No one expects to experience and accident when they climb aboard to get to work or to travel for vacation. However, bus accidents happen much more often than they should in California, and people get injured.
In many court cases, the bus company can be held liable for injuries sustained in an accident. If you or someone you love got hurt in a bus accident, there are some important things you need to know about filing a claim.
If you are injured on a bus, and it is a public bus–AC Transit, San Francisco Muni, BART or anything like that–then the rules change a little bit.
Number one, if it is the fault of the bus company instead of having two years in which to file the lawsuit you only have six months within which to file a claim and then additional time to file a lawsuit.
Secondly, if you are injured on a bus, then the bus is held to a much higher standard than if you were a passenger in a friend’s car. It’s called the Common Carrier Rule.
If you’re injured on a private bus, rather than on a public bus, they’re still held to the higher standard under the Common Carrier Rule, but you have a full two years to file your bus accident case and seek damages in court. And we have handled a lot of serious injury cases successfully against bus companies. These concepts can be complicated, so we would like to discuss them with you in more detail.
Statute of Limitations for Bus Accident Injuries in California
The first thing you should know about bus accident injuries is that you need to act quickly in order to be eligible to file your lawsuit. As we mentioned above, depending upon the facts of your bus accident case, you may have only six months from the date of the accident to file.
Even if you are entitled to a longer period of time, you will still have only two years from the date of your injury to file your claim. This is known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the “clock,” so to speak, for the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. Once the clock “runs out,” then you have lost your chance to seek compensation through a personal injury claim.
Why can the statute of limitations differ from six months to two years? The answer is that there are different statutes of limitations for claims against government agencies and for general personal injury cases.
Public Versus Private Bus Claims: What You Need to Know
When you are injured in a public bus accident, and it is the fault of the bus driver or the bus owner in general, then you will need to file a lawsuit against a government agency. Public buses are the property of local government, and thus claims filed against the bus company are, in effect, claims filed against the government.
The statute of limitations for a claim against a government agency is only six months, and it works a little bit differently than other claims. You must first file your claim with the agency responsible for your injuries. If the claim is denied, then your California personal injury lawyer can speak with you about filing a lawsuit as soon as possible.
Differently, when you are injured on a private bus—such as a tour bus that takes you into Yosemite, or a tour bus traveling to Disneyland—you will be filing a personal injury claim against a private entity. In these cases, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of your injury. This means that you must file your lawsuit within two years from the date of the accident that caused your injuries, or else you can lose your right to obtain compensation.
More About how the Common Carrier Rule Impacts Bus Injury Lawsuits
As we mentioned above, buses owe passengers a higher duty of care than other drivers do. In other words, California law tells us that we can expect bus drivers (and other parties that provide transportation to the general public) to exercise a higher duty of care when providing transportation. This elevated duty of care is what we refer to as the Common Carrier Rule.
Under California law, common carriers are required to transport passengers safely. Indeed, according to the California Civil Jury Instructions for claims involving a common carrier, the instructions clarify: “Common carriers must use the highest care and the vigilance of a very cautious person.
They must do all that human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to passengers.” This is different from the duty of care owed by another driver, such as a friend or family member. While those drivers also owe a duty of care to passengers, they only must exercise “reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others.”
Who Should I Sue if I Got Hurt in a Bus Accident?
There are many different parties that may be responsible for your injuries in a bus accident. We often think immediately of bus drivers when imagining who might be liable, but there are many other parties that may be liable, as well. Keep in mind that bus companies must have the vehicles regularly maintained, and that the failure to do so can result in liability.
When they do have buses maintained, the mechanics must also exercise care and can be held liable if their negligence in repairing or maintaining part of the bus led to an accident. Designers and manufacturers of bus parts and buses also can be responsible for injuries sustained in an accident if there was a defect in the design or manufacture process.
Possible defendants in a bus accident claim include but are not limited to:
- Bus driver
- Bus company
- Mechanic that maintains and repairs the bus
- Designer of the bus or bus parts
- Manufacturer of the bus or bus parts
Contact an Oakland Accident Attorney to Recover Bus Accident Compensation
Were you injured in a bus accident? It is important to discuss your case with a bus accident lawyer in Oakland as soon as possible. Contact GJEL Accident Attorneys today to learn more about the services we provide. Our legal team has significant experience with bus injury lawsuits and we can help guide you along the way.