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BUS ACCIDENTS AND LITIGATION

Contact the professionals at the Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm for a free consultation prior to pursuing your case.  Depending on who you were in an accident with, the procedure for pursuing your claim can be significantly different.

For example, if you were injured on a bus or by a bus that was operated by a government entity, such as the Metro or LAUSD, the rules for actions against government entities differ from actions against private citizens or corporations. 

Claims for death, injury to person or personal property against a government entity must be filed NOT later than six months after the occurrence pursuant Government Code Section 911.2. Although the statute of limitations for a personal injury matters in the state of California is two years, if you do not file a claim with the government entity prior to filing a lawsuit, you may have waived your right to pursue your case.

HOW AN ATTORNEY CAN HELP

In spite of the six-month time frame to present and file your claim, there are exceptions to the rule. The exceptions are provided by Government Code 911.6. The Government entity may grant you permission to file your claim, if you can show the following:

i.) You did not timely file your claim through mistake, inadvertence or excusable neglect. Additionally, that the government entity was not prejudiced in its defense;

ii.) When you were injured, you were a minor at all times specified in government code 911.2;

iii.) The person who was allegedly injured was physically or mentally debilitated during the time prescribed to file a claim and failed to do so because of that disability;

iv.)  The person who sustained the alleged injury, damage or loss died before the expiration of the time specified in Section 911.2 for the presentation of the claim.

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE

Do not wait contact an attorney, everyday that passes by, you may be losing evidence that can help and authenticate your case.  Nowadays video surveillance is ubiquitous, there are cameras on residential and commercial buildings, intersections, dashboards of cars, and on board buses. However, if you do not put the business, government entities, or private citizen on notice, video that may be critical to your case can be erased or destroyed due to the lapse of time. 

What we can do is provide notice to all parties that may have video or any other evidence which can support your case. We will send an anti-spoliation letters to potential witnesses, businesses or government entities, which will essentially put them on notice that your case is pending litigation and that they NOT to destroy, conceal, or alter any video, files or any electrical data. All evidence that relates to your case must be preserved.         

PROVING YOUR CASE AND ACCIDENT RECONSTRUCTIONISTS

Simply put, litigation is expensive and time consuming and given the climate in the insurance industry, you will need an accident reconstructionist. Accident reconstructionists usually have degrees in forensic engineering, physics and/or biomechanics.  They have a thorough understanding of fundamental crash mechanics, vehicle dynamics and kinematics. These skills are necessary to wade through the aftermath of an accident.  Based on the damage to the vehicles and their final resting place, the reconstructionist will calculate the speed of the vehicles involved, the direction and angles of the vehicles on impact, human factors, and the systems on board the vehicle which contributed to the accident. Yes, reconstruction is complicated and expensive, but is imperative to proving your case.

MECHANISM FOR INJURY

It is common place for insurance carriers to cite that “there was no mechanism for injury”, if you were involved in a low impact collision.  Remember insurance adjusters are not doctors and only a doctor is qualified to diagnose/identify your injuries.  If you allow an insurance adjuster to bully you around, there will be no end to that story.  An attorney can scrutinize every move and hold the adjuster accountable for their actions or lack thereof. 

In spite of what adjusters will make you believer, there is research that demonstrates that the most innocuous of traffic collisions can lead to injuries. For instance, in low-impact impact rear end collisions, one study shows that at speeds as low as 3 mph can lead to symptoms of whiplash. Moreover, visible property damage requires a vehicle to travel about 9 mph.  Only professionals, doctors, engineers and attorneys can reconcile the distance between those two numbers.

Now think about a low impact collision where a bus is involved. (An average bus weighs between 22,000 to 28,000 pounds) Irrespective of damage to your vehicle, the impact of a collision with a bus will be violent and the initial jolt will tear and bruise and puncture. In any claim, documentation is the key to success. Do not allow insurance adjuster’s to value your case, allow us to help you build your case.

Without an attorney, you may not be in a position to argue your position with the insurer.  If the insurer does not offer to even pay your medical bills, in spite of you being injured, what will be your recourse? Insurers will make you take two, three even four extra steps in order to get their attention.  You will have to make that extra call, write another letter, do research you may not be qualified to do, in order to assert a benefit under a policy.  

Insurance companies see the victims of accidents as statistics and not individuals, who are of a certain age, who have been injured before, or people who were in treatment at the time of the incident. Needless to say, we bring different life experiences and medical conditions to the table after traffic vehicle collision, we ensure that the insurers and medical providers are aware of that fact.

UNDERSTANDING THE VALUE OF YOUR CASE AND THE LEGAL PROCESS

In determining the dollar amount of your case, insurers will take the following into consideration.  (Depending on your specific case, there may be more variables to consider, but for “regular” accidents, below are your basic damages:

  • Damage to the vehicles: Insurers use this figure to assess the severity of the accident. It is used to demonstrate the speeds of the vehicles at impact and what the drivers did to mitigate damages (an example would be taking preventive measures).
  • Medical Specials: Insurer’s take into consideration the medical bills associated with the accident.  [However, unless you claim these rights, the insurer is not obligated to take into consideration, the age of a claimant, past medical history and potential for future medical expenses. The injuries to an older person or a person who has been injured in the past will need to seek more medical attention than a young and healthy individual, this is known as the “Egg Shell Rule”.
  • Medical Generals: Pain and suffering from your injuries.

Insurers take the referenced factors above and use an algorithm to determine the value of your case. The first offer is just a starting point in negotiations and not the insurers highest and best offer.  There is a lot of back and forth until the adjuster ultimately discloses their highest offer.  In today’s environment, there is not too much difference between the initial offer and their highest offer.  When the parties cannot reach a settlement, the insurance company is essentially telling you to sue the responsible party in the accident.  Insurers know that most claimants do not want to go through the hassle of filing complaint in the Superior Court system and deal with the following drawbacks:

  • First, litigation is a lengthy process, do not expect your case to be heard for two years. Remember, you are not suing the insurance company, you are suing the person who was responsible for the accident and the owner of that vehicle. More often than you think, the driver of the vehicle and the owner of the vehicle are not the same person.
  • Second, litigation requires a lot of paperwork. During the discovery stage of litigation, you will be required to answer a series of questions, provide documents and personal information that may be invasive of their privacy.  Insurance companies will use every angle available to them by law. They will try to obtain all of your medical record, which they are NOT entitled to.  
  • Third, depending on the severity of your injuries, you may be asked to undergo a medical examination hired by the defendant to assess your injuries. Remember the medical professional assessing your injuries is hired by the defendant and will conduct the examination from the defendant’s perspective.
  • Fourth, you will be required to take a deposition, which is a testimony under oath that has the same effect of testifying in a courtroom. Defense attorneys are allotted seven hours of deposition time to question you on a wide array of subjects.  It is during deposition that you are most likely to get tired, upset and make a mistake. The scope of litigation/discovery is wide and defense attorney’s will ask you questions that have no relevance to the case, but by law are allowed to ask. You need an attentive and aggressive attorney to analyze the line of questioning and object when necessary.  If your attorney fails to object at a critical point, the defendant can use your testimony at trial and that testimony can be used to impeach your character.

Insurance companies use mathematical models to lowball claimants and settle as many cases as they can prior to litigation. And the cases that do go into litigation are seen as costs of doing business, an expense insurance companies can easily afford. Insurance companies literally have nothing to lose, wherein the amount of cases that settle for less than they are worth far exceed the cases that go into litigation.

The professionals at the Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm recognize that the attitude of indifference is contagious and can motivate you into settling your case when you should be winning your case. From the onset, we aggressively push your case forward and do not rest on our laurels and let the chips fall where they may. We have timelines for office personnel to get the case moving forward and hold our members accountable. We know that your time is valuable and work towards resolution of your case so that you can move on with your life. Our job is to make sure you do not settle your case, but win your case.

EGG SHELL SKULL RULE

Simply put, the Egg Shell Rule doctrine states that you are to take the person as you find them.  For instance, there are two passengers in your vehicle, the first passenger does not have injuries and the second passenger a broken leg.  Suddenly and without warning, your vehicle gets rear ended, the injuries sustained by the second passenger will most likely be greater than the first passenger.  The responsible party will be liable for the aggravated injuries to the second passenger.    

California law recognizes the eggshell plaintiff concept and includes it in the state’s civil jury instructions. CACI 3927 provides:

“… if Plaintiff had a physical or emotional condition that was made worse by Defendant’s wrongful conduct, you must award damages that will reasonably and fairly compensate him for the effect on that condition.”

Under the “eggshell plaintiff” rule, the defendant must still compensate the victim for the full extent of the injury. To put the rule in other words, the defendant “takes the plaintiff as he finds him,” including any unique susceptibility to injury such as a congenital condition or prior injury.

Take the time to call Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm and we will answer as many of your questions as we can.  We have nothing to hide and actually prefer to disclose as many details as possible.  Our job is to see beyond the surface of the case, we are fully aware that the under belly is where the truth lies. From there, we work upward and solidify your case so that you can rest assured, we have done everything possible for a favorable resolution.

Bus accidents can be traumatizing and it has the potential of affecting many lives because it carries more passengers compared to other common carriers. Moreover, most buses do not have seat belts or are not strict on the riders and passengers using the seat belts. The passengers are also allowed to freely move about in the cabin to use the restroom or socialize. If the bus is full or overcrowded, passengers can be allowed to stand. The passengers in school buses, who are school children, are in most part unsupervised or unrestrained. Most individuals choose to commute using buses because they find it more convenient than using other common carriers. However, buses can also have their bad days and this means that they can also be involved in an accident. A bus is a large vehicle and therefore there is potential for it to cause numerous accidents at a go. You can either be affected as a bus passenger, pedestrian or while in another vehicle that is hit by the bus.

If you or your loved one has been involved in a bus accident, you should contact Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney immediately. A bus accident can lead to severe injuries and even wrongful death and therefore, the casualty is entitled to financial restitutions to cover the damages. You can depend on us to fight and defend that right At the Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, we are the best for representation, qualifications, and proficiency in the personal injury law. Call us today at 424-231-2013 for immediate assistance, to get more information about your rights following a bus accident and even get a free case evaluation.

Common Causes of Bus Accidents

There are numerous contributing factors that can cause a bus accident. The most common of these factors include:

  • Bus driver fatigue from working too many hours without rest.
  • Bus driver negligence: This includes running a red light or failing to obey all the traffic laws.
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Bus has old/ outdated equipment: A bus company is not only required to service their car regularly but to also replace old and dangerous auto parts.
  • Inadequate inspection and maintenance, which leads to mechanical malfunctions
  • Distracted driving
  • Dangerous roadways
  • Bad weather conditions
  • Lack of proper bus driver training
  • Defective product(s)

Common Injuries Resulting from Bus Accidents

Accidents can be mild or very brutal and this can result in catastrophic injuries and even death. This is especially due to the fact that the individuals involved are usually unprotected by seatbelts or airbags or even wandering freely in the bus. In such a case, the vehicle is harder to control and the chances of being flipped over are high. Buses can also lose control or stop suddenly which can injure the passengers, pedestrians and other motorists. When a bus accident occurs, serious injuries can be experienced if the passengers’ bodies are flung about or even thrown out of the vehicle. In other cases, unsecured luggage and debris can also strike a passenger leading to serious injuries. Some of the common injuries that bus accident victims can sustain include:

  • Spinal cord damage- which can lead to paralysis
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Broken nose and dental injuries
  • Internal bleeding and organ damage
  • Head injuries
  • Whiplash and other neck injuries
  • Cuts and bruises including facial lacerations
  • Broken bones
  • Slipped discs and lower back injuries

What to Do If You Have Been Involved in a Bus Accident

  • Obtain appropriate medical care

The first thing that you should do after a bus accident is to seek prompt medical attention. If the other people that were involved are badly injured, you can call for emergency help. When talking to the medical practitioners, ensure that you give them all the details on the symptoms that you might have. Do not underestimate the severity of your injuries because some may take time to show. Make sure you get a complete examination and a copy of the medical records. Additionally, you should try to do everything instructed by the doctor including taking your meds and follow-up visits. This will help in quick recovery and also deny the at-fault party the chance to claim that you are also responsible for your condition.

  • If medical care can wait, collect the necessary contact information

Before going to the hospital, it is necessary to ensure that you collect enough information from the scene of the accident. This involves putting down the names and contact information of those who were involved including the bus driver, bus owner, several passengers and other witnesses. Also, remember to record the bus’s plate number. You could as well take photos and a video recording the accident scene, visible injuries and other vehicles involved in the accident. Also include the date and time of day when the accident occurred, the weather conditions, traffic conditions and other details of how the accident occurred. This should be done immediately because memories may fade. All this information will act as evidence when making your claim.

  • Call the police and be cooperative

If you are in a good condition, you should consider calling the police to do their investigation and collect information on the accident. The police will record a report and you can as well ask for a copy which you can later give your lawyer to help build a strong case for you.

  • Contact an experienced personal injury attorney

You should retain a lawyer with experience in bus accident to assist you with your case. In this period, you must not talk to the insurance company or the bus owner. This is because you may innocently give out information that can be used to dismiss your claims. Instead of talking to the other parties directly, let your attorney do the talking. An attorney has the tactics and resources necessary to investigate your case and come up with testimonies and evidence that will increase your chances of getting compensation for the damages.

Who Can File a Bus Accident Injury Claim?

Individuals involved in a bus accident can file their personal injury claims either against a public or private organization. Individuals who can file a claim in the case of a bus accident include:

  • A pedestrian struck by the bus
  • Pedestrian who were in the process of boarding or alighting a bus
  • A bus passenger
  • A driver or passenger of a separate motor vehicle hit by a bus
  •  Bus driver (mostly connected to workers’ compensation)

What Kinds of Compensation Are Recoverable In a Bus Accident?

Depending on the nature of injuries sustained, your bus accident attorney may identify possible claims for:

  • Cost of medical treatment (past and future)
  • Impairment of earning capacity
  • Loss of wages
  • Life care expenses (in case of catastrophic injuries)
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium (ability to perform spousal duties)
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Punitive damages
  • Wrongful death

An experienced Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney can help determine the type of damages to which you may be entitled. The circumstances of the accident will also determine the extent of damages. In situations where there are several parties liable for the accident, monetary damages will be apportioned. Damages are calculated on the basis of the claimant’s injuries, marital status and dependents, current earnings and loss of future earning capacity, past, present and future medical costs and the nature and extent of the injuries. It is in your best interest to contact Los Angeles Personal Injury to help determine your potential base for recovery. Call us now at 424-231-2013 for a free consultation and free case evaluation.

Liable parties in a bus accident

The question of who is responsible for injuries and other damages in a bus accident is usually central. During the early stages of your case, your lawyer should identify all the parties involved such as the bus owner, the company that operates it, and the company that offers repair and maintenance services. Therefore it is critical to find an attorney who will be able to locate all the potential parties liable for the crash. Your attorney may identify the following category of individuals or entities as parties liable for your injuries:

  • The Bus Company

The bus company is responsible for enhancing the safety of the passengers by ensuring that the bus is in good condition at all times and that the driver is properly trained. A bus company can be held responsible for the mishap if the bus had faulty brakes, overused tires or a shaky steering wheel. This as well involves hiring unqualified drivers or negligently training them.

  • Bus Maintenance Company

A bus company may contract an independent company to repair and service their vehicles and ensure that it is in a safe mechanical condition. The maintenance company can, therefore, be sued independently for faulty inspection and negligent maintenance.

  • Bus Driver

Most accidents are usually as a result of a driver’s negligence such as violating traffic laws, falling asleep while on the wheel, distracted driving, or driving under the influence. Under California Code Section 2100, a carrier of persons must use utmost care and diligence and exercise a reasonable degree of skill to keep their passengers safe. A driver, therefore, can be sued for negligence.

  • Manufacturers of the Bus or its Parts

A defective bus or product that is introduced from the factory to the marketplace exposes passengers to danger and harm. If the defective vehicle or product causes a crash, then the manufacturer will be held responsible. In other situations, the retailer of the defective product can also be liable for the injuries.

  • Local and State Governments

Governments may also be held responsible for injuries if a government-owned bus was involved or if the bus driver is a government employee. If a government responsible for maintaining roads and not correct a dangerous road condition, then they can be held liable for the bus crash.

  • School Boards

The school board is the employer of a bus driver and this makes them accountable for the negligent behavior of the driver. Additionally, if the school board leaves children vulnerable to injuries by failing to implement or enforce enough safety standards, they will also be responsible for the accident.

Statute of Limitation for Filing a Lawsuit

A bus accident victim generally has 2 years to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. This law, however, is different in cases where a public entity (local or state government) is responsible for the injuries. In such circumstances, the plaintiff has 6 months (180 days) to file a claim, failure to which the victim will be barred from recovery. To avoid losing your right to compensation for injuries caused by a negligent party, do not hesitate to contact us today.

Bus Accident Statistics

Buses are usually considered to be safer than other common carriers but this does not mean that accidents do not happen. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recorded that 4,311 large buses and tracks were involved in fatal crashes which was an 8% increase from 2014. The number of buses involved in fatal crashes increased from 236 in 2014 to 261 in 2015, which is an 11% increase. Of the 236 bus crashes in 2015, 107 of them involved school buses.

When you enter a bus or put your child onto a school bus, you entrust your safety with the driver, the bus company, and other categories of individuals. The last thing in your mind is an accident yet they do happen. A bus accident can have adverse effects both emotionally and physically not only to the injured victim but also their family members and dependents. The California law has a mechanism that ensures that the casualties of bus accidents get compensation from those at fault. Working with the Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney can help you obtain the justice and monetary compensation that you deserve. Give us a call now at 424-231-2013 for a free legal consultation with an attorney that has experience with bus accident injuries. We have the commitment, resources, and passion for getting maximum recovery for your losses.