Taking legal action after a bus crash and injuries is never an easy feat, and most people do not know where to even begin. At Zanes Law Injury Lawyers, our Phoenix bus accident attorneys work with clients injured in a wide range of accidents by many different parties. Contact our office to discuss a possible case today.
Where Bus Accidents Occur in Phoenix
With an active mass transit system and hundreds of thousands of children in school each day, scores of Phoenix residents will board a bus at some point. When they do this, they put their lives in the hands of the driver and the bus company. In some cases, the driver does not live up to their obligation to act reasonably to protect the safety of their passengers. When this happens, you and your family may have a possible lawsuit for financial compensation.
Bus accidents can occur in many settings:
- Local or commuter bus lines run by Valley Metro
- School buses
- Intercity and regional carriers transporting passengers to and from Phoenix from across Arizona and out of state
- Tour buses heading for destinations such as the Grand Canyon (and there have been frequent accidents in the past several years)
Bus Ridership Is Heavy in Phoenix
Before a 2020 drop in ridership due to the pandemic, tens of millions of people ride buses in Phoenix each day. Over three years, Valley Metro served an average of 50 million riders each year. This averages at nearly 137,000 rides each day. The volume is even heavier on weekdays when people use buses to commute to and from work. High gas prices send even more people onto public transit to protect their budget.
While the number of bus accidents has been falling throughout Arizona, it remains unacceptably high. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were 272 buses involved in crashes in a single year. Eight of these crashes were fatal. The number of bus crashes had dropped to 169 in a more recent year, although it was not clear if that was the result of happenstance or some safety initiative that made things less dangerous for passengers.
Recent Serious Bus Accidents in the Phoenix Area
Even with the drop in the number of crashes, many recent fatal bus accidents took place in the Phoenix area. For example, a June 2021 crash involved a Valley Metro bus that left three people dead and six people injured. In May 2021, two cars crashed with a Valley Metro bus, critically injuring four people. Another recent incident saw a motorcyclist who died when he collided with a Valley Metro bus.
There are also fatal bus accidents throughout Arizona that can impact people from the Phoenix area. There are occasional tour bus accidents involving vehicles heading to the Grand Canyon, and many of these can be fatal.
Injuries in School Bus Accidents
In addition, there are frequent school bus accidents in the Phoenix area.
School bus accidents can injure many people:
- Children on the bus suffer injuries in accidents
- Vehicles can strike pedestrians or children getting off the bus
- Other drivers can sustain injuries in accidents with the bus
Finally, common carriers can also be legally responsible for accidents. These include transportation companies that shuttle passengers between cities. In Arizona, the Supreme Court held that common carriers must exercise reasonable care to protect passengers. Even though the legal standard for common carriers is lower in Arizona than it is in other states, they will still be liable when they are negligent.
Bus accidents are like any other personal injury case in that injured plaintiffs must show that someone else was responsible for their injuries. This is the prerequisite for being in a position to receive financial compensation. To receive payment for your injuries, you must prove that someone else was negligent, and our Phoenix bus accident attorneys can determine whether you have a valid claim.
Who Can be a Defendant in Bus Accident Lawsuits?
Here are some possible defendants in your bus accident case:
- The mass transit or commuter bus company
- The interstate bus carrier
- The school district that operates the bus
- Any subcontractor that handles transportation for a school district
- The company that was responsible for manufacturing the bus if the accident happened as a result of a defect of the bus
Many of these parties will have legal teams ready to defend against a claim, so you need a strong legal advocate bringing your case.
Negligence in Bus Accident Cases
Many things can constitute negligence and entitle you to financial compensation, such as:
- Putting poorly trained drivers behind the wheel who do not know how to properly operate the bus
- Speeding or distracted drivers causing crashes
- The failure to properly maintain the buses, causing an equipment failure when the bus is on the road
- Inattentive drivers hitting passengers getting off the bus or pedestrians in crosswalks
- Buses cutting across traffic or making illegal turns to stop at their designated points
Identifying negligence can often require thorough investigation and extensive resources, which our firm has.
How an Attorney Helps Your Bus Accident Case
Before you reach the point of being able to make an argument about what happened to cause the crash and that someone else was responsible, you need an attorney to investigate the circumstances behind the accident. This requires gathering evidence of negligence. The lawyer will need to speak with witnesses and examine pictures of the accident scene. The attorney may even need to engage an expert witness to recreate the accident.
In addition, accident investigation also involves closely checking the bus driver.
- Have a history of substance abuse
- Be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or prescription medications at the time of the accident
- Have a poor driving history with the bus company
Your attorney may need to move quickly to secure these records. They may also move to receive the results of any toxicology tests performed on the driver. Even though the transit company or the school district will perform their own investigation of the crash, you cannot rely on them to investigate in a way that can help your case because they have their own interests.
Gathering evidence is just the first step in any bus accident case. You will need to secure a fair amount of compensation to pay you back for your injuries. You may have suffered serious physical and financial harm from the accident.
Arizona Does Not Limit Bus Accident Damages in Lawsuits
First, we will share the good news with you about Arizona. Many other states limit the damages that you can receive when you sue a governmental entity by putting a cap on your recovery. By and large, those rules do not apply in Arizona. There are no monetary caps on damages. The only restriction is that you cannot recover punitive damages if you are suing a governmental entity. Of course, if you sue a private transportation company, this limitation does not apply.
Your Damages in a Bus Accident Lawsuit
Next, it is important to be aware of what you can recover financially for your bus accident injuries.
Some elements of your accident compensation can include:
- Medical expenses for all of the costs that arise out of your injury both in the past and future (including prescriptions, surgeries, hospitalizations, rehabilitation, and medical equipment)
- Everything that you lost out on from either not being able to work or not being able to do the same type of work that you did before the injury
- Lost wages from having to take off time from work to care for an injured child
- Pain and suffering from the accident injuries
- Wrongful death damages if someone died
All of these damage categories apply, whether it was an adult or a child who suffered injuries in the accident. For example, if a child suffers catastrophic injuries in a school bus accident, they are entitled to lost wages for the money that they could have earned throughout their lifetime. If your child suffered injuries, it is critical to recover as much as you possibly can because they will need the money throughout their lifetime.
After You or a Loved One Suffered Injuries
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a bus accident you can put yourself in a better position for your legal claim. It begins at the scene of the accident but, chances are that if you are reading this page, the accident already occurred, and you need someone to help you gather evidence after the fact.
It is crucial to receive all the medical treatment you need after your injury.
You must do this because:
- The defendant may argue that you suffered your injury some other way, and their argument has a better chance of succeeding the more time passes from the accident.
- Some injuries are only apparent after the accident, and they require a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis.
- Your injury diagnosis will form the basis of your bus accident claim, and you cannot file your claim until you know the extent of your injuries.
- Undiagnosed injuries can get worse over time if you do not receive medical attention.
Some common injuries that bus accident victims can suffer include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Internal injuries
- Fractures and broken bones
Injuries can be worse since most buses do not have seat belts, and bus passengers can be at additional risk when their bodies lurch due to the impact of a collision. In severe cases, the center of gravity may mean that the bus can overturn.
Another step that you should take is contacting an attorney to handle your case. Considering your injuries and a possible lack of knowledge of the personal injury process, this is something that you should do sooner rather than later. Hiring an attorney can help ease your burden and give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that there is someone who will fight for your legal interests.
When you are suing for a bus accident injury, chances are that a different set of rules may apply to your lawsuit. For example, Valley Metro is a quasi-government agency, and there are different timeframes to file your lawsuit. The specific rule to know is that you will need to file a notice of claim within 180 days after your injury. This means that you need to move quickly in hiring an attorney to begin the lawsuit process. If you fail to give this notice in time, you may lose the right to file a lawsuit.
The same holds when you are suing a school district for a bus accident injury. School districts are also instrumentalities of the government, and they require the same notice of claim.
Phoenix Bus Accident FAQs
Bus accidents and the resulting legal process can be stressful and traumatizing. You want to have a trusted Phoenix bus accident lawyer from Zanes Law Injury Lawyers reviewing your case and answering your questions.
What Happens if I Get a Call from the Bus Company or Their Insurance Company?
This is not a time for you to handle the matter on your own. There is usually only one reason why a bus company or their insurance company would call you after an accident. It is not to check whether you are OK. They are more interested in covering themselves and protecting themselves from liability. You end up becoming an unwitting accomplice if you try to talk to them, as it is nearly impossible to persuade them about what happened and convince them to write you a check.
Instead, what they are trying to do is to get you on record, making a statement that may undercut your claim or case. It may even be a response of “good” to the seemingly harmless question of “how are you?” that they try to use against you. No good can come from trying to talk to them, especially without your lawyer present.
When you have your own attorney, all you have to do is tell them to call your lawyer. Once you tell the insurance company that you have a lawyer, they should not try to talk to you. Be careful of any tricks that they will use to try to con you into talking to them.
Why Are Bus Accident Injuries Usually Worse than Car Accident Injuries?
If you have been in an accident with a bus, chances are that you are colliding with a vehicle that is far larger than yours. The average passenger vehicle is around 3,000 pounds. Even if you are driving in a larger SUV, your vehicle is still tiny compared to a bus. The average city bus weighs ten times the size of your car. The weight disparity is even worse when the bus has a full load of passengers. The laws of science dictate that the occupant of the vehicle will be more seriously injured when they collide with a far heavier one.
Passengers on the bus are still vulnerable, even though they are on a vehicle that is much bigger than the car. There are no seatbelts on the bus, and passengers can slip and hit their heads on a hard surface. Sudden movements can also cause head and neck injuries.
When Can I Sue the Manufacturer of the Bus?
Some bus accidents are due to the fault of either of the drivers involved. Sometimes, the bus malfunctions. For example, the driver may try to apply the brakes, only to find that they are not working. When the accident is the fault of the bus itself, you can file a product liability lawsuit. Usually, you would file a lawsuit against the company that made the bus, but you can sue anyone in the “stream of commerce.” This also includes the company that made the specific part of the bus that failed in the crash.
To win a product liability lawsuit, you would need to show that the product was unreasonably unsafe or dangerous. These are not always easy lawsuits to win because they require engineering and scientific evidence. You need an experienced lawyer who can work with expert witnesses to prove your case. These cases require extensive investigation, and you are suing a company that will vigorously defend itself in court.
Can I Sue the Bus Driver’s Employer?
In almost all cases, your primary lawsuit would be against the bus driver’s employer as opposed to the driver. They have the deeper pockets that could pay you more than the driver ever could. They likely have a large insurance policy in place. If that is not enough, you could go after the assets of a bus company. However, agencies like Valley Transit or a school district will always have the money on hand to settle lawsuits.
The general rule is that the employer is liable for the acts of an employee that occur during the scope of their jobs. When a bus driver gets behind the wheel, they are an agent of the bus company, and the agent’s actions fall back on the employer. The exception may be if the bus driver was taking the bus on a personal errand (which they are not supposed to do). Once the driver is on the clock, their employer must pay for their carelessness.
How Do I Know What Caused My Bus Accident?
If you are a passenger on the bus, chances are that you did not see what happened to cause the crash. This is why you need an attorney to investigate what happened. They can obtain copies of things like the police report that will describe what happened. They can also interview witnesses to the crash and obtain the necessary records that could document the accident.
This is not something that you can do on your own.
They can also confirm whether the police report was correct by reviewing pictures of the scene and speaking with people. If the problem was with the bus itself, they can have an expert investigate whether the bus properly worked and whether maintenance was up to date.
What if the Bus Driver Was Not at Fault for the Accident?
If you are an injured passenger on the bus, and the other driver was at fault, you may still be able to recover. Chances are that you would not get much from the driver’s insurance because their coverage is on a per-accident basis, and there might be other injured people.
You may have underinsured motorist coverage on your personal auto insurance, and that could pay for bus accident injuries. This means that you would need to negotiate with your own insurance company. Just because you are a customer does not mean that your insurance company will willingly pay you what you deserve. You would still need an attorney to negotiate on your behalf because all insurance companies will intentionally try to underpay claims no matter who is making them.
How Long Will My Bus Accident Settlement Take?
This depends on many factors. If you were one of several passengers injured in the same accident, this will affect the complexity and timing of your case. The bus company may be dealing with scores of claims all at once.
In addition, proving negligence in the case can take some time. Your lawyer needs to investigate the circumstances behind the accident to demonstrate to the insurance company or a jury that someone else was to blame. Then, they would need to either present the claim to an insurance company or take the case to court. This is only the first part of the process.
Much of the timing of a settlement is out of your control. It depends on how motivated the defendant and their insurance company are to settle the case. Some may have the ability to wait you out to see what you may be willing to accept. They could put a low offer out there to test you, knowing that they can offer more in the future. Others may realize that they have high potential liability and want to lower their legal risk. You do not know about the timing until you begin to negotiate.
Is My Bus Accident Case Going to Go to Trial?
Not necessarily. While some cases will end up in court, the vast majority of them will settle before the jury issues a decision. Some never even see the court system in the first place, as they will settle at the claims process. However, filing a lawsuit is always an option that you have if the insurance company has denied your claim or is being unreasonable in settlement negotiations. Most defendants do not want to see the inside of a courtroom, and they will get serious about settling before the case reaches that point.
Even if you have to file a lawsuit, you are not guaranteed to reach a trial. In most cases, the parties will talk about a settlement at multiple points in the process. Usually, they will accelerate negotiations after discovery concludes in your case. Only about 5 percent of personal injury cases will reach the point of a jury verdict. This is the exception rather than the norm. However, you need an attorney who is comfortable taking your case to trial if that is what is necessary to get you the financial recovery that you deserve.
Why Are Bus Accidents So Dangerous?
One might think that they are entirely safe in a bus because it is so much larger than a passenger vehicle. However, when you are on a Valley Metro bus or any other kind of bus, it has very few safety features to protect you in the event of an accident.
There are no seatbelts on a city or intercity bus, and even the slightest sudden movement could injure you. If you fell over, you might fall on someone else, or they could fall on top of you. Buses can be overcrowded, making injuries in an accident far worse. Passengers can be practically on top of each other, even without a collision. In addition, there are no restraints whatsoever on a bus.
In addition, there may be hard surfaces on the bus on which you could hit a bone or your head. This could be part of the bus itself or a fellow passenger’s bag or package.
Who Else Is in Danger from Buses?
So far, we have mostly discussed injuries to bus passengers and other drivers who are in accidents with buses. However, pedestrians are also among the most common victims of bus accidents. City and school buses are continuously stopping and starting and making stops. They are pulling over to the side of the ride, often on short notice.
Careless drivers will sometimes not see pedestrians crossing the street when they are making right turns. When pedestrians are crossing the intersection, they have the right of way. Pedestrians have very little chance of escaping an accident with a bus without at least suffering serious injury. This is even if the accident happens at a very low speed.
How Do I Know Who Was to Blame for the Bus Accident?
The bus driver is an obvious place to look when it comes to liability for a bus crash. However, bur drivers are not always the at-fault party. Others might be liable or at least share in the liability for a crash.
- The bus company that employed the driver
- The bus or tire manufacturer
- Another driver who cut off the bus or made another error on the road
Bus accident cases often involve filing claims against more than one party, which can complicate the process for victims significantly. Our attorneys make sure we file and properly negotiate all necessary claims to obtain the maximum compensation possible in your situation.
What if I Cannot Afford a Lawyer?
This is not something that you should worry about when it comes to a personal injury case. You should never have to pay money out of your pocket to hire a Phoenix bus accident attorney. Instead, your lawyer only receives fees if you are successful with your case. Then, they will receive a percentage from your settlement or jury verdict, not from your own account.
If for some reason, you can’t recover compensation, you will not receive a bill for your attorney’s services. You risk nothing when hiring an attorney. The bigger risk is handling the claims process on your own because you think you may save money. In the end, even if you do not have to pay a lawyer, you may recover less than you would have with an attorney on your side.
Seek Help From a Phoenix Bus Accident Attorney Today
What remains the same regardless of who you are suing is the fact that the defendant or an insurance company may not want to pay you the full value of your claim. You will usually need to fight for every penny that you get in any bus accident case. The average plaintiff is at a disadvantage because they may not know how much their claim is worth. This is why they need an attorney with experience in personal injury law.
At Zanes Law Injury Lawyers, we have helped clients recover what they legally deserve because we know when a defendant or insurance company is trying to shortchange our clients with a low settlement offer.
The legal process is exactly that—a process. Getting the money that you may legally deserve after a bus accident does not happen overnight. The claims or lawsuit process can have many bumps in the road, and you need an experienced professional who can help you navigate them. Contact our legal team today at (520) 777-7777 for your free case evaluation.