Are legal steps different for injured persons of bus accidents than accidents involving other types of vehicles?

Recent California news revealing dangerous bus incidents including: the tour bus accident near the University of Southern California where a pedestrian was hit; the horrific charter bus crash in North Hills that left 25 people hospitalized; a bus driver crossing a median strip and hitting a building in the Bay Area injuring 5 persons; and the USA Holiday, Los Angeles based casino bus crash killing 13 people with injuries to others, showcase the danger of bus-related accidents. All passengers/pedestrians should know what actions to take if they are involved in a bus-related accident that negatively affects them or their livelihood.

A bus is a large and heavy motor vehicle that can carry more than 10 passengers including the driver increasing the potential for larger damages compared to that of a single motor vehicle accident. Damages sustained in bus accidents are often more severe and involve a larger number of people.  In accordance with California law, the accident and damages should be addressed within the two-year statute of limitations period. Bus accident injuries are generally a result of negligence by either the bus operator or the bus owner.  These include charter bus lines, school district buses, public transit buses, and tour buses. Negligence could be due to a person, owner maintenance, mechanical error, weather, other drivers or a transportation route itself.

California has the Comparative Fault Law which enables plaintiffs to seek damages even if they played some part in the accident and are partially to blame.  It is a tort law that allows plaintiffs to sue for the percentage of damages caused by the defendant. Legal action can be brought against the bus company if the elements of negligence are present including: defendant owed the duty of care; had a breach in the duty of care; and the breach caused the injuries or loss to the plaintiff. 

bus in France

The persons that can be sued in a bus accident scenario are:

Owner(s) of bus as employer;

Driver of bus;

Commercial insurer of bus;

Regulatory agency supporting bus safety on issues of bus manufacturer and parts manufacturer;

Licensing agencies of privately owned and public transit vehicles, city, county or state.

In 2016, of the total 268,799,083 U.S. registered vehicles, 976,161 were buses traveling 16.3 billion miles, and of those buses involved in accidents, 10% of those were from California. Buses are commonly owned by private companies or public businesses that include state and local transit authorities.  The estimated total passenger miles riding on public transit buses in Los Angeles in 2018 was 1,143,144,015 which would give plenty of opportunity for accidents involving buses in this one category alone.

Individuals who are involved in bus accidents in Los Angeles have a complex road to filing a claim than those who have accidents with other motor vehicles, due to the potential for multiple defendants.  If a crash causes property damage, death or personal injury, a personal injury or wrongful death action is commonly initiated against the owners of the bus, the driver of the bus, the insurer, the regulatory agencies supporting safety standards of the bus and licensing boards that regulate the route safety and road-worthiness of the privately owned or public transit authority vehicles. 

The two types of damages that victims can sue for include:

1) compensatory damages which are those damages causing economic (loss of wages, medical bills, and property damage) and non-economic loss to victim (pain and suffering); and

2) punitive damages meant to punish the persons being sued (Defendants). 

Seeking professional counsel to navigate through the legal action process regarding bus accidents and a positive outcome is suggested.

Sources:

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/safety/data-and-statistics/413361/fmcsa-pocket-guide-2018-final-508-compliant-1.pdf

http://isotp.metro.net/MetroRidership/IndexAllBus.aspx

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=CIV&sectionNum=3333.2.