Although they happen less often than other auto accidents, bus accidents can be very serious for all involved. Every year, they cause injuries and even deaths. If you or a family member was hurt or killed in a bus accident, you may be entitled to compensation for what you suffered.
The details can depend on what type of accident occurred: a school bus accident versus a public transport bus accident. Although you can make a claim for both categories of an accident, fault can lie in different places and may affect your case in unique ways.
Legal Differences: School Bus Accident Versus Public Transport Bus Accident
School bus accidents are pretty self-explanatory. They involve a collision with a school bus, usually, one that’s owned by the local school district (but not always).
If the accident is with a local transportation carrier, that can mean a number of different bus types. The vehicle will fall into one of two categories:
- Public, government-owned buses like large metro buses or public university shuttles
- Privately-owned buses like Greyhound buses, charter buses, or tour buses
Public transportation buses refer to any bus the government operates (excluding school buses). Most of these buses part of a public transportation network and run by municipalities like a city, town, or district.
Buses owned by a government are better protected than privately-owned buses. If a bus accident happens, the government entity can typically be sued by the driver cannot be sued. It depends on the exact details of the jurisdiction’s standards, however.
Governments or municipalities running public transport are also usually self-insured. Unlike the “normal” auto insurance policy limit a driver would carry in a car accident, the government entity will not have a policy limit. Basically, this means:
- The government or municipality itself would be responsible for damages instead of an insurance company and
- they will likely have a strong legal defense team ready to handle personal injury claims or lawsuits.
Depending on the city where your bus accident occurred, there might be government immunity from being sued. If this is the case, you’ll need to follow certain rules in order to file a claim or lawsuit with the government body that owns the bus.
However, in Georgia, public buses are classified as “common carriers,” which means the entities that own them carry an extra “duty of care” to the public. Since bus passengers who use public transport must use the services, they have no choice but to entrust the busing company with their safety. That means the entity must be extremely careful in protecting the public from harm, and they could be liable even if they hold a small degree of fault.
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Sovereign Immunity in Bus Accidents
Bus accident victims should also know that many government entities have a degree of protection known as “sovereign immunity.” This keeps public entities, to a degree, from being sued or having to pay for passenger injuries.
Thankfully, in Georgia, this immunity is often waived or reduced so bus accident victims can make injury claims. But it also means the time limits for filing a claim is shorter and there are typically stricter procedures to follow. The statute of limitations (how long you have to file a claim) for bus accidents can be as short as six months from the date of the accident. That’s why you shouldn’t delay reaching out to an attorney for help after your bus accident.
Who is at Fault in a School Bus Accident Versus a Public Transport Bus Accident?
There are a number of parties that may be at fault for a bus accident. Since school buses in Georgia are also considered common carriers, all parties involved in the transport and maintenance must adhere to certain state and federal guidelines. If any party is negligent in this duty, they can be liable for accident damages.
School Bus Accident Liability
Fault and liability in a school bus accident can fall on the:
- Bus driver
- Bus owners (such as the school district)
- Workers who provide bus maintenance
- Those who responsible for inspecting the bus
Fault is determined based on how the accident occurred. If the driver was texting while on the road and it led to the accident, they were negligent. But if the accident happened because a poorly-maintenance bus part malfunction, liability would typically fall on the maintenance company. A school bus accident lawyer can help you determine who was negligent in the accident.
Also, liability in school bus accidents is usually limited to injuries a child suffered while on the bus. But there are exceptions.
Public Transport Bus Accident Liability
Similar parties can be at fault in a public transportation accident, including the bus driver, bus maintenance company, company or entity that owns the bus, or the local or state government.
In any bus accident, another driver can also sometimes be at-fault for the accident if they were being negligent on the road.
If you were hurt in a public transport bus accident or a school bus accident, it’s best to contact a bus accident lawyer as soon as you can. Bus accidents can get complicated quickly because of the details mentioned above. It’s very difficult for a passenger to determine liability and know how to build a strong claim themselves.
At John Foy & Associates, we can help you—starting with a FREE consultation to discuss your options. Call 404-400-4000 or complete the online form to schedule your free consultation today.