The Washington Bus Accident Guide was created by Edmonds personal injury lawyer Cheryl Farrish to help residents earn their maximum settlement potential.
Buses are actually one of the safest forms of transportation on the road today. They are far less likely to be involved in a crash compared to the average passenger vehicle. However, when they are in a collision, they also often affect significantly more people.
Buses are hard to maneuver, making them more likely to tip and get stuck. The lack of safety features makes some injuries more severe as well. If you have been involved in a bus accident, you need to speak with an Edmonds bus accident lawyer to discuss your options to recover damages.
Types of Bus Accidents
When most people hear the term “bus accident,” they think of a collision with another vehicle. While those types of crashes certainly occur, there are far more ways that you can potentially be harmed on a bus. Consider the following examples.
Getting on or off the bus. A bus driver or busing company starts being responsible for your safety as soon as you attempt to get on the bus. It continues until you are safely away from the bus. That means that if you slip and fall while you are getting on or off the vehicle, the bus driver, busing company, or another party could be responsible for that fall. The most common example of this type of situation is where the driver parks the bus in an unsafe location, making it especially dangerous for you to enter or exit, such as over a pothole, large puddle, or an uneven surface.
Harmed while on the bus. You don’t have to be involved in a collision to suffer an injury as a passenger on a bus. For example, imagine that the bus driver was texting and looked up just in time to slam on the brakes and avoid an accident. While you did not crash into another vehicle, the impact could have pushed you into the chair in front of you, it could have caused debris to fly out and hit you, or it could have resulted in whiplash. The bus driver would clearly be at fault in that type of situation and would likely still have to pay for any injuries you experienced.
Injured by another person or debris. There may be circumstances where you are harmed by a third party and the bus driver or bus company is responsible for that harm. Those situations are rare, however. A more likely circumstance is that there is a bus malfunction that causes you harm. For example, if the flooring is raised slightly and you trip over the raised portion while you are walking through the bus, the busing company may be responsible for damages related to their failure to maintain the vehicle properly.
Single vehicle accidents. Because buses are difficult to maneuver, they are far more likely to roll or tip. When an inexperienced driver makes a tight turn, the bus may tip, causing severe injuries. Keep in mind that even one-vehicle crashes can lead to legal liability.
Potential Defendants in a Bus Accident Case
There are quite a few parties that might be involved in your bus accident case. These people or entities might include:
- The bus driver
- The company that owns the bus
- The local government that runs the busing system
- Anyone that did maintenance on the bus
- Other, third-party drivers
- Other passengers
- The bus manufacturer
The unique facts of your situation will indicate who caused your damages and, therefore, who should be involved in your lawsuit. Getting the right party named is vital to recovering money for your injuries or other damages. A Washington bus accident lawyer will be able to examine your case and determine who should be involved.
Legal Responsibility in Bus Accidents
Public buses are known as “common carriers.” They are called this because they carry more than just one or two people. They are available to the public at large. Anyone on the bus puts a lot of faith and trust into the bus driver and the people that maintain and service the bus.
Because of this level of trust, the bus driver is held to a higher legal standard compared to the average passenger vehicle. Washington jury instructions refer to this as the “highest degree of care consistent with the practical operation of its type of transportation and its business as a common carrier.” While a common carrier does not have to ensure your safety, it means that common causes of passenger vehicle accidents, like speeding or failure to follow traffic signals are going to be far less tolerated in a bus accident case.
How Long Do I Have to Start a Bus Accident Lawsuit?
If you think you have a legal claim, it is always a good idea to talk with a bus accident lawyer as soon as you can after an accident. It is much easier to talk about the crash while your memory is fresh. It is also easier for your lawyer to gather evidence and talk to others about the incident as well.
Getting the right medical care is also very important, and we can help you get in touch with medical specialists that will give you the attention you need. These medical professionals will also help you document your treatment well for your legal case, too.
Under Washington law, you have three years to start your bus accident case. In cases that involve a bus system that is run by the state, city, or other local government, the time frame that you have to start your case is significantly shorter—sometimes only a few months. It is always better to act quickly to ensure that you are protecting your rights as an accident victim.
Frequently Asked Questions | Washington Bus Accident Guide
What Mistakes Should I Avoid After a Bus Accident?
If you’ve been involved in a bus accident, here are some common mistakes that we see injured people make in these types of cases. First is not documenting that you were on that bus. If you’re commuting to work on a bus and it gets into a crash, it may be easy to jump off that bus and hop on another bus and go to work. The problem with that is that there is no documentation that you were on that bus, so what you want to do is wait until law enforcement or the transit supervisor show up to be sure that your name is on the roster of people that were on that bus at the time of the crash.
The second common mistake that we see is not seeking medical attention for the same reason. If you’re on the bus and you may be in a rush to get somewhere, oftentimes the bus will provide a backup bus for you to get onto so you can continue your ride. It’s not important that you go immediately to seek medical attention if you’re okay, but certainly within the next day if you’re hurt, you want to be sure to at least go into a walk-in clinic to have your injuries documented.
The third mistake that we commonly see is not hiring an attorney early enough while your case is fresh and there is evidence to be collected. That is when an attorney can do their best work. This is when we can track down the best photographs, collect dashcam video from the buses – which usually get destroyed or recycled after 30 or 45 days – and get witness statements while their recollection is still fresh. You want to be sure to hire an attorney early as opposed to waiting one or two years when all that evidence is much harder to collect or has even disappeared.
What Should I Do if a Bus Hit My Vehicle Causing Injury?
If you’ve been involved in bus accident in Washington and your car was hit by a bus, then one of the first things you want to do is call the police to be sure that that crash is documented. Most likely, the bus company will have protocols about that as well, and they’ll have somebody come out to the scene. Typically, these cases are more difficult to fight because you have a professional driver versus an amateur driver like yourself, most likely, and you want to be sure to have it documented on paper how the crash happened so that there can be no dispute about that later on.
What Should I Do if I Was a Passenger Injured on a Bus?
If you’ve been injured in a bus accident while you were a passenger on the bus, there are a few things that you want to keep in mind. First is, be sure that there is documentation that you were actually on the bus. That may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times people walk off a bus after being injured and don’t document that they were actually a passenger on a bus that was involved in a crash. Stay at the scene so that, by the time police or the transit supervisor shows up, you can give them your contact information so it’s documented that you were there on the bus.
The second thing that you want to do is seek medical treatment. You don’t have to go by ambulance or to the ER that day, but certainly within the next day if you’re in pain, have your injuries documented at a walk-in clinic or with your primary care physician. Third thing you want to do is be consistent with your treatments. Whatever your doctors recommend that you do to get well, do that. Fourth would be to be sure that you’ve hired an attorney early on to help represent your interests in this case.
How Do I Choose the Best Bus Accident Attorney for My Claim?
First of all, you should be sure to pick an attorney that has experience handling, not only personal injury cases, but bus accident cases, because the law regarding bus incidents is different than the law regarding car accidents. You can gauge this when you speak to an attorney by phone. If they don’t know that there’s a difference in the law, that’s probably not the attorney that you want for your case.
The second is to be sure that you pick an attorney that has a good track record. What that means is that your attorney is willing to go to court, and your attorney has gone to trial. Those things matter to the insurance company in terms of determining what your value is and whether this is an attorney who will actually fight for you.
The third thing to do when hiring a bus accident attorney is to be sure that this attorney is a good fit for you. Just like hiring any other type of professional – a doctor, a real estate agent – you’re going to be working with this person a lot and you want to be sure that you interact well with them on a personal basis and that you trust their guidance. Meeting with them in person is a great way to gauge that and be sure that this is the best person for you.
What are the Differences Between Bus Accident Claims and Car Accident Claims?
There are a couple of key differences. One is that a bus is a common carrier, and so what that means under Washington law is that the driver has heightened responsibility to its passengers. It changes the dynamics of the law a bit, and any personal injury attorney that’s experienced in this area would be able to walk you through those elements.
The second thing to keep in mind with a bus accident claim in Washington is that often, those bus companies are owned by governments – cities, municipalities, school districts – and that does change some of your legal requirements in terms of reporting the claim. Again, any personal injury attorney who’s experienced in bus accident claims in Washington could help you walk through that process, but it typically means you need to provide earlier notice to the bus company or the government of your intent to bring a claim.
Should I Speak with the Insurance Company?
First, likely at the scene of the bus accident, the bus company will send out a transit supervisor. It is okay to give that person your contact information, just so that there’s documentation that you actually were on the bus at the time of the crash. From that point forward, I would recommend that you not provide a statement to the insurance company for the bus company. That’s the best time to hire an attorney, because an attorney would interface with the bus insurance company on your behalf to ensure that nothing is said to that insurance company that may harm your interests later.
Should I Accept the First Settlement Offer?
Often in negotiating a bus accident case, a client will have questions for us about whether they should accept or reject an offer. The benefit of having an attorney to have guidance on what you should do in negotiations. One rule of thumb is that the first offer is never the best offer. If you get a first offer from an insurance company, your attorney will most likely recommend that you reject it, and for a good reason, because that’s just an opening bargaining place and we can only move up from there. An experienced bus accident attorney will work with you and the bus company to be sure that your offer consistently raises until it’s at a point where you feel comfortable and you’re willing to settle your case.
How Long Do I Have to File a Bus Accident Claim in Washington?
If you’re seriously injured in a bus accident, there are some timelines that you need to be aware of in Washington. Typically, you do have three years from the date of your injury in Washington to file a claim or settle your case; that’s called the statute of limitations. However, in a bus accident case in Washington, there is a corollary to that. Most times when you have a bus accident, it involves a government-owned vehicle, such as a vehicle owned by the city, the state, or perhaps a school district. That provides separate deadlines that need to be met prior to that three year mark.
If you were involved in a bus accident in Washington, it’s very important that you hire an attorney because there are loopholes there and deadlines that you need to meet that an experienced personal injury attorney would help to cover for you.
Do I Have a Claim if My Child Was Injured on a School Bus?
You would likely have a case against the school district and/or the company that employs the bus driver, but it’s really important that you put them on notice of the claim as soon as possible. If you hire a bus accident attorney, that is something that we would handle for you.
How Long Will It Take for My Bus Accident Case to Settle?
If you hire an attorney on a bus accident injury claim in Washington, one of the most common questions that we get is, “How long will this process take?” The process will take as long as it takes for you to treat and heal from your injuries. Generally speaking, the longer you take to treat, the longer your case is going to take, because we cannot settle your case until you’re done with treatment. The timeline for bus accident cases is a bit trickier, because you’ve got to provide notice, usually 60 days, to the governmental entity that owns the bus before you can ever start negotiating. Typically, you’re looking at about six to nine months from the day you stop treatment before we can actually settle your case.
Getting Help with Your Bus Accident Claim in Washington
If you are ready to meet with a member of our team, contact us by calling Certa Law Group in Edmonds. We can help you examine your options to determine what your next steps should be. Do not wait to get this process started. This initial consultation is free, so you have nothing to lose—and you can learn more about your rights as a victim from our Edmonds bus accident lawyers. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.