Bus Accidents FAQ

Accidents involving city or commercial buses can inflict substantial damage. If you have been in such an accident, it is important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Call The Sexton Law Firm in Chula Vista at 619-678-1833 for a free consultation or send us an email to schedule an appointment. Here are our attorney's answers to some frequently asked questions about bus accidents in California.

What is the first step after a bus accident?

Normally, with a lot of buses, as soon as there is an accident, some type of supervisor comes to the scene. The first thing you should do is always make sure that you are in contact with that supervisor, even if you do not feel injured at that time. Many of the injuries manifest themselves hours later, or even a day or two later. So you just want to make sure that when the supervisor for the bus company comes to the scene that you make sure your name is on that list of people on the bus. That is very important.

We have situations where there is an accident, the bus has to pull off to the side, and passengers have to wait until the supervisor comes. People have places to go. They might be late to work, they might be late to an appointment. They do not want to stick around, and sure enough they get another bus, or they get a friend to pick them up, or they just walk somewhere else or get a taxi, and leave the scene. They may try and say they were on this bus sometime later. That can be a little hard to prove sometimes. So they need to make sure it is documented that they were an actual passenger on the bus, and if they do have any complaints, make sure they list those complaints there at the scene. That is probably the most important thing.

Then, if you are feeling some type of symptoms or injuries, get checked out because if you wait too long, then the insurance company or the bus company is going to use that against you, saying that if you were injured, you should have gone and gotten checked up at least somewhere, even an urgent care sooner versus later. The sooner you do that, the better it is for one's case because the later you wait, then the insurance claims persons are pessimistic and they think, well the only reason people are going to see a doctor weeks later or months later is because they think there might be some money in it for them.

It is always good to get a medical checkup after any accident whether bus accident, car accident, or any accident. It documents that you were in an accident if nothing else and that they cannot use that against you at a later time.

How do injuries happen in a bus accident?

Bus accident claims can involve two, sometimes three different areas. One, the bus can be hit by another vehicle, and you can be a passenger in the bus and sustain injuries while on the bus. Obviously, a bus is a very heavy vehicle, so there normally has to be a heavier vehicle to make any type of significant impact to a heavy bus that would cause someone inside the bus to be injured.

However, many passengers in buses are standing. So even with a smaller impact, if you have a large bus and it is hit by a little tiny sports car going at a fairly moderate speed, there might not be very much damage to the bus at all, but the people inside feel that impact and it can sometimes jerk them and they lose their balance. They might not fall out of their seat, but people who are standing up can basically fly forward and actually strike other parts of their body — their head on the handrails, other parts of the body on the seats or they fall back on the floor — all sorts of things can happen.

Usually, because the bus is so heavy, it has a lot of momentum going with it. If the bus driver brakes suddenly after an impact, that can also cause the people inside to become dislodged and move all about and sometimes strike body parts on handrails and seats and other passengers inside the bus. We see that. It is not common but it does happen.

The second type of bus accident we see is when there is some fault of the bus driver. He is traveling too fast, turns a corner too fast, steps on his brakes too fast, hits a bump on the road when he should have been going slower over the bump and instead he is going 50 miles an hour or so, and people are flying around inside the bus.

Unlike motor vehicles, unless it is a handicapped type of bus, buses do not have any types of seat belts or restraints inside. So, in that type of accident you can imagine just sitting there minding your own business and the bus is going around a curve 50 miles an hour. It is going way too fast. The next thing you know you are off your seat and onto the floor. Or, if the bus driver hits a speed bump 50 miles an hour, you are going up in the air and coming back down hard and sometimes missing the seat entirely and falling straight on to the floor between your seat and the back of the seat in front of you. All sorts of injuries can occur in these bus accidents.

An interesting thing is that many buses have cameras nowadays, and you need to be careful. You do get clients who exaggerate somewhat and say, "Oh, yeah, I was thrown from the back of the bus to the front of the bus" or something, and then you get the surveillance camera video and they show the person barely moving a couple of inches on the seats. That is a little funny when we see that, but it kills the case.

Nevertheless, people can get seriously injured in bus accidents in large part due to the lack of the seat belts and standing. You can be holding on tight to a rail but still in a surprise type of impact more often than not your grip is going to become dislodged and you are going to fall somewhere.

What type of compensation is there for a bus accident?

Compensation for a bus accident is the same type of compensation as any other type of vehicular accident. You are entitled to be paid for your medical bills that are reasonable. You cannot see a doctor five times a day, but you are entitled to reasonable medical expenses and bills. You are entitled to wage loss, and you are entitled to pain and suffering. Sometimes you can be entitled to loss of certain jobs. If you are a construction worker or independent contractor and you are working on a project and it was a $10,000 project but, because you were in an accident and you were unable to complete the project, like building a brick wall or painting a house or building a fence, and you lose that job, you could be entitled to the loss of that type of job.

Does municipal bus have any effect on the situation?

There are things called statute of limitations, and if it is a city or municipality transit bus there is a six months statute to file a claim. Otherwise, no, it is the same procedure. You make a claim against the company. Some of these companies are self-insured and have adjusting companies that work the claims for them called third-party administrators. Others have internal risk management departments for their company. Others are actually insured by insurance companies and have claims adjusters.

Either way it works the same. A claim is made, they review all of the documentation, the medical bills, the chart notes, the documents, wage-loss information, and pain and suffering.

A lot of people think oh, the adjuster will not pay me for those things. Well, they will if it is documented. Documentation could be, "I was a soccer coach and because of this accident I could not coach soccer and as a result I lost $1,000." You just get a couple of affidavits from soccer parents and W-2s showing what he was earning before versus after and you can show his wage loss. That is how our law firm can help. It is a matter of documentation. The adjusters are not averse to paying money, they just need a reason to do it. They have a supervisor standing over their shoulder. If I was in an accident and I got some money from an adjuster, the supervisor would ask that adjuster, "Why did you give Mr. Sexton this money?" "Oh he seemed like a nice guy and he answered some questions and he had a swell attitude, so I gave him all this money." "Well, you are fired. Where is the documentation? Where are his chart notes? Where are his medical reports? Where is his diagnosis from the doctors? Where are any documents that show that he missed work? Or that he missed out on some of his activities? Everything from bowling, his softball team or whatever the case may be. Where is all that proof?"

So, you can see the difference why that is important, because normally injured persons do not think about getting some of that information. The insurance companies are not in the business of giving out money, but they will if they have a reason, if it is documented, and then they will not get in trouble with the supervisor whether it is a $10 or $1 million claim because it is documented. So, the adjusters for the insurance companies or these bus companies have less of an argument not to pay.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a bus accident, we urge you to contact our office for immediate assistance at 619-678-1833.