Buses are complete monsters out on the road. They’re huge, make a lot of stops, take on a large number of people, and they make their way down our city streets and blocks without any type of safety restraint. There are no airbags and/or seatbelts on buses. There are a lot of different dangerous scenarios that can occur involving a bus. Accidents can happen often, especially when you consider how much time they spend on the roads. If you are in an accident involving a bus you may need a personal injury lawyer.
Due to their massive size, when accidents do occur, it can cause a lot of property damage and even some fairly serious injuries. That’s also why most of the laws that surround buses and bus accidents are different from other types of automobile accidents. Let’s take a look at some of the differences and what you should know about bus accidents.
Government-Owned vs. Privately Owned Busses
One big difference that you’ll find is that not all buses are the same. They’re not just owned by different private companies; many are owned by local and state government agencies. For example, Greyhound is a popular privately-owned busing company that most of us have heard about. They travel across the country and is a great alternative to flying if you’re looking to get around or just want to see the country.
On the other hand, you might notice a lot of school buses out on the road during the busy morning commute. School buses, while necessary and important, can cause a lot of commotion out on the road. They stop often require a full stoppage of traffic on all sides when they’re picking up or dropping off children. School buses are usually government-owned property, just like schools are run by the government.
The difference between the two is that government-run buses and/or employees are often protected and require special procedures to make a claim in the event of an accident. There might be a cap on the amount of money damages one can receive from a school bus accident. This is different from a private company that doesn’t have the same types of sovereign immunity government-run agencies do in these matters.
This should really be the first step in determining who is involved in your accident. You must identify whether the bus that caused the accident was either privately or government-owned. If the company is privately owned, the type of lawsuit would most likely follow along the lines of your typical negligent and/or personal injury lawsuit.
What Is Sovereign Immunity?
Essentially, the government is immune from being sued because they’re the government. They have the ability to protect themselves as well as their property and employees. Most local governments or even the school districts don’t have the money to take on a major lawsuit where there are significant damages to be claimed. At the same time, the government does sometimes allow a lawsuit to go forward.
You can actually go to the government agency and asked them for a waiver or consent form that would allow you to file a lawsuit. A lot of cases, they don’t deny your right to file a lawsuit. They do this as long as the person making the complaint complies with certain procedures that are often much stricter than you would find in a typical personal injury lawsuit. That essentially means that you would agree to not go overboard.
Most laws that govern sovereign immunity often would suggest that cities, municipalities, school districts, and county-owned property may not be entitled to the full scope of the sovereign immunity clauses, but that doesn’t mean the debate won’t exist in the case of a lawsuit. The state may still want to impose stricter requirements while overseeing a lawsuit against government entities.
Statute of Limitations and Other Notices
If you’re thinking about bringing a complaint or lawsuit against a bus company, you should be aware that there are firm deadlines for doing so. Anyone who is looking to file a personal injury suit must know that they have to do so within a specific period of time or the statute of limitations will run out. As with everything, there may be a few exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, failing to file that lawsuit before the statues expires can prevent you from doing so. The statute of limitations is often set locally by each jurisdiction.
The first step in the process is filing a notice of claim. This notice is letting the company or agency no that your intent is to file a claim against them. If you don’t file this claim within a reasonable amount of time, then you would most likely lose your ability to sue them. Again, the timing depends on the jurisdiction in which you live. Every jurisdiction in an area might be different when the statute of limitations runs out.
Typically, for personal injury lawsuits, the statute of limitations is about two years or maybe more. With a notice of claim, that’s only a few months after the accident. You must make this claim in writing and as the law in your jurisdiction might state, provide different details and information about what happened, your injuries, and the accident itself. Without this notice of claim, you would not be able to file a lawsuit.
Capping the Damages Claim
Unlike with private companies, the government might put a cap on the amount of damages one can claim after an accident. You also might be limited to other types of damages that you might claim. These are considered non-economic, such as pain and suffering. You most likely would just receive the amount needed to repair damages and pay for medical bills. There might even be a limit on punitive damages.
Bus accidents happen all the time. They are part of the fabric of everyday life. Anywhere you have city life, schools, or even cross-country journeys, there will be a bus there to move people to and fro. As such, that increases the likelihood of an accident taking place. Because these types of accidents can be complicated depending on the jurisdiction, the best thing you can do is hire an attorney to help walk you through the process.
You should know all the laws in your area and a qualified attorney will be able to help you along.