Georgia residents take over 142 million trips on the state’s public transportation system every year. This system is incredibly safe, but even it is not exempt from accidents.
When such accidents do occur, they tend to be quite serious. Often, their aftermath also proves to be far more complicated than victims expect.
Who is liable when a bus accident occurs? What should you do if you are the victim of such a crash? Here are the facts.
Bus Drivers and Liability
In standard crashes involving private vehicles, such as when two cars collide, the drivers of the vehicles tend to be at fault. They may share that fault or one may be the innocent victim of the other. Who is liable for damages depends on how much fault each party is assigned as a result of the ensuing investigation.
Things can become more complicated if one or both drivers were operating vehicles they did not own. In that case, the owners of the vehicles and their insurance coverage will also come into play. The laws governing fault and liability, however, remain largely straightforward.
When a large passenger vehicle such as a bus crashes, the situation is very different. In most cases, the driver is an employee of the company that owns the bus. It is therefore the company’s responsibility to make sure that the driver is:
- Held accountable for their behavior
This means that drivers themselves are rarely liable for an accident. Exceptions may be made when drivers are:
- Grossly negligent
- In active violation of their training or company policy
- Found to have acted with malicious intent
Most of the time, though, passengers cannot expect to hold drivers liable for injuries or damages after an accident.
Private Bus Company Liability
Private bus companies bear the brunt of liability in the event of an accident. In light of the service they provide, they have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their passengers. They must also carry insurance to pay for passengers’ injuries or damages in the event of an accident.
Unfortunately, this does not always mean that passengers who suffer injuries or damages will receive all the money they should. Due to the number of people involved, bus accidents are often costly affairs. Bus companies’ insurance policies may have maximum payout limits that are not high enough to cover all of the injuries or damages sustained.
This can leave passengers with only a fraction of the reimbursement they need to cover their losses.
A public bus accident can be even messier. Since public transportation is a government owned and operated service, there are firm legal limits on its liability. This can make it difficult, at best, to bring a bus accident lawsuit against the service and receive compensation after an accident.
As with private bus companies, limits on total compensation may also be in place. This can further complicate passengers’ ability to receive full compensation after a bus accident injury or property loss.
Other Complicating Factors
To muddy the waters even more, bus accidents are prone to a range of other complicating factors. For example, private vehicle owners may cause collisions through unsafe driving. In that case, the responsible driver shares liability for the accident and resulting damages.
Similarly, accidents may arise from other factors outside the bus company’s control such as:
- Bad weather
- Unmaintained roadways
- Improper maintenance performed by a third-party contractor
- Acts of violence or malice by third-party actors
Each of these situations may limit a bus operator’s liability and create liability on the part of another party. Before victims can receive any compensation, the thorny questions of relative liability in an accident must be sorted out.
On top of all of that, victims face many of the same challenges that apply in private vehicle crashes, such as proving that a given injury or loss is related to the accident and not pre-existing.
What to Do if You Are in a Bus Accident
At first glance, the complexities of a bus accident and the associated compensation issues can appear overwhelming. Fortunately, there are several simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your rights to compensation if you are in an accident.
Get Medical Attention Right Away
First and foremost, if you are involved in a bus accident, seek medical attention right away. Even if you think that you are uninjured or suffered only minor injuries, visit an ER or your doctor as soon as possible for a complete check-up. This will enable you to:
- Identify hard-to-recognize injuries
- Start receiving correct treatment right away
- Acquire documentation of your situation and costs
All of this will be essential to pursuing compensation, regardless of the details of the case.
Secure an Attorney
Navigating the legalities around bus accidents can be time-consuming, stressful, and complicated. If you are injured and need to focus on recovery, it can be outright impossible. But waiting until you recover is not an option.
By then, you may have missed key deadlines and be unable to pursue bus accident lawsuits against the liable parties. Alternatively, you may accept compensation without realizing that doing so negates your right to any additional funds. This can leave you far short of what you need and deserve.
Securing a bus accident lawyer as soon as possible protects your rights and interests. It is essential to select a lawyer that works specifically with bus-related cases, as other attorneys are unlikely to have the experience necessary to handle the unique factors that tend to arise in bus cases.
A dedicated bus accident attorney can help you identify all of the liable parties, sort out relative liability, and receive the full compensation to which you are entitled.
Schedule a Consultation Today
If you or a loved one is the victim of a bus accident, don’t wait. Schedule a consultation today and talk to an experienced attorney about how to move forward with your case and get the compensation you deserve.