A common carrier is a licensed company that transports goods, property, and people within the state or across the country. A bus is a perfect example. While you expect you will reach your destination safely when you travel by bus, that is not always the case. An accident can happen, and the outcome can be frustrating when it does. You are entitled to seek compensation if you have been injured in a bus collision. The law requires buses to use maximum caution and care to protect all road users. At Las Vegas Car Accident Attorney Law Firm, we understand that it can be confusing and overwhelming for you. Our skilled legal team is ready to answer your question and can work with you and assist you in building a claim with the best possible likelihood of success.
Common Carrier Laws
Common carriers are firms whose operations are transporting people or property at a cost. In other words, they transport goods, property, and people across or within state lines as public services. Before any entity becomes a common carrier, the following factors are considered:
- The company was established primarily to transport goods or people from point A to point B
- The firm introduced itself to the public as a transportation entity
- The transportation is done at a cost
Common carriers can operate on fixed scheduled routes or work on-call. Some common carriers are privately owned, whereas the state owns the rest. All carriers should comply with the federal and state government safety regulations.
Compared to other motor vehicles, Nevada common carrier laws are stringent. Most buses carry many passengers at a given time and can cause catastrophic accidents. The strict safety standards play a significant role in preventing injuries and death.
The common carrier entity should use the utmost diligence and caution for safe carriage, offering everything essential for that purpose and exercising reasonable skills. In other words, the bus company should provide all road users and passengers with a safe place. Failure to obey this rule can lead to a catastrophic accident. A common carrier in Las Vegas should:
- Treat all passengers with civility
- Offer a safe motor vehicle suitable for the responsibilities it is designed to perform
- Warn passengers of known hazards in the bus
- Give passengers reasonable attention
- Offer proper accommodation, including a place for the elderly and the physically challenged
- Drive with caution
- Protect all passengers from harm
Additionally, common carrier operators should ensure their employees are trained and qualified to drive buses. The company should also ensure the vehicles are well-maintained. Maintenance ensures all vehicle parts, including tires, mechanical components, and engines, are functional and in good shape.
If the bus driver fails to exercise reasonable care to prevent injuries to other road users, they will be held accountable for the resulting injuries and damages. Accident victims have a right to bring a claim against the driver and take legal action to recover damages.
It is worth noting that common carriers’ liability is limited. They are accountable for injuries the passenger suffered due to their negligence but do not ensure passenger safety. Companies and motorists are not responsible for harm due to causes beyond the carrier’s control. For example, if a minor is knocked down by a bicycle after safely alighting from a school bus, the driver cannot be held responsible for the minor’s injuries.
Causes of Bus Accidents
Numerous factors come into play when a bus collision occurs. They include:
Bus Driver Negligence
Most bus collisions happen due to the motorist’s negligence. Despite being paid, drivers routinely make severe mistakes that put other road users at risk.
Some of the common forms of negligent acts that can result in catastrophic accidents include:
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Running stop signs and red lights
- Distracted driving
- Operating the vehicle while fatigued
Common Carrier Company Negligence
While the bus motorist can be principally accountable for causing your accident, the bus company can also face liability if its negligence played a significant role in the collision.
You can take legal action against the company for:
- Failing to perform essential repairs and maintenance on the vehicles
- Forcing or allowing motorists to spend a lot of hours behind the wheel
- Inadequate policies and enforcement of policies on distracted driving, substance abuse
- Failing to offer adequate driving training
Another Driver’s Negligence
Sometimes, a driver of another car can cause a collision. Mistakes made by the other motorist can result in a crash with the bus or leave the bus driver without a way to avoid the accident.
Almost all bus components can be defective and cause injuries. Companies that manufacture, design, and sell defective buses or parts should be held liable for injuries sustained in an accident due to a mechanical failure or defect.
How to Recover Damages After a Bus Accident
Filing a negligence claim is a typical course of action for bus accident victims in Las Vegas. However, to obtain compensation, you must prove the following elements:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care — The driver is legally obligated to abide by traffic regulations and operate the bus rationally and safely. In other words, they should act in a manner that ensures the safety of all road users.
- Breach of duty — It happens when the driver fails to act the same way a reasonably prudent individual would under similar circumstances.
- Causation — The breach of duty caused an accident that led to your injuries.
- Damages — You should also prove that your injuries resulted in damages like medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, loss of consortium, and lost earning capacity
The person liable for causing an accident depends on the cause and type of the bus accident. In personal injury claims, the responsible parties are called defendants by the plaintiffs (victims). Common defendants in bus collisions include:
- Bus motorist
- Bus driver supervisor
- School bus operator
- Charter bus operator
- Tour bus operator
- Other vehicle motorists
- County, state, or city agency
- Bus maintenance company
- Bus owner
- Bus manufacturer
- Bus part manufacturer
- Bus stop property owner
Sometimes there are several defendants in the accident.
What Happens If You Are Partially Accountable for Your Bus Accident?
Modified comparative negligence law allows you to receive damages even when you are partially responsible for your injuries, provided you are less than 50% liable.
If the jury determines that you are more than 50% responsible, you will recover nothing, irrespective of how severe your injuries are.
Essential Evidence in Your Personal Injury Claim
Generally, the evidential burden in a personal injury claim falls on the plaintiff. As the plaintiff, you should collect as much evidence as possible to prove your claim. The information also helps in fault determination. A skilled personal injury lawyer can give you a comprehensive overview of factors to consider while collecting evidence and what to do following your accident.
Discussed below are vital pieces of evidence to gather.
Electronic Onboard Devices Data
Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, most common carriers come with EOBRs that record auto system functions like brake control and engine controls. When a bus accident happens, the recording device captures information like the vehicle’s location, the direction the car was moving, brake application, and throttle application. These details can assist in ascertaining if a malfunction caused the collision.
Maintenance and Inspection Records
FMCSA regulations require buses to be inspected regularly. Motorists are issued with inspection records to confirm the completion of the inspection. Numerous bus systems inspected include:
- Rims, wheels, and tires
- Steering mechanism
- Braking system and fluid
- Windshield wipers
- Emergency kit and safety equipment
- Rearview mirrors
- Reflectors and lighting systems
Bus operators, owners, and drivers should keep repairs and maintenance records. If an accident happens, you and your lawyer can use the information to determine whether a prior repair caused the accident.
If police officers come to the accident scene, they will prepare a report. You are entitled to obtain a copy of the report from the police station.
Generally, the police report outlines the law enforcer’s conclusion of the liable party. Although the officer did not witness the collision, their conclusion of the defendant is essential evidence. Insurance companies always want to know what law enforcers think.
Capture Photographic Evidence of Your Accident Scene
If you can take photos following the collision and have a smartphone or camera, you should take photos of your accident scene.
Ensure you capture photos from further away, close-ups, and from different directions. You do not know which picture best illustrates your accident scene. Therefore, it is wise to take as many images as possible.
If the bus left skid marks, take photos of them. Ensure you shoot from a distance to have a panoramic view of the skid marks.
Finally, take images of all vehicles involved in the accident. Capture vehicle damage from afar and close-up. Vehicle damage can tell an insurance provider and the jury how the collision happened, the car’s speed, and the defendant(s).
A personal injury lawsuit can quickly become a “he said, she said” battle of words. That is why a witness statement is essential.
If neutral individuals can provide firsthand accounts of what happened at the scene, it is easier to determine liability. Consequently, ensure you take down all witnesses' names, addresses and phone numbers at the accident scene before their memory fades.
The Driver’s Information
The investigation police officer and insurance adjusters will require the bus driver’s records to determine accident liability. The records include:
- The driver’s logbook — The FMCSA requires bus operators and companies to update the motorist’s logbook with hours of service. Some of the details recorded in the logbook include the amount of time the motorist operated the bus, duration of rest, location of stops, and if the driver had a co-driver.
- The driver’s qualification — The common carrier company should also keep a file that captures the driver’s information like an employment application, annual review of driving records, road test certifications, medical records, and certification of traffic violations.
- The motorist’s training file includes certificates and documents showing the motorist’s specialized driving records and achievements.
- Drug and alcohol tests
Medical documentation constitutes all correspondence from the initial physician’s visit to the final treatment session. The documentation is fundamental in your personal injury case for the following reasons:
- It can establish your injuries’ existence, type, cause, and severity. Proper documentation gives a foundation for the claim, allowing you to verify the defendant’s negligence resulted in your injuries.
- It can prove that you do not have previous health conditions before your collision. On the contrary, it can aid a plaintiff with a pre-existing condition in verifying their injuries stem from their bus accident or are new.
- It plays a significant role in determining the appropriate judgment or settlement amount.
- Your skilled attorney can use your medical records as leverage against an insurance adjuster who attempts to offer you a lower settlement amount than you deserve.
Some of the medical records to establish causation in your claim include:
- Your physician’s diagnosis
- Comprehensive doctor’s notes from medical appointments
- Diagnostic tests like x-rays
- Therapy plans
To determine an estimate of your claim, compile all medical bills. Ensure you share the information with your lawyer and allow them to assist you with the process. Include bills like blood scans, surgery costs, doctor appointments, ambulance fees, prescriptions, diagnostic imaging, and physical rehabilitation.
It is also wise to take pictures of your injuries and document your healing process throughout different stages of treatment. Ensure you keep a journal that takes note of:
- How you are feeling
- Your treatment
- Physical, mental, and emotional symptoms
- The medical specialist you consulted
Common Injuries Sustained in Bus Accidents
When a bus accident occurs, the injuries sustained can have long-term implications. If you have been injured, seek immediate medical attention and contact a seasoned car accident attorney to learn more about your legal rights.
Cuts and Scrapes
In a bus collision, loose objects in the bus become projectiles thrown about the vehicle’s interior. It can include cell phones, books, dash-mounted GPS systems, purses, eyeglasses, and coffee mugs. If any of these items hit you, they can cut your skin.
Most cuts and scrapes are minor.
Soft Tissue Injuries
A soft tissue injury is a trauma to the skin, tendons, ligaments, and muscles in the body. These injuries are widespread, affecting victims of both severe and minor accidents.
Whiplash (stretching of neck and head muscles and ligaments) is the most prevalent soft tissue injury following an accident. Other soft tissue injuries include muscle sprains, contusions, abrasions, avulsions, and lacerations.
Some of the signs and symptoms to watch for include:
- Snapping or popping feeling or sound
- Limited range of motion
Back and Head Injuries
Head injuries are among the most severe bus accident injuries. Individuals involved in a high-speed accident can strike their heads against windows, dashboards, or steering wheels. The impact can cause traumatic brain injuries (TBI), concussions, comas, and cognitive challenges. Additionally, head injuries can result in vision challenges, hearing loss, and skull fractures. Long-term medical attention and extensive medical care are required following the injuries.
A spinal cord injury can result in significant nerve damage. You might experience reduced sensation in and control over different body parts, while severe spinal cord damage can leave you permanently paralyzed.
A herniated disk is another common bus accident injury. While it is less severe than head and spinal cord injuries, it can lead to significant problems. Generally, patients experience muscle weakness, leg or arm pain, and tingling or numb sensations.
Your body being pressed or hitting an object or flying debris can cause internal organ damage. Internal bleeding can lead to death if the alleged victim fails to seek immediate medical care.
Some of the symptoms of internal organ damage include:
- Abdominal pain
- Purple skin in the affected area
How Much is Your Personal Injury Claim Worth?
If you contemplate bringing a personal injury claim over your bus accident, you could wonder, “What is your case worth?” Well, it depends on your mental, physical, and monetary damages incurred.
The damage award is often agreed upon following a negotiated settlement between the involved parties, their lawyers, and insurance companies. In rare cases, the case can proceed to trial, where the jury or judge orders the damage award.
Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for the loss incurred due to your injury. The monetary award is meant to make you whole again.
Some damages are simple to quantify. However, placing a monetary value on emotional distress, pain, and suffering is challenging.
Discussed below is an overview of common compensatory damages.
- Medical bills — A damage award almost includes medical care expenses linked to the bus accident. The damage involves reimbursement of treatment you have already received and compensation for the estimated cost of your future medical attention.
- Lost income and lost earning capacity — You have a right to receive compensation for your accident’s effect on your wages and salary. It includes the income you have already lost and the earnings you would have made in your future were it not for the bus accident.
- Property loss — If an item is damaged during the accident, you have a right to reimbursement for compensation or repairs for the property’s fair market value.
- Pain and suffering — You should receive compensation for the pain and discomfort you experience during and after the accident.
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
You could be awarded punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was outrageously careless or egregious.
The rationale for punitive damages is to punish the defendant and deter them from acting similarly in the future.
How to Maximize Your Compensation Award
What you do following your bus accident matters, and there are fundamental steps you can take to make the most of the claim. Here are ways to maximize compensation in the personal injury claim.
- Value the claim fully — Do not assume you are limited to one type of damage. Your experienced Las Vegas personal injury lawyer should review your case and determine all deserved compensatory damages.
- Do not take the insurance adjuster’s initial offer. Instead, respond to the insurance company about why the settlement amount is unacceptable with documentation that supports your assertion.
- Do not wait to file your case — You have two years to take legal action after your accident. After the statute of limitations elapses, you lose the right to sue and recover damages.
- Stay off social media — It is worth noting that the phrase “whatever you say or do can be used against you in court” also applies to social media. The defendant, lawyer, and insurance company are watching your activity. The best bet is to keep quiet and allow your lawyer to do the talking on your behalf.
What to Do If Your Spouse or Child Dies in a Bus Collision
When people succumb to bus accident injuries, they are not around to pursue compensation for their injuries. Nevertheless, surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit to ensure the defendant(s) are held responsible.
The only parties eligible to bring a wrongful death claim in Las Vegas are:
- The personal representative of the deceased’s estate
- The deceased intestate heirs (surviving family members), including the deceased parents, siblings, spouse, domestic partner, and children
Common damages recovered include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Special damages, including medical expenses that the decedent incurred before dying
- Loss of consortium, comfort, and companionship
- Loss of the victim’s probable financial support like health insurance or lost wages
Find Competent Legal Help Near Me
Most Las Vegas commuters rely on common carrier companies. Regrettably, a single mistake or negligence can result in a severe accident. If injured in a bus accident, you have a right to seek compensation for your damages. However, the bus company and their insurance provider often offer you a low-ball settlement, especially when it involves substantial medical bills, lost wages, and hospitalizations. The seasoned legal team at Las Vegas Car Accident Attorney Law Firm can help you pursue justice. We can review your case and use our experience and legal knowledge to negotiate your claim settlement and fight for your rights. Please contact us at 702-576-0010 to schedule your initial free consultation.