Yes, you can sue a bus company. When a bus is involved in a crash, injured passengers typically want to know if they cansue a public transportation companyor if they can get compensation without suing the company or the bus driver. They want to be treated fairly but often don't know where to begin.
There are some unique aspects of bus accident lawsuits that differ from run-of-the-mill car accident cases. It's important forinjury victimsto know that your time to get a financial recovery may be shorter and there may be more special requirements for your case.
Can You Sue a Bus Company or Public Transportation?
How the lawsuit proceeds will depend upon whether the bus company is privately owned or owned by a unit of state or local government.
For example, a school bus may be owned by a school district — a government entity — or a private company:
- If the bus involved in your accident wasprivately owned, the process will follow the procedures that normally apply innegligenceand personal injury cases.
- If the bus company isowned by a government agency, the legal process will be accelerated. There will be special procedural requirements to make a claim, as well as a cap on the total amount of damages available to you. Get legal advice promptly.
If the bus company employees aregovernment employees, they may receive the protection of "sovereign immunity."
Sovereign Immunity When Suing Government Employees
Government entities have someimmunity from lawsuits. That doesn't mean you can't sue a government-operated bus company. Most government units will permit a lawsuit to proceed with stricter procedural requirements.
A traditional interpretation of the sovereign immunity doctrine suggests that school districts, cities, municipalities, and counties are not entitled to sovereign immunity. But that is under debate.
A bus accident lawyer will closely examine the local interpretation of sovereign immunity and procedural requirements and will advise you on your specific case.
Suing a Bus Company: Cap on Damages
Lawsuits against government agencies usually have adamage capthat limits financial recovery.
States often deny "non-economic damages" such aspain and suffering, as well as deny or limitpunitive damagesintended to punish the responsible party.
Reasons to Sue a Bus Company
If you suffered physical injuries,lost income, or your property was damaged, a personal injury lawsuit may be the best option for gettingfull and fair compensation. If the bus company or its employees caused or contributed to the accident, they can be held accountable.
As is the case with any vehicle accident, it may not be immediately known what caused the crash. It could be driver error, or a maintenance problem with the vehicle, or road conditions, or something else.
The bus company will investigate the cause of the crash, but an injury victim may never find out what that investigation uncovers.Involving a personal injury attorneyin your case will help ensure there is an investigation and you are kept informed.
Can You Get Compensation Without Suing?
It's possible that you can get compensation for your medical bills without suing.
Usually, after an accident, an insurance company agent will contact you to gather information about your bus accident injury. Later, the insurance company may make you a financial offer.
If you accept that offer, you will be asked to sign a paper stating that you understand this is all the money you will be receiving on your personal injury claim.
Considering Compensation Offers in a Lawsuit
Was the money offered enough to cover the cost of your medical bills and rehabilitation costs — now and in the future? Did it cover your lost wages? Or needed equipment or medical supplies?
It may not. When you have your own lawyer working for you, they will work with all of your medical providers to determine your future needs as well as your current bills. Their goal is to ensure your financial recovery is adequate.
Of course, the bus company may say someone else was at fault. That party may dispute it. Now you may have no offer on the table. And the clock is running out on thestatutes of limitationsfor bringing a lawsuit.
What Are the Steps to Sue a Bus Company?
If you are considering suing a bus company, meet with a local personal injury lawyer (or a couple of attorneys) to talk about your case and how they would approach it. During those meetings, ask yourself:
- Do youfeel comfortable with this lawyer?
- Do they have the experience and credentials to handle a public transportation accident claim?
- Does the personal injury law firm have the resources to handle your case?
Learn more aboutchoosing a personal injury attorney.
Your lawyer will begin the process of filing a bus accident lawsuit, which involves several important deadlines for action: notice of claim and statute of limitations.
Notice of Claim
The first deadline is anotice of claim. This is a notification to the bus company and the courts of your intent to sue. Filing a notice of claim does not start a lawsuit but failing to file a notice of claim will result in the loss of your ability to sue.
A notice of claim must be filed within a couple of months. It must be in writing and usually must include specific information about the accident and your injuries.
Statute of Limitations
Once the notice of claim is filed, your lawsuit does not need to proceed immediately. The statute of limitations for apersonal injury lawsuit(when the lawsuit must begin) is typically two or more years.
This can vary greatly, depending on the jurisdiction in which the accident took place and whether it was a privately owned or publicly owned bus company. If the bus is owned by a government entity, the statute of limitations is generally shorter.
If you fail to begin your lawsuit before the expiration date, you will lose your ability to sue (with some exceptions).
Next Steps In a Lawsuit: Investigation
Once required filings have been made by your bus accident attorney, your case will proceed with an investigation anddiscovery of the facts.
Your attorney will handle communications with the insurance company and the other party's lawyers.
Negotiations, Settlement, or Trial
Most personal injury cases end with a negotiated settlement agreement. Some cases wind up in civil court because the parties cannot reach an agreement on who is responsible for the accident or how much compensation the injured person should receive.
Many government entities self-insure. If the government denies the claim, the only option is a complex legal appeal.
What Happens to My Case if I Don't Sue?
If you do not file a notice of claim within the required period of time, you do not have a "case." You have an injury for which you may or may not be compensated by the responsible party.
What if the Bus Company Is Bankrupt?
A bus company may declare bankruptcy after a bus crash. Typically abus company has an active insurance policy at the time of the crash. The insurance provider will likely be required to pay on the insurance claim up to the amount of the policy. If the bus driver has a separate insurance policy, that insurance provider is also liable if driver negligence was a factor.
Any amount over the policy limit would be the responsibility of the company or driver. That payment would be delayed until the bankruptcy case is decided in court.
If the bus company does not have an active insurance policy, then injury victims become one of the claimants in the bankruptcy case.
Is It Possible to Sue Someone on a Bus?
If you were injured by another passenger while riding on public transit you have the option offiling a civil suitagainst that passenger.
Learn More About Bus Accident Lawsuits From a Lawyer
Bus accident lawsuits are complicated. Get sound legal advice about suing a common carrier in a bus accident case from a localpersonal injury attorney. Most attorneys offer a free case evaluation.