Bus Accident Lawsuits: What You Need to Know

A bus accident injury claim could present unique procedural challenges. Here’s what to consider.

Buses are a fairly safe mode of transportation. But just because there may be fewer traffic accidents involving buses -- compared with cars and motorcycles, for example -- dozens of people are still injured in bus accidents every year. In this article, we’ll discuss bus accident injuries and some unique issues that might arise when it comes to injury claims after a bus accident.

Bus Accident Injuries

A traffic accident can run the gamut from a low-speed fender bender to a catastrophic collision, and bus accidents are no exception. So it follows that injuries stemming from bus accidents fall across the spectrum of seriousness, from whiplash-type soft tissue injuries, to serious head trauma and broken bones. (Learn more about common car accident injuries.)

There are also a few added risks that tend to crop up when it comes to bus accidents, owing to the characteristics of most buses and the practical aspects of bus travel.

First, the risk of a tip-over or rollover accident is higher for buses than it is for standard passenger cars. Second, most buses don’t feature any form of safety restraint or supplemental safety device -- in other words, no seat belts or airbags. So while the risk of a bus accident might be lower when compared to other forms of ground transportation, the chances of serious injury are probably higher when a bus accident does actually occur.

Unique Issues in Bus Accident Injury Claims

With most injury cases, if you’re negotiating an injury settlement with an insurance carrier or even filing a personal injury lawsuit in court, the process is pretty straightforward.  What about bus accidents? In some cases, the accident will be caused by the driver of another car. In that situation, you can make a third-party claim with the driver’s insurer, seeking compensation for damages like medical expenses and lost income, and you’ll likely end up getting an injury settlement.

If the bus driver is at fault, however, this is when the law gets complicated. That’s because most buses are operated by government entities, like school districts and public transportation bureaus. In fact, according to national statistics, school buses account for the highest rate of bus fatalities: 37% according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. And filing a claim with a government body is much more complicated than a typical insurance claim.

If the bus's insurance (often government bodies like cities are self-insured, but this still counts as insurance) denies your claim, you will almost certainly need to file an injury claim or notice of claim with the government entity that is potentially liable for the bus accident. And you’ll need to file the claim or notice of claim within a relatively short period of time.

Filing a Notice of Claim with the Government

The specific procedural rules that will apply to your case will depend on the state where you live, and in some cases, on the municipality (i.e. city or county). But typically, the claim or notice must state:

  • that a claim is being made against the public body, or an officer, employee, or agent of the public body
  • a description of the time, place and circumstances giving rise to the claim, and
  • the name and address of the person making the claim.

Again, each state has different time limits for filing an injury claim (in Oregon, for example, the time limit is only 180 days) and you may need to submit your claim using a certain form.

Claim filing time limits and other filing rules are important. If you miss a filing deadline or don’t submit the right paperwork, you may lose your right to file a lawsuit. And there may be special time limits that apply if a person has suffered fatal injuries as a result of a bus accident. In Oregon, you have one year to file an injury claim for wrongful death against the state government.

Speak to a local attorney if you are unsure about the time limits and are unsure how to file an injury claim or notice of claim with the government in your state.

Fault Factors in Bus Accident Cases

Sometimes, to help determine liability (fault) in a bus accident, some initial investigation will be needed. There are several potential factors that may cause or contribute to a bus accident. Examples include:

  • bus drivers working while fatigued
  • drivers who have not been adequately trained or properly screened for employment
  • drivers who are under the influence of intoxicants
  • buses that are overloaded or improperly loaded, and
  • buses and equipment that is poorly or improperly maintained.

After any kind of vehicle accident, your best first step is to get the medical attention you need. This way, you put your health first, and later on you can use your medical records and bills to document and support any injury claim you decide to make. Learn more about getting medical care after an accident.  

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