Legal Representation For Bus Collision Victims
Millions of Americans ride buses every day to go to work or school or to run errands. Many of us also use buses to travel across the country or take organized tours. But, what if you are injured while riding on a bus? If you have been hurt or have lost a loved one in a bus crash, it’s vital that you take immediate legal action. The deadline for filing a personal injury or wrongful death claim in Washington state is generally only three years. However, a tort claim may be necessary if the lawsuit is against a city, state or other governmental entity. This could decrease the time for commencing a civil cause of action. Other factors could limit or expand the time to start a lawsuit. To file a successful claim, it is important to have a skilled attorney who has handled bus collisions before.
The Seattle auto accident lawyers at Pendergast Law, have been successfully representing Seattle-area injury victims and their families for over four decades. Our experience gives us an edge against powerful transit corporations and insurance companies. Bus accidents are complicated, but we can make your recovery simpler. Get help from one of our Seattle accident lawyers today.
To schedule a free one-on-one consultation, dial 888-539-9211.
Who Is Liable In A Washington Bus Accident?
Determining fault in a bus accident can be extremely complicated, and there may be multiple contributing parties. Our knowledgeable attorneys can investigate the accident and identify the liable party, which could be any of the following, among others:
- The bus driver: It’s common to want to blame the driver – any driver – when an accident occurs. Bus drivers are not immune to errors while operating vehicles, and if the accident was caused by an unsafe lane change or because the bus was following another vehicle too closely and rear-ended it, the driver of the bus would be to blame. This might seem like a fairly straightforward case, but the bus driver is not operating his or her own vehicle and doesn’t have personal insurance for the bus. Instead, the public bus company will have its own insurance. In Washington, those companies are the Washington State Transit Association (WSTA) and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). This makes it more complicated to file a claim, as filing an accident claim against a government entity has tighter deadlines and more paperwork than filing a claim against a private individual’s insurance policy.
- The bus company: WSTA and WSDOT are not the only companies that run buses. You may have been hurt by a school bus, a charter bus, or a tour bus, and, in all these cases, the bus company could be at fault. Bus companies have a duty of care to ensure that their buses are safe for all passengers. If the bus was overloaded with passengers and luggage, or if the vehicle was improperly maintained, these conditions could cause an accident while the bus is on the road, and the bus company is certainly responsible for them. If the bus company didn’t properly vet its drivers, or if it hired a driver with a history of drunk driving, the bus company can also be held responsible. Bus companies typically have insurance that covers all passengers on the bus. If the bus company is proven to be at fault, this insurance will give you the compensation you deserve with the help of a Seattle bus collision attorney.
- A negligent driver: Sometimes, the bus was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and when it’s the fault of neither the bus driver nor the bus company, it could be the fault of another driver. In these cases, the bus might have partial insurance that will protect the passengers on board, but the at-fault driver of the other car may also be sued for the victims’ compensation.
- The bus manufacturer: Maybe a tire rips and flies off the bus or perhaps the brakes weren’t properly maintained and they fail, causing a wreck. If something goes wrong with the bus, and it’s because the bus manufacturer did not properly install or manufacture the vehicle parts, the bus manufacturer is to blame. Bus manufacturers are typically large organizations with large teams of lawyers who know how to get out of paying money, so it can be very difficult for victims to get compensation without a legal team of their own to fight back.
What Bus Driver Actions May Lead To Passenger Injuries?
While there are many reasons behind bus accidents, often, human error is at the heart of the matter. Trained bus drivers have been known to make major mistakes on the road, leading to a serious crash. Because they are in charge of the safety of so many people, their errors are more likely to result in numerous injuries. Some common mistakes include:
- Ignoring traffic signals
- Driving at an unsafe speed
- Not stopping at railroad crossings
- Not checking mirrors before turning/changing lanes
- Stopping or starting suddenly
Any of these actions may lead to a collision with another vehicle or might throw passengers from their seats, even if there is no collision. While some mistakes occur due to a lapse in focus or judgment, there may be other factors involved, such as:
- Health issues, such as heart problems
- Sleep apnea, which may lead to falling asleep at the wheel
- The inability to cope with distractions from passengers or devices
- Lack of training for operating the bus safely
- Inexperience on the road or with a new route
The responsibility for these conditions is shared between the bus driver and the bus company. If the company hired someone who had a history of bad driving or bad health, the company might be liable if the bus driver ends up causing an accident.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bus Accidents
The following frequently asked questions should be able to provide some answers for you.
Do bus passengers have any special protections?
Yes. Buses are considered “common carriers.” A common carrier can be defined as an entity who is in the business of transporting people or goods from one place to another for compensation. A common carrier has an “utmost duty of care” for its passengers. In other words, passengers are the bus company’s customers, making the bus company responsible for their safety. This responsibility includes providing adequate compensation for medical bills and other related losses after a crash. However, bus companies often try to save money by denying injury claims and offering quick, small settlements to make the claims go away. An attorney at Pendergast Law can stop that.
Who is liable if I’m robbed or assaulted while on the bus?
If you were robbed or assaulted while on the bus, the person or persons who accosted you could be held liable. The bus company or the city in charge of the transit system may also be held liable for not having adequate security. Remember, as buses are common carriers, bus owners are responsible for your safety.
If I am a pedestrian who was hit by a bus. Do I have grounds for a lawsuit?
It all comes down to fault. If you were hit due to the bus driver’s negligence, you absolutely have grounds for a lawsuit against the bus driver and the company that hired them. However, Washington is a comparative, or contributory, fault state, meaning that your level of fault can reduce the percentage of damages you can claim. Suppose you, as a pedestrian, were struck by a bus while in the crosswalk while you were crossing against the light (not obeying the traffic signal). As a pedestrian, you have the right of way, so the bus driver could be partially at fault for the accident. But, you were acting carelessly by not obeying the traffic signal, so you share a percentage of fault for the accident. The courts may rule that the bus driver was 60% responsible for the accident and you were 40% responsible for the accident. In that case, you could only recover 60% of your total damages.
If I am a driver involved in an accident with a bus. Do I have grounds for a lawsuit?
Once again, it depends on who’s at fault. If the bus caused the accident, the bus driver and the bus company can be held liable. If a third party – another driver, the bus manufacturer, etc. – caused the accident, they would be held at fault.
If you have more specific questions or have been injured in a bus accident, contact a Seattle injury lawyer at Pendergast Law for a free consultation. We’d be honored to help.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Washington Bus Accident Claims?
Under Wash. Rev. Code Ann. section 4.16.080, bus accident victims may legally pursue a personal injury claim against the responsible party or parties within three years of the date of the accident or the discovery of injuries related to the accident. Failing to file before the deadline will result in a forfeiture of rights – meaning that you can no longer file a claim for compensation. If an immediate family member, such as a spouse, child or parent, was killed in a bus accident, the statute of limitations is also three years. As previously mentioned, other factors may apply to limit the time period to shorter than three years or potentially be an exception to that rule.
What Kind Of Damages Can Be Claimed After A Bus Accident?
That depends on your injuries and what degree of fault you had in the accident. Possible damages could include any of the following:
- Current medical bills and future medical bills resulting from the original injury (such as from skin grafts, plastic surgeries, etc.)
- Pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional trauma
- Costs of physical therapy, rehabilitation and vehicle modifications (such as wheelchair ramps and lifts, etc.)
- Loss of a limb or paralysis
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Property damage and loss
- Lost wages from missed work and loss of career or earning capacity
- Permanent injury or disability
- Hedonic damages (loss of joy of life)
In the unfortunate case that you’ve lost a loved one in a bus accident, you may sue the negligent party for wrongful death damages that may include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering of the deceased before death
- Mental anguish and emotional duress
- Loss of future wages
- Loss of future benefits (such as medical benefits and retirement benefits)
- Loss of love, affection, companionship, guidance, marital consortium, etc.
- Loss of household tasks that the deceased used to perform (such as child care, property and vehicle maintenance, repairs and other chores, etc.)
Obtaining Justice For Bus Accident Victims In Washington
If you have been injured or have lost a family member in a Seattle bus accident, you have options. And you don’t need to face the battle for rightful compensation alone. Our legal team at Pendergast Law will put its decades of collective experience behind your case to help you get the settlement you deserve. We will fight tirelessly to protect your best interests while you and your family focus on healing.
Do not hesitate to call us today at 888-539-9211 for a free one-on-one consultation with a Washington bus accident attorney. We charge no upfront fees, and we will not take any payment unless we negotiate just compensation for you.