When you hire a charter bus, you do not expect to get into an accident. However, bus drivers are just as susceptible to getting into an accident as anyone else is.
In some cases, the driver can’t avoid an accident caused by another driver. In other cases, the driver could cause the accident if they are distracted, fatigued, or driving under the influence. Alternatively, the weather could cause an accident. (Even high winds could topple a charter bus!) And, of course, if the bus has maintenance issues, that could also cause a charter bus crash.
If you suffer injuries or lose a loved one in a charter bus crash, don’t get taken advantage of. Always discuss the accident and recovery options with an experienced attorney.
Lawsuits involving businesses are often very complex, especially when two or more defendants share liability. Depending on the accident circumstances, anyone from an individual who hit the bus to the bus manufacturer could share in the liability for the accident.
Liability in a Charter Bus Accident
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, one or more people could share in the liability for a charter bus accident. The fault could lie entirely with a third party, the driver, or with the charter bus company—or any of the three could share in the fault.
It is often difficult to determine who owes you fair and reasonable compensation for your accident injuries, because more than one person could share in the fault for the accident. Instead of trying to negotiate with one insurance company and leaving money on the table, a charter bus accident attorney can properly determine who shares in the liability and can enter settlement negotiations with all involved parties or initiate a lawsuit against those who caused the wreck.
Common Carrier Laws
Charter buses are covered under common carrier laws, as are taxis, cruise ships, school buses, airlines, and tour buses. These laws hold charter bus drivers and the companies they work for to a higher standard of care. The bus drivers are held to even stricter safety standards than other drivers. If the driver is negligent, they or their company could be liable for injuries to charter bus passengers.
When a Third Party is Mostly at Fault
Accidents caused by third parties are common. Sometimes the third parties are other drivers on the road, and sometimes they include a company or other workers for the company.
An experienced charter bus crash lawyer can find out which third parties share in the responsibility for your injuries. There are numerous possibilities, including:
- One or more individuals in private vehicles
- A commercial vehicle driver
- The commercial driver’s company
- The commercial driver’s maintenance and/or inspection tech
- A third-party cargo loader
- A dispatcher, if the dispatcher “encouraged” a truck driver to break laws to deliver a load on time
- A truck owner/operator, if their company name is a separate entity
- Lessee and/or lessor who is not the driver
- The charter bus company
- The driver
- The maintenance tech
- Specific people in the company, such as a CEO or a human resources manager
- The organization that rented the charter bus
When the Charter Bus Driver Is at Fault
An investigation could find that the charter bus driver is fully at fault for the accident. Those cases include:
- When the driver is fatigued (unless the driver tried to call out and the charter bus company insisted that the driver take the trip.)
- When the driver is distracted by a passenger or anything else, such as talking on the phone, texting, eating, or doing other distracting activities.
- When the driver drives under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other illicit substances.
- When the charter bus driver drives too fast for conditions. Those conditions could include heavy rains, snow, sleet, ice, high winds, or narrow and windy roads. Bus drivers are often tempted to speed in order to avoid being late to a stop on their scheduled route. If a charter bus driver takes a curve too fast, they may cause the bus to flip over.
When the Charter Bus Causes an Accident, but the Driver Is Not at Fault
In some cases, the charter bus crashes, but the driver is not at fault. For example, if the driver is driving at a reasonable speed for conditions, yet a tornado appears out of nowhere, and not one person had a warning that the bus was in the path of the tornado, it’s pretty hard to hold the driver or the company responsible for your injuries!
For a more realistic example, the driver might hit a pothole they did not see and pop a brand-new tire. Granted, the county or town should have put up a sign warning drivers of a pothole and could hold some of the liability for the resulting wreck.
Additionally, the bus manufacturer could share in the liability for a charter bus crash. If a defective part on the bus causes the accident, the bus manufacturer or the part manufacturer could also share in liability. For instance, imagine the repair technician replaces the brakes on the bus. The brakes look perfect, and the technician installs the brakes properly. However, the material in the brake pads has a defect that causes it to crumble when it reaches a certain temperature. Brakes heat up when in use, but if the bus is driving down a hill, the driver uses the brakes more, which makes them even hotter. This causes the brakes to reach the temperature that causes the pad material to melt or disintegrate, and an accident occurs. In this scenario, you might recover damages for your injuries from the brake pad manufacturer.
After a Charter Bus Accident
If your charter bus wrecked and you can move about safely, check on other passengers and call first responders. Help those that can move out of the bus, making sure they stay a safe distance away from the bus.
Let first responders know if there is anyone that cannot move, if the bus is on fire, or if someone is pinned by debris or under the bus itself. Check on others involved in the accident if possible, even if the other driver caused the accident.
If you feel pain when you move, stay still unless you know for sure that you will not cause additional damage to yourself.
If possible, take photos of the accident. A picture’s worth a thousand words, and you’ll need evidence! Be sure to take photos from a distance, from all angles, and some close-up photos, especially if the bus has damage near the area where you were sitting. For example, if you were sitting near the front and a truck T-boned the bus near your seat, photos of the damage to the outside and inside of the bus might help with your injury claim.
Be sure to allow emergency medical technicians to check you out. You should also go to the emergency room for more extensive tests to help ensure that you do not have any hidden issues. Some injuries take hours or even a day or two to show symptoms.
Finally, contact a bus accident lawyer to help you recover damages for your injuries. An attorney can help you get a copy of the police report. They can also help you determine who shares in the liability for your injuries. Because many people could share in the liability, it is better to retain a charter bus crash lawyer to help you recover damages so that you do not end up missing out on the money you deserve.
Injuries in a Charter Bus Wreck
The injuries you could suffer in a charter bus wreck could range from minor injuries that heal in days to catastrophic injuries that cause permanent disabilities—or even death. Due to the massive size of a bus, bus accident injuries can be unpredictable.
You also have to take into consideration the size of the vehicle that hits the bus, if any. A big rig hitting a bus could cause extensive damage to the passengers, but if a motorcycle hits a bus, passenger injuries will most likely be minor… unless, of course, the bus swerves to miss the motorcycle and ends up hitting something bigger or rolling over.
Bus accident injuries might include:
- Bumps, bruises, cuts, scratches, and scrapes
- Burns from fire or chemicals, such as fuel
- Road rash, if passengers are thrown from the bus
- Strains, sprains, pulled muscles, torn muscles, and other soft-tissue injuries
- Simple and compound fractures
- Crushed bones if something heavy lands on an extremity, such as the vehicle that hit the bus, or if you are thrown out of the bus and the bus flips on top of you
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries
- Face and eye injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and penetrating brain injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Internal injuries and organ damage
You could also suffer from secondary injuries, such as infections, especially if you have underlying conditions such as diabetes or other immunodeficiencies. Some medications, such as chemotherapy, could also increase the risk of secondary injuries such as infections.
Injuries could also exacerbate underlying conditions, such as immunodeficiencies and other diseases. But preexisting conditions don’t invalidate your claim. Because you would not have suffered exacerbated conditions if the defendant had not caused the accident, the defendant can still be held responsible for those injuries.
The money you can get from a bus accident claim is called “compensatory damages.” After a charter bus crash, you could recover compensatory damages in the form of economic and non-economic damages.
Special damages, usually referred to as economic damages, have a distinct monetary value and can be easily proven with bills and receipt. Economic damages can include:
- Past medical expenses for those incurred in the accident and before a settlement or trial award.
- Future medical expenses for those incurred in the accident and after a settlement or trial award. (Medical expenses also include expenses for physical therapy, psychological therapy, occupational therapy, and cognitive therapy.)
- Past lost wages for those lost from the time of the accident through the time you settle or receive a trial award.
- Future lost wages for those lost because of accident injuries and incurred after a settlement or trial award. You could receive partial future lost wages if you can return to work but cannot maintain the same earning capacity you had before the accident. You would receive the difference between your old salary or hourly wage and the new salary or hourly wage, which could be significant if your accident injuries caused severe disabilities.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property, such as a phone or laptop you might have been carrying on the charter bus.
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses if you lost a loved one in a charter bus crash.
General damages, usually referred to as non-economic damages, do not have an exact monetary value. They refer to more abstract concepts—but they’re still important for your case! Non-economic damages can include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress if you suffered injuries in the accident.
- Emotional distress if you lost a loved one in a charter bus crash.
- Loss of quality of life if your injuries cause you to have to take medications for the rest of your life, or if you have to use medical aids such as a wheelchair or a walker for the rest of your life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer take part in activities and events with your family.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you normally do, such as house cleaning, grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, and home repair and maintenance.
- Amputation, whether you lose a limb during the accident or doctors have to amputate after the accident because the bones are severely crushed or because infection sets in an open wound and does not heal.
- Excessive scarring, such as the scarring from chemical and heat burns.
- Disfigurement if doctors cannot fully repair broken bones, ligaments, muscles, and other body parts.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a charter bus accident, a bus accident attorney can help you determine your options. Reach out now to learn more, and get the justice you deserve.