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Bus Accident Lawsuits and Settlements

Speeding city bus on a street

Yes, you can sue a bus company. When a bus is involved in a crash, injured passengers typically want to know if they can sue a public transportation company. Or they want to know if they can get compensation without suing the company or the bus driver. They want to be treated fairly but often don't know where to begin their bus accident claim.

There are some disclaimers and unique aspects of bus accident lawsuits that differ from run-of-the-mill car accident cases. It's important for injury victims to know that your time to get financial recovery may be shorter, and there may be more special requirements for your case.

Can You Sue a Bus Company or Public Transportation?

How the lawsuit proceeds will depend upon whether the bus company is privately owned or owned by a unit of state or local government.

For example, a school bus may be owned by a school district — a government entity — or a private company:

  • If the bus involved in your accident was privately owned, the process will follow the procedures that normally apply in negligence and personal injury cases.
  • If a government agency owns the bus company, the legal process will be accelerated. There will be special procedural requirements to make a claim, as well as a cap on the total amount of damages available to you. Get legal advice promptly.

If the bus company employees are government employees, they may receive the protection of "sovereign immunity." This means you might not be able to sue them personally as defendants.

Sovereign Immunity When Suing Government Employees

Government entities have some immunity from lawsuits. That doesn't mean you can't sue a government-operated bus company. Most government units will permit a lawsuit to proceed with stricter procedural requirements.

School districts, cities, municipalities, and counties are examples of entities that the sovereign immunity doctrine may protect, but city, state, and federal laws can differ depending on where an accident occurred.

A bus accident lawyer will closely examine the local interpretation of sovereign immunity and procedural requirements. They will advise you on your specific case. Bus accident victims who suffer serious injuries, such as spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries, will usually receive a free case review from law offices to see if they can obtain a bus accident settlement.

Suing a Bus Company: Cap on Damages

Lawsuits against government agencies usually have a damage cap that limits financial recovery.

States often deny "non-economic damages" such as pain and suffering, as well as deny or limit punitive damages intended to punish the responsible party.

In general, recoverable damages will depend on the amount of medical expenses and medical records available, the extent of severe injuries, and the nature of property damage suffered by bus passengers. If a bus operator is responsible for an auto accident that injures non-passengers, claimants entitled to recovery will also include drivers of other motor vehicles and pedestrians that may have been hit by the city bus.

Reasons to Sue a Bus Company

If you or a loved one suffered physical injuries, wrongful death, lost income, or property damage, a personal injury lawsuit may be the best option for getting full and fair compensation. If the bus company or its employees caused or contributed to the accident, they may be held accountable for some settlement amount.

As is the case with any vehicle accident, it may not be immediately known what caused the crash. It could be driver error, forgotten seat belts, a maintenance problem with the vehicle, road conditions, or something else.

The bus company will investigate the cause of the crash, but an injury victim may never find out what that investigation uncovers. Involving a personal injury attorney in your case will help ensure there is an investigation, and you are kept informed.

Can You Get Compensation Without Suing?

It's possible that you can get compensation for your medical bills without suing.

Usually, after an accident, an insurance company agent will contact you to gather information about your bus accident injury. Later, the insurance company may make you a financial offer or settlement amount.

If you accept that offer, you will be asked to sign a settlement paper stating that you understand this is all the money you will be receiving on your personal injury claim. It's important to hire an experienced attorney to review this document, as you may be barred from filing a lawsuit or other claims in the future after you sign it.

Considering Compensation Offers in a Lawsuit

Was the money offered enough to cover the cost of your medical bills and rehabilitation costs — now and in the future? Did it cover your lost wages and other needed equipment or medical supplies?

It may not. When you have your own lawyer working for you, they will work with all your medical providers to determine your future needs as well as your current bills. Their goal is to ensure your financial recovery is adequate and comparable to typical personal injury verdicts in your circumstances.

Of course, the bus company may say someone else was at fault. That party may dispute it. Now you may have no offer on the table, and the clock is running out on the statutes of limitations (filing time limit) for bringing a lawsuit.

What Are the Steps to Sue a Bus Company?

If you are considering suing a bus company, meet with a local personal injury lawyer to discuss your case and how they would approach it. During those meetings, ask yourself:

  • Do you feel comfortable with this lawyer?
  • Do they have the experience and credentials to handle a public transportation accident claim?
  • Does the personal injury law firm have the resources to handle your case?

Learn more about choosing a personal injury attorney.

Your lawyer will begin the process of filing a bus accident lawsuit, which involves several important deadlines for action: notice of claim and statute of limitations.

Notice of Claim

The first deadline is a notice of claim. This is a notification to the bus company and the courts of your intent to sue. Filing a notice of claim does not start a lawsuit, but in cases involving government entities, failing to file a notice of claim will result in the loss of your ability to sue.

Depending on your jurisdiction, a notice of claim must usually be filed within a couple of months. It must be in writing and usually must include specific information about the accident and your injuries.

Statute of Limitations

Once the notice of claim is filed, your lawsuit does not need to proceed immediately. The statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit (when the lawsuit must begin) is typically two or more years, depending on your state.

This can vary greatly, depending on the jurisdiction in which the accident took place and whether it was a privately owned or publicly owned bus company. If a government entity owns the bus, the statute of limitations is generally shorter and may be far less than one year.

If you fail to begin your lawsuit before the expiration date, you will lose your ability to sue (with some exceptions).

Next Steps in a Lawsuit: Investigation

If you do not file a notice of claim and/or lawsuit within the required period of time, you do not have a "case." You have an injury for which you may or may not be compensated by the responsible party.

Once your bus accident attorney has made the required filings, your case will proceed with an investigation and discovery of the facts.

Your attorney will handle communications with the insurance company and the other party's lawyers.

Negotiations, Settlement, or Trial

Most personal injury cases end with a negotiated settlement agreement. Some cases wind up in civil court because the parties cannot reach an agreement on who is responsible for the accident or how much compensation the injured person should receive.

Many government entities self-insure. If the government denies the claim, the only option is a complex legal appeal.

What if the Bus Company Is Bankrupt?

A bus company may declare bankruptcy after a bus crash. Typically, a bus company has an active insurance policy at the time of the crash. The insurance provider will likely be required to pay on the insurance claim up to the amount of the policy. If the bus driver has a separate insurance policy, that insurance provider is also liable if driver negligence was a factor.

Any amount over the policy limit would be the responsibility of the company or driver. That payment may be delayed until the bankruptcy case is decided in court. If the bus company does not have an active insurance policy, injury victims may become claimants in the bankruptcy case.

Is It Possible to Sue Someone on a Bus?

If you were injured by another passenger while riding on public transit, you have the option of filing a civil suit against that passenger.

Learn More About Bus Accident Lawsuits From a Lawyer

Bus accident lawsuits are complicated. Get sound legal advice about suing a common carrier in a bus accident case from a local personal injury attorney. Most attorneys offer a free case evaluation.

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