Riding a city bus is a common, everyday occurrence. However, when you consider it closely, you realize that it requires a great amount of trust. You are essentially putting your safety in the hands of the driver, and bus accidents are more common than many realize. Recent statistics show that Florida is the fourth-leading state in bus accident deaths.
Bus drivers operate under a special set of laws called “common carrier” laws. Common carrier laws make bus drivers responsible for your safety.
Because customers are the very reason a business exists, businesses have a responsibility to care for their customers’ safety. Business properties are subject to premises liability laws. Browsers and buyers are a business’s “invitees,” and the business must shield them from danger.
Common carrier laws work much the same way. Passengers are afforded the utmost care under a driver’s supervision. For this reason, drivers must rigidly follow certain rules. For example, bus drivers must adhere to a different speed limit. They must, by law, go slower than regular traffic. There are also rules associated with turns and passes on the road, and drivers must stop at all railroad crossings. Conversation with passengers is forbidden, as drivers must be alert at all times. These laws affect how long a driver can work as well. There is a maximum number of hours they can be on the job. In 7 days, they can work no more than 60 hours; in 8 days, they can work no more than 70 hours.
The result of these laws is this: Bus drivers have a high degree of liability in an accident. Mistakes are no excuse for endangering passengers. If the driver was in any way responsible for the accident, you can hold them accountable.
In a bus accident, you should immediately tend to your wounds and help anyone else you can. There will likely be many people involved in the accident, and they could all be hurt. Busses offer little in the way of protecting passengers. After taking care of urgent concerns, call emergency services, and have your injuries treated.
Once you receive your treatment, call your insurance company. Currently, Florida insurance uses a no-fault, personal injury protection (PIP) system. (This could change soon.) In a no-fault system, you can receive insurance benefits to cover your injuries, regardless of who is responsible. PIP, however, does have its limits. For emergency care, PIP will cover 80% of the cost, up to $10,000. The insurance company could, however, deem your injury a non-emergency, covering up to only $2,500 of the cost. For lost wages, PIP offers just 60% of your total loss. You can turn to your health insurance for more help, but there could be limits on that as well. With bills piling up and lost wages limiting your income, your only remaining option may be a lawsuit.
Generally, public busses do not belong to the city. The city typically contracts with a company that owns the busses, handles their upkeep, hires and trains drivers, etc. Common carrier laws apply when the bussing company is private. When filing a lawsuit is necessary, you will most likely want to sue the company, not the individual driver. The company holds the insurance and is more financially equipped to compensate you.
The fact that busses are not owned by the city works in your favor. If they are municipal, seeking damages becomes more complicated. Government entities are protected by something called “sovereign immunity.” This makes suing them more difficult than private companies. The deadlines to file suit are much shorter, sometimes as short as two months. You would also have to sue the Department of Transportation itself, which creates its own problems. These complications are not insurmountable. If, by chance, the bus is city-owned, a skilled lawyer can still bring forth a lawsuit, deftly navigating around legal red tape.
When you are awarded money in a civil lawsuit, the money is referred to as “compensation” or “damages.” Bus accident damages are much the same as in any car accident. You can be compensated for your medical bills. Lost wages and the loss of potential wages can be reimbursed. You may also be eligible for damages related to your pain and suffering.