily what makes it so difficult to press charges against a bus driver (or any employee of the federal, state, or local government, for that matter). This law is closely related to the doctrine of sovereign immunity (also known as “crown immunity”), wherein government entities must grant explicit permission for civilians to file lawsuits against them. The FTCA allows certain types of lawsuits to be filed against these entities; however, your case must be founded on highly specific details and request what the law deems a “fair” amount in compensation.
Though you still have the right to sue, acting against a private bus driver (i.e., the driver of a charter or tour bus) will be slightly different. Instead of filing a claim against the city or a specific municipal department, you will need to take up action against the company that owns the bus and employs the driver.
For example, if you were the passenger of a charter bus that was on its way to a wedding or another event, and the driver was operating the vehicle erratically, you would file a lawsuit against both the driver and the company. If, on the other hand, the driver was controlling the vehicle in a safe and responsible manner, but mechanical failures led to a dangerous crash, you might sue any or all of the following:
- The manufacturer of the bus, if it was discovered that flawed components were the cause of the malfunction.
- The transportation company, if you find that they neglected to appropriately care for the bus.
- The touring agency, as they may have knowingly booked your group’s trip while aware of the bus’s poor condition.
As you can see, there are a number of caveats that must be considered in your approach to filing a lawsuit in the aftermath of a bus accident. Your case will depend heavily on even the most minute details of the incident, so you must do everything in your power to document the case in its entirety, representing all influential factors as thoroughly and accurately as possible.
When you are ready, get in touch with an accident lawyer, as it is also your right to acquire legal protection as you seek compensation. Your lawyer will walk you through each step of the litigation process. As your case progresses, you will be supplied with sound advice to ensure that you make only the best decisions for both your finances and wellbeing.