If a city bus hits and injures you, you may have the legal right to sue the city. You might also have a claim against other parties that have no affiliation with the city.
You’ll need an experienced bus accident attorney to maximize your chances of receiving fair compensation because cases involving local governments typically involve more complex laws and tighter deadlines than other traffic accident lawsuits.
Overview of Liability for Bus Accidents
In general, you can sue anyone the law deems liable for the harm you suffered when a city bus hit you. The specifics change when a government body bears that liability.
Here’s an overview of how liability generally works in bus accident cases and the complexities of liability when a city government owns or operates the bus.
General Principles of Bus Accident Liability
Liability is the legal obligation someone has to pay for damages they wrongfully caused to someone else. It takes account of the specific circumstances of an accident, the rules governing it, and the involved parties.
In most bus accident cases, liability goes hand in hand with the legal concept of negligence. Negligence happens when someone fails to exercise reasonable care in a given situation, leading to harm. A party who causes a bus accident through negligence will typically have liability for an accident victim’s losses.
Examples of negligence that can lead to liability for a bus accident include:
- Speeding in a bus
- Operating a bus while excessively tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Failing to inspect or maintain a bus in roadworthy condition
- Driving a passenger car erratically while sharing the road with a bus
- Violating a bus safety law or regulation
These are just some possibilities. Any actions that fall short of reasonable care can constitute negligence, trigger a bus accident, and lead to the negligent party’s liability to injured victims.
Negligence, however, isn’t the only legal principle that can lead to liability for a bus accident. Sometimes an individual, business, or entity may owe damages to bus accident victims without having acted negligently.
For instance, manufacturers of defective buses or bus parts may bear responsibility for a crash even if they didn’t act negligently in designing, manufacturing, or selling their products (the concept of strict liability). Insurance companies can owe money to victims of a bus accident under the terms of a liability insurance policy, which is a contract agreeing to cover someone else’s liability for causing a crash.
The most reliable way to determine who is liable for your damages is to hire an experienced attorney who represents bus crash victims. Attorneys have years of training and experience to guide them in analyzing facts and legal concepts to determine which party (or parties) owes damages for any harm.
Special Considerations for City Liability in Bus Crashes
As in the previous discussion, the general principles of liability apply when a city bus has hit you. A few significant exceptions and limitations apply to a crash involving government entities and employees.
A government agency (for example, a city transportation department) or a company acting under a government contract usually owns and operates city buses and hires government employees or licensed city contractors to drive them.
Unlike private individuals or organizations, governments and their employees aren’t liable for damages unless a law specifically authorizes it. The legal terminology is sovereign immunity. It’s not possible to sue the government unless it agrees—through enactment of a statute or regulation—to waive its immunity.
Cities are political subdivisions of the states. As such, you can only sue cities and their employees in connection with their official actions if a state law says so. Most states have laws waiving cities’ sovereign immunity for accidents resulting in personal injuries. But those laws often limit your ability to sue a city for damages in ways that don’t apply to claims against private parties.
- You may only have the right to sue a city agency (such as a transportation department), not an individual city employee (such as a negligent bus driver).
- You may have to give the city notice of your potential claim within a short period of time after the accident (a month or two) or lose your right to sue.
- You may have to wait to file your claim until after the city has responded to your notification.
- The law may cap the amount a court can order the city to pay you in damages.
Every state has its own rules for when and how you can sue a city for damages after a bus accident. Hiring an experienced attorney as soon as possible is the only reliable way to learn about the laws that govern a claim against the city in your case.
Multiple Liable Parties
Many bus accidents have more than one cause and, consequently, multiple potentially liable parties. Generally speaking, bus accident victims can sue all parties liable for their injuries—you don’t have to pick just one. That can, however, introduce complications when a city bus hits you.
To illustrate, suppose a bus hits you as a result of both a city bus driver’s careless driving and a private motorist’s failure to yield the right of way to the bus. In such a case, you could have a claim against the city (subject to the sovereign immunity-related limitations) and against the private motorist (not subject to those limitations).
The potential combination of government and private liability for your injuries adds yet another layer of complexity to a city bus accident case—another reason to hire an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Although your claims against those parties would be separate and subject to different rules and time limits, the steps you take against one could significantly influence your rights against the other.
In other words, don’t risk making a mistake that undermines your claims against every party at fault for your city bus accident. Contact a lawyer today to preserve your options and access compensation.
Potential Compensation After a City Bus Hits You
A claim for damages against the city or a private party can typically seek compensation for a wide range of injuries. You may have the right to demand payment for your medical expenses, both present and future, that relate directly to the injuries from the accident.
If your injuries prevent you from working, you could claim compensation for lost earnings and job benefits. You may also have the right to claim non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and the loss of your quality of life.
The precise amount of compensation you can recover varies from case to case and depends on multiple factors, including the severity of your injuries, the financial resources of the liable party (or parties), and any legal limitations on the amount you can demand from the city. A skilled lawyer can evaluate your harm and calculate the damages you may claim from the city or another liable party.
A Lawyer’s Role in Seeking Compensation for a City Bus Accident
A skilled lawyer plays a vital role in fighting to maximize the compensation you receive after your bus accident. A lawyer can calculate your damages, prepare your claim, negotiate with the city and other liable parties, and take your case to court if necessary. By entrusting your case to a dedicated bus accident injury attorney, you can focus on your recovery and healing.
The specific steps a lawyer might take on your behalf will depend on your priorities and the legal and factual complexities of your claim.
Those steps might include, for example:
- Conducting an independent investigation into how the city bus hit you and who was at fault.
- Coordinating with official investigators to ensure you have as much access and input to their findings as possible.
- Giving timely notice to the city of your potential claim and engaging in any required pre-lawsuit interactions.
- Dealing with insurance companies on your behalf so that you don’t have to worry about missing a deadline or saying the wrong thing to an adjuster.
- Serving as your representative in communicating with the media.
- Answering your questions and guiding your decisions.
- Collecting evidence to support your claim for compensation against the city or private parties.
- Preparing and filing insurance claims, lawsuits, or other demands for compensation on your behalf.
- Negotiating with insurance companies, defense lawyers, or city representatives to achieve a favorable settlement of your claim if possible.
- Proving your case in a courtroom trial.
- Following through to ensure you receive the money due to you.
Bus accident lawyers aim to make these and similar services affordable to anyone who needs them. Most attorneys offer a free case consultation for bus accident victims and their families to learn about the options for seeking compensation. You don’t have to pay for a consultation if you decide not to proceed with a lawsuit.
City bus accident lawyers also regularly represent their clients on contingency. This means their fee comes out of the money they recover on your behalf. They don’t charge in advance or bill by the hour, and they only receive payment if they win for you.
What You Can Do Now to Support Your Case
After a city bus hits you, contacting a lawyer is the most significant step you can take to protect your rights and position yourself for maximum compensation. Once hired, a lawyer can take immediate steps to meet deadlines, collect evidence, and begin advocating on your behalf.
Beyond hiring a skilled attorney, you may also benefit from following these tips:
Take Care of Yourself
Your right to receive the maximum possible compensation may depend on your lawyer proving that you took reasonable steps to recover physically and emotionally from the trauma of your bus accident. Keep your doctor’s appointments, go to physical therapy, take your medicines, and follow instructions to avoid activities.
Save Paperwork for Your Lawyer
It’s likely that you’ll accumulate lots of documentation about your accident and injuries, such as medical bills, pharmacy receipts, insurance statements, and accident reports. Save all of them to show to your lawyer. Documents constitute some of the most valuable pieces of evidence in a bus accident injury claim.
Beware of Insurance Company Tactics
Insurance companies with potential liability may contact you about your injuries and losses. Be wary of what you say to them and what they ask you to do.
For example, if an insurer representing an at-fault party asks you to give a recorded interview, think carefully and, if possible, call an attorney before responding. You probably don’t have any obligation to talk to someone else’s insurer. In addition, insurance adjusters may use recorded interviews to ask loaded questions to get you to say something that undermines your claim.
In the same way, exercise extreme caution if an insurer offers you a quick settlement of your claim (especially a claim you haven’t even filed yet). The amount they offer is likely to fall far short of what a lawyer can obtain for you by handling negotiations on your behalf. Saying “yes” to what seems like easy money can forfeit your rights and leave you without the funds you need to pay your bills and recover after your accident.
Contact an Experienced City Bus Accident Lawyer Today
If an accident involving a city bus recently injured you, you may pursue a claim for damages against the city or another party. But getting the money you deserve isn’t a straightforward process. You’ll need a skilled lawyer handling your claim to recover the maximum possible compensation.
Don’t wait to seek the legal advice you need after a city bus has hit you. Contact an experienced lawyer today for a free case consultation.