Buses are still Popular in Atlanta

We may think of using commercial bus services as the safest way to get from point A to point B, but buses are not exempt from accidental collisions. Because they are bigger and more difficult to maneuver and/or stop in emergency situations, buses can and do become involved in serious accidents. Because there are so many buses on the road, statistically they are very likely to be involved in accidents. Whether the bus driver or the driver of another vehicle is at-fault in the accident, passengers can be seriously injured when this happens.

In Georgia, there are over 120 transportation operators, including those owned by churches, long distance coaches that travel state to state such as Megabus, tour buses, rental buses, private schools. In an accident, it can be difficult to determine precisely who is at fault. It could be the driver of the bus itself, the bus’s owners/operators or even their mechanics or the people who own/operate and maintain other involved vehicles that are held liable for the injuries. Fortunately, commercial vehicles are usually heavily insured. Proving a claim in such circumstances can be extremely difficult since there are so many variables and potential defendants to be examined. Hiring an experienced attorney can help make the process easier and more effective.

Causes of Bus Accidents

The causes of bus accidents aren’t unlike those associated with car accidents. Many accidents are caused by the negligence of either the bus driver or other involved drivers, but defective manufacture and poor maintenance can also contribute to accident.

Specific causes of bus accidents in Georgia can include:

  • The driver’s failure to be aware of their surroundings
  • Improper maneuvering
  • Inadequate training or credentials of the driver
  • Inadequate maintenance of the vehicle
  • A deficiency in the manufacturing
  • Violation of traffic laws and specific bus regulations
  • Operating the bus in excess of permitted speed limits

How Can Bus Passengers Become Injured in a Bus Accident?

The fact that the bus is big and very heavy can mean that sometimes passengers are not injured in a bus accident. However, that’s not always the case. When a bus collides at speed with anything there is the potential for serious injury. This is especially true when it collides or is hit by another large vehicle.
These impacts can cause the bus to tip over or roll, throwing the unprotected passengers around the interior like rag-dolls. Broken glass, flying objects and the bodies of other passengers can injure victims in a bus accident. In a large, heavy vehicle, even the violent forces of a sudden stop or a less dramatic collision can result in injuries such whiplash and/or other soft-tissue injuries that can incapacitate the victim.

It is for these reasons that operators of buses and all other commercial vehicles are held to higher standards for safety protocols. When they fail, innocent people can suffer greatly.

As a Passenger, Fault Does Not Matter

Unlike other accidents involving privately owned vehicles, in an accident with a commercial vehicle there are a greater number of factors to be considered.

You, as a passenger, cannot be held responsible for damages since you were relying on the bus company and driver for your safety. According to the law, the bus driver and the company have a statutory duty of care owed to you.

If the bus in which you were riding collided with another commercial vehicle, the fault could be found to be either or both the drivers, either or both of the companies operating the vehicles, and any number of other possibilities. This means determining exactly who to hold responsible for your injuries can be extremely difficult. Nevertheless, it is essential that the correct defendant(s) be correctly identified and held financially liable for injuries they caused.

Buses and Insurance Companies

Because of the possibility of severe injury to multiple people in a bus accident, the law requires that buses be highly insured. This also means that the insurance company representing the bus company is highly motivated to fight claims brought by impacted victims. Large insurance carriers employ teams of lawyers whose only job is to fight against claimants and to keep the company from paying claims from victims. These ‘hired guns’ can represent a difficult obstacle to a claimant who is not represented by a lawyer.

While there are often higher levels of insurance coverage for carriers, the policies will have limits to the amount of compensation available per person – for example a private bus carrying 43 passengers could be able to split the compensation among all 43 passengers if all had injuries. In other words, the larger pool of possible compensation does not always mean a larger pay-out.

What Losses Can Be Compensated in a Bus Accident

The following list details some of the kinds of injuries and losses that can be claimed and may be compensated.

  • Loss of income including time spent for follow-up appointments or physical therapy
  • Medical bills including hospital or surgical costs and follow-up care
  • Pain and suffering

Your attorney may find other compensable damages after examining the circumstances of your accident.

Obstacles Bus Accident Victims Face When Seeking Compensation

It can be challenging to pursue a claim against a transportation company of any size. The larger the company, the more difficult it can be. The structure of businesses can make finding the right people to speak to difficult and negotiating with them even more difficult.

Sorting out the company who insures the at-fault driver and the company itself is not as straightforward in an accident involving a Georgia transportation company. The bus company will probably not give you their insurance information at the scene of the accident as would happen in a car accident.

Remember, in such accidents there may also be multiple layers of responsible parties. Those liable for your injuries could be anybody from the driver of the bus to the person who trained that driver, or performed the maintenance on the bus. Rest assured, the company in question and the insurance company involved will not make it easy for you to pursue your claim, let alone win it.

Big companies have attorneys who work 24/7 to down-play and deny the severity of your injuries so that the company will not have to pay. This happens in car accidents as well, but since there may be a larger number of victims in a bus accident, more money is involved. The efforts to deny all claims will be magnified. It may be in your best interest to hire your own attorney to counter those efforts to deny your claim.

You May Be Running Out of Time

If for no other reason, you may want to consult with an attorney soon after your bus accident because the time limit to file these actions could be limited.

Usually, an accident victim has two years to bring action for a personal injury claim, however, bus accident claims can be a little different. Depending upon who owned the bus in which you were injured, there may be other time restrictions.

If the bus in which you were injured was one operating for the government, as in school or MARTA buses, the statute of limitations for filing a claim against the government is shorter than other claims. You will have a mere six months after an accident with a city or county vehicle – or one year after an accident with a state vehicle. Other bus accident victims have a general two-year timeframe to file a claim according to Georgia law. (OCGA § 9-3-33.)