Municipal buses, school buses, and private touring buses are common on the San Francisco Bay Area’s roads. Unfortunately, crashes that involve these big, heavy vehicles can have serious consequences for riders as well as pedestrians, motorcyclists, and occupants of other vehicles.
The City and County of San Francisco indicates that the city’s municipal transportation (Muni) vehicles had an accident rate of 5.8 collisions per 100,000 miles in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Throughout the U.S., there were 78 transit buses, 15 intercity buses, and 84 school buses involved in fatal crashes in 2019 (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)).
Bus accidents can lead to serious injuries and even death. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a bus crash in California, contact the Scott Carr Law Firm’s San Francisco office at 415-799-2229. You can tell your story and get expert advice on your legal options to pursue compensation from the liable party.
California Bus Drivers Have Specific Responsibilities
Because they are also large and heavy, buses share a category with “large trucks,” according to the FMCSA. As such, bus drivers (and the business or organization that employs them) must follow specific regulations.
For example, drivers must take breaks after a certain number of hours behind the wheel. They must inspect their tires and other parts of the vehicle to make sure everything is functioning properly. When a crash occurs that involves a bus, there is generally an investigation to determine who is liable and whether the driver was following all the required regulations.
Who Is Liable in a Bus Accident?
California has a “pure comparative negligence” law that means liability for a crash can be split between all involved parties. In a bus crash, that means that there are several parties that could be partly liable:
- The driver
- The transportation company/private organization that employs the driver
- The maintenance provider for the bus
- The manufacturer of bus parts
For example, if the bus’ brakes fail due to poor upkeep, the maintenance provider could be liable. Alternately, if the brakes fail due to a defective part, the manufacturer may be liable.
Additionally, other drivers/pedestrians could be partially liable for the crash. For example, if a bus hits a pedestrian who was crossing outside a designated crosswalk, both parties may be assigned some percentage of fault.
As you can see, bus accidents can be extremely complicated in terms of liability. That’s why many bus crash victims choose to hire an attorney to walk them through the process of filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
What Kind of Damages Can You Pursue in California?
If you decide to sue the liable party or parties in a bus crash, you can seek two types of compensation: economic and non-economic damages. Unlike many other states, California doesn’t limit the amount of damages you can be awarded.
Economic damages are supposed to cover the expenses you’ve incurred due to the accident:
- Doctor’s bills
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning potential
You can also pursue non-economic damages for the other negative consequences of the accident:
- Loss of physical or sexual affection
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Because these things don’t have an objective financial value, a jurydecides how much to award. Your percentage of liability affects the amount of non-economic damages you can collect. For example, if the judge awards $10,000 and you were found to be 10 percent liable, you can only collect $9,000. Uninsured drivers cannot collect non-economic damages.
Are You Required to Hire an Attorney?
In California, you don’t need to hire a lawyer to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. However, the legal system can be complicated, and many individuals feel overwhelmed trying to figure out how to build a case.
Additionally, there is a statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits in California. You only have two years to initiate a lawsuit. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you gather evidence and file your case as soon as possible.