Although bus passengers are usually safe, accidents can occur if a driver is poorly trained, disobeys traffic laws, or the bus is in disrepair. Being injured in a bus crash can be a traumatic experience, resulting in extensive medical bills, long-lasting health complications, and emotional anguish. To help pay for your losses, you could use a legal advocate who will fight for your best interests as you concentrate on your recovery.
At Domingo Garcia, we understand how devastating and life-altering bus accidents can be. Consult with us today and learn how our Houston bus accident lawyer can pursue compensation for you or on behalf of a lost loved one.
How Our Houston Bus Accident Lawyer Can Help
Legally, buses are considered “common carriers.” Buses are subject to federal regulations, just like semi-trucks and other vehicles used for commercial purposes. Therefore, federal agencies often head bus crash investigations, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). For this reason, it’s crucial to have legal counsel who understands how to identify the liable agencies and navigate the laws and regulations involved.
To build your claim, our legal team will consult experts in accident reconstruction, transportation, and other professions to understand how the accident occurred. Through our investigation, we will develop an effective legal strategy that considers all the losses you suffered. Your Houston bus accident lawyer collect and examine any potentially relevant evidence, including the following:
- The police or accident report
- Photos of the accident scene and damage
- Photos of your injuries
- Traffic camera surveillance
- Black box information, if applicable
- Eyewitness statements
- Expert witness testimony from health providers, economists, and accident reconstruction specialists
- Your medical bills and records
- Cell phone records
- A daily journal detailing your pain levels, mobility, recovery status, etc.
Negotiating with Insurance Companies
Filing a claim and negotiating a settlement with the liable party’s insurance company is often the first step in pursuing compensation. Your goal will be to submit a claim with them fully supported by evidence, so you can receive the compensation you deserve.
Ultimately, insurance companies are profit-driven businesses that seek to minimize their expenses. To do this, they may employ special tactics to obstruct your path to fair compensation and use any information they can to undermine your claim.
Tactics an insurer may employ to minimize your claim include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Offering an amount less than you deserve: It is common for an insurer to quickly offer victims a meager settlement in the hopes they will accept it. If they try to lowball you, don’t accept the first offer. Instead, have your attorney send back a fair counteroffer or reassert your original claim. If the insurer doesn’t agree to a fair settlement, you should consider filing a lawsuit asking for the amount you’re owed.
- Claiming you had a preexisting condition: The insurer may examine your medical history, looking for information that suggests you were predisposed to the injuries you suffered. For example, if you suffered a spinal cord injury and were previously diagnosed with a compressed disc, they might claim the two conditions are related.
- Denying any liability for the accident: Insurance companies may try to avoid compensating you unless they are legally compelled to do so. One way they may avoid liability is to claim the party you assert is liable didn’t cause the accident. For this reason, avoid making public statements or posting anything on social media regarding the accident. The insurer can use whatever you say against you later.
For a free legal consultation with a bus accidents lawyer serving Houston, call (713) 349-1500
Fault-Based Insurance in Texas
Texas operates a fault-based (tort) auto insurance system. Basically, this means that when an accident occurs, the at-fault person or their insurance is liable for paying damages. For example, if you were injured in a bus accident caused by another party, you must file a claim with their insurer to recover damages.
Motorists in Texas also sometimes opt to get Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. PIP allows you to seek some compensation for personal injury damages from your insurer. This will give you access to compensation more rapidly than filing a claim with another party’s insurer.
If the other party doesn’t have insurance or sufficient coverage, you can still be compensated for your losses if you have uninsured/underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage.
Both government- and privately-owned buses are required by federal law to carry a minimum amount of coverage subject to how many passengers the bus carries. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has distinct rules for commercial vehicles transporting people. For buses holding a maximum of 15 passengers, federal law mandates a minimum of $1.5 million in insurance coverage. For buses carrying a maximum of 16 passengers, federal law requires at least $5 million in coverage.
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Legal Issues Involving Government Entities
If you’re injured as a bus passenger, you can make a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance by seeking compensation for compensatory damages. However, it could get more complicated if the driver of a government-owned bus was at fault. In this case, to pursue compensation, you must file a notice of claim with the government entity within six months after the incident occurred.
Due to sovereign immunity, government agencies cannot be sued without their consent in most cases. However, under Texas tort law, a government entity can be liable for property, personal injury, or wrongful death damages caused by an on-duty bus driver who otherwise would be legally responsible.
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Compensation in a Bus Accident Claim
Being injured in a bus accident can burden you with a painful injury, emotional trauma, a totaled car, and costly medical bills. Our Houston bus accident attorneys believe you shouldn’t have to pay for losses that weren’t your fault.
Economic and non-economic damages our Houston bus accident lawyer can help you recover may include the following:
- Medical expenses for ambulance rides, emergency care, surgeries, hospital stays, physical therapy, doctor visits, medical equipment, prescription medications, mental health treatment, and more
- Property damage, such as the repair or replacement cost for a damaged or totaled vehicle, broken phone, ruined clothes, etc.
- Lost wages from missing work due to your injury
- Diminished earning capacity in the future due to a disability caused by your injury
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional trauma
- Diminished enjoyment and quality of life
- Loss of consortium
- Permanent disability
- Scarring and disfigurement
Wrongful Death Compensation
If your loved one was fatally injured in a bus accident, you might be entitled to wrongful death damages, such as the following:
- Funeral, burial, or cremation expenses
- Loss of the decedent’s household income
- Loss of the decedent’s work-related benefits, such as healthcare insurance
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Loss of the decedent’s love and guidance
Depending on the nature of the bus accident, you may be entitled to pursue punitive damages. The previously mentioned damages are “compensatory” damages intended to make you financially whole after the accident. Conversely, punitive damages are “exemplary” and intended to penalize the other party and deter future misconduct.
Punitive damages are only warranted if the bus accident resulted from either gross negligence or malice from the other party. For example, if the bus driver was driving drunk and crashed, you may be awarded punitive damages for their gross negligence.
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Texas Statute of Limitations
It’s important to know you only have a limited time to initiate a lawsuit seeking personal injury compensation. In Texas, you have up to two years from the date of the bus accident to pursue compensation for a personal injury or wrongful death (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003)
Also, be aware that lawsuits filed against the government for a bus accident have a much shorter, six-month time frame. The personal injury compensation recovery process will also follow special procedures when a government entity is involved.
Potentially Liable Parties in a Bus Accident
The following parties may be liable for a bus accident:
- The bus driver for negligence and traffic violations
- The bus company or driver’s employer for negligence, lack of safety restraints, inadequately trained drivers, etc.
- The government entity responsible for the bus’s operation
- Other motorists for negligence or traffic violations
- The company responsible for the bus’s maintenance for failure to repair or maintain the bus
- Manufacturers for defective auto parts
- Bus passengers for negligence or recklessness
Like all drivers, bus drivers ideally should obey traffic laws and regulations. Despite this, some bus drivers will speed, fail to signal turns, pass unsafely, drive recklessly, and commit other traffic violations. Along with distractions like texting on a cell phone, looking in the mirror, tuning the radio, or talking with passengers, these negligent behaviors can cause accidents.
Unsafe driving could result from the bus driver’s intentions or a lack of training. Either way, many bus accidents are caused by driver error or negligence, including the following:
- Following too close
- Cutting other cars off
- Failing to yield right of way
- Drowsy driving
- Distracted driving
- Road rage
- Driving while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
- Wide turns—because buses are long, turning (especially left turns) around other cars is challenging and can lead to accidents
The company that owns and operates the bus line could also be liable for your damages. Sometimes both the driver and bus company are partially responsible. Other times liability rests solely with the bus company. A bus company may be negligent if their decisions as an employer ultimately led to unsafe driving by their employee.
Negligent actions by a bus company may include:
- Not vetting a prospective employee to ensure they have a clean driving record
- Hiring someone with a disability, such as impaired vision, that renders them incapable of driving safely
- Not training a driver adequately
- Not enforcing policies or disciplining drivers for violating company practices
- Violating hours of service regulations—i.e., forcing an employee to work longer hours, leading to drowsy driving
- Not maintaining the buses and ensuring they can operate safely
Privately-owned (not government-owned) for-profit bus company offerings include charter and tour buses or airport and hotel shuttles. These buses can be owned by corporations, such as Greyhound, or small businesses operated by only a few individuals. The company size doesn’t matter—only that they are not affiliated with the city or state government. These companies should have insurance coverage, which is the first place to look for compensation following an accident.
Local governments can be liable for a bus accident due to negligence, such as failure to remedy dangerous road conditions, as these agencies are responsible for maintaining local roadways. But because government claims often have unique challenges, you should consult with your attorney about your options.
Mechanics or Maintenance Companies
Some bus companies perform their own maintenance, while others hire third-party maintenance shops to ensure their buses are roadworthy. However, if a mechanic or maintenance company overlooks a failing component, such as brakes or headlights, it could lead to an accident.
Occasionally, a bus component can fail and cause an accident. While this is often due to improper maintenance, it may be due to a defective product. As a result, the defective product’s maker could be strictly liable for any damages caused by the accident, meaning proving manufacturer negligence isn’t necessary. As long as the product was being used as intended and defective before shipping, the manufacturer would be liable.
Potentially defective parts include:
- Brake pads, calipers, and rotors
- Tires and rims
- Bus chassis
- Gas tank and fuel injection systems
- Electrical system
- Connection joints on articulated buses
- School bus caution lights and stop signs
Bus accidents are sometimes caused by another vehicle rather than something related to the bus or its operation.
In such cases, the other vehicle’s driver can be partially or fully liable for damages. Common causes of bus accidents by other vehicles may include:
- Reckless driving
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Drunk driving
- Not noticing brake lights
- Not seeing a school bus’s warning stop sign
- Cutting the bus off/running it off the road
Establishing Liability in a Houston Bus Accident
To pursue compensation from another party, you and your attorney must be able to prove they are liable for damages you’ve incurred. To do this, your attorney must establish the following essential legal elements:
- Duty of care: Every driver owes a duty of care to all other drivers to drive cautiously enough not to cause an accident or harm others. In your case, your attorney must prove this legal duty of care applied to the other party when the accident occurred.
- Breach of duty: Your attorney must then prove the other party breached or failed to fulfill this duty. Breaches of duty for motorists often coincide with illegal traffic violations, such as speeding, reckless driving, drunk driving, etc. For example, if the bus driver ran a red light and crashed because they were on their cell phone, this would be considered negligent and a breach of duty.
- Causation: Next, you must prove the breach of duty proximately caused your injuries. Proximate cause, here, means the accident and your injuries would not have happened if the other party did not breach their duty of care.
- Damages: Finally, your attorney must demonstrate that you suffered quantifiable losses due to the accident and your injuries.
Common Types of Buses Involved in Accidents
Commercial buses are those owned and operated by private entities as a business or in relation to a business or organization. There are many kinds of commercial buses, including:
- Airport shuttles
- Hotel shuttles
- Charter or tour buses
- Party buses
- Casino shuttles
- Nursing home buses
- Church organization buses
Public transportation buses are sometimes privately owned, but they are most often owned and operated by local government agencies. Public school buses are also typically run by the government.
School Bus Accidents
School bus accidents are every parent’s worst nightmare and can be devasting for both the children and their families. These accidents often occur in residential areas, where other drivers may be overconfident and less likely to pay attention to their surroundings. Because school buses don’t include the typical safety restraints of passenger vehicles, their young occupants may be more likely to suffer severe, life-threatening injuries.
Unfortunately, school bus crashes are more common than you might think. According to a recent article in the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Independent School District (ISD) experienced 500 school bus accidents in the last five years. They failed to report them for the previous four years, despite being required by law. That’s an average of 100 per year, although the ISD only reported 17.
For the safety of students aboard or entering/exiting school buses, these vehicles must be, as specified in Highway Safety Program Guideline No. 17:
- Painted glossy yellow with glossy black bumpers
- Supplied with emergency safety equipment
- Equipped with devices promoting the safe operation of school vehicles, such as a stop signal arm
Public Bus Accidents
Public buses include city, charter, tour, and other large commercial buses. When these vehicles are involved in a traffic accident, they have the potential to cause injury to many passengers. One reason is that many bus designs are tall compared to passenger vehicles, resulting in a high center of gravity. In addition to their massive weight, their height increases the risk of a bus rollover accident on public roads, highways, and freeways.
Passenger Van Accidents
Passenger vans are often used by daycares, churches, special education schools, correctional facilities, and various organizations. Unfortunately, these vans are more likely to be involved in life-threatening rollover accidents than any other vehicle. This is due to the van’s design, which becomes hazardous when overloaded with passengers and cargo. Moreover, excessive weight can make the vehicle unstable and increase the risk of rolling over.
Common Houston Bus Accident Injuries
Buses are massive and often lack safety features, such as seat belts and airbags. For this reason, accidents involving buses typically result in worse injuries than accidents between smaller passenger vehicles. And being in a car struck by a much larger bus can also be devastating as the injuries could be catastrophic.
Bus accidents can result in the following injury types:
- Whiplash and neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), leading to changes in reasoning, memory, vision, hearing, personality, and more
- Spinal cord injuries (SCIs), leading to chronic weakness, pain, paralysis, and more
- Broken or crushed bones
- Limb amputations
- Torn soft tissues, such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments
- Internal organ damage
- Severe burns
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement
- Long-term or permanent disability
- Psychological trauma
About Our Houston Bus Accident Lawyers
Domingo Garcia and his legal team have assisted people throughout Texas for over three decades. Our clients include personal injury victims, such as bus accident survivors. We can effectively handle insurance companies and government agencies on your behalf if necessary. We can help you access quality medical care and possibly delay your payments until you receive compensation.
Furthermore, we will use available evidence to establish liability in your case. We will pursue the responsible party even if it requires taking on a powerful government entity. We’ll also help you identify and appraise your losses and fight for the damages you’re owed.
Domingo Garcia has a long, successful track record. Our law firm made the 2019 Texas Top 50 Settlements for a $325,000.00 claim won by Attorney Albert Villegas from our Dallas office. Recently, they also secured nearly $3.8 million for a client suffering accident-related paraplegia, a common injury in bus crashes. We will do everything possible to add your claim to our list of successful cases.
Consult With Our Houston Bus Accident Lawyer
At Domingo Garcia, we have the knowledge and resources to help you build a solid case and secure the compensation you deserve when you need it most. We will start with a complimentary consultation, where we will review your case and tell you more about how our Houston bus accident attorneys can help.
If you were injured or lost a loved one due to a bus accident, we are here to advocate for your best interests. So, please call or contact us online today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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