Since 1984, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has provided public bus services for riders throughout the county, including in Clearwater.
In addition, Pinellas County School District buses transport approximately 33,000 students to school during the school year. Add in tour buses taking visitors to area beaches and interstate transit buses, and you have roadways occupied each day by buses carrying thousands of people.
While buses provide a reliable and affordable form of transportation throughout the region for those who need it, these large vehicles create hazards that can cause accidents and injuries to passengers of the bus, occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
If a bus crash injured you or your child, an experienced Clearwater bus accident lawyer from Perenich Law Injury Attorneys can seek compensation for the financial and psychological costs of your injury.
Speak with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today to discuss the specifics of your claim.
The Dangers Posed by Buses
Buses are generally a safe form of transportation, particularly when transporting children back and forth to school. Because most buses are much larger than most other vehicles on the roadway and are used to transport members of the public, they fall under the regulatory control of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
This means that drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate the vehicle on Clearwater roadways. Bus companies must regularly inspect and maintain their vehicles and carry sufficient liability insurance to compensate others for injuries caused by the driver. Drivers are also subject to random drug and alcohol screenings and are required to undergo criminal background and driving history checks to ensure they can safely operate the bus.
Despite the precautions to decrease the risk posed to other roadway users, bus accidents still occur. Accidents involving school buses alone result in about 13,000 injuries and more than 100 deaths each year, with the occupants of other vehicles being the most common victims.
Some of the particular hazards buses can pose on the road include:
Improperly trained bus drivers
Although bus drivers must obtain minimal training in the safe operation of the bus to obtain their CDL, many begin taking commercial routes before they have sufficient experience to safely handle the day-to-day rigors of driving a large vehicle full of passengers on public roadways.
Like other types of large vehicles, buses make wide turns. Often, a bus driver must swing the front wheels of the bus into another travel lane to negotiate a sharp corner. If the bus driver is not paying close attention, this maneuver can easily cause an accident.
While all vehicles have some blind spots—areas around the vehicle that the driver can’t see in their rear or side-view mirrors—large vehicles like buses have significant blind spots on all four sides. Accidents can result if the bus driver does not pay close attention to the vehicles around them before turning or changing lanes.
Increased stopping distance
No vehicle is capable of coming to an immediate stop. The driver must first perceive a danger, then brake, and finally, the brakes must stop the vehicle. Large vehicles like buses can take up to 40 percent more distance to stop than smaller, lighter vehicles.
Types of Bus Accidents
A bus-involved accident can occur because:
- The bus driver causes an accident with another vehicle.
- Another vehicle causes an accident with the bus.
- The bus is involved in an accident with a pedestrian or bicyclist.
- Another vehicle injures a child because the vehicle failed to stop at a bus crossing or when the bus driver extended the stop arm and flashed the red warning lights.
- Of a maintenance issue with the bus.
- Slip and fall injuries took place when a pedestrian got on or off of a bus.
Causes of Bus Accidents in Clearwater
Human error causes most bus accidents, just like other motor vehicle accidents. Sources of human error that result in motor vehicle accidents in a tourist-heavy area like Clearwater include a driver’s unfamiliarity with the roads as well as drivers who are distracted or impaired.
The types of human errors that can lead to a bus-involved crash include:
Driving distractions are a major contributor to motor vehicle accidents as they involve the driver taking their hands from the wheel, their eyes from watching the roadway, and/or their mind from the task of safe driving.
Impairment by alcohol or drugs
Bus drivers must submit to random drug and alcohol screenings to maintain their CDL. Despite this, many drivers are tempted to indulge on the job anyway or are unaware that certain prescription or over-the-counter medications can result in intoxicating effects. Impairment deprives the driver of many skills they need to safely operate a motor vehicle, including the ability to track moving objects, maintain a single lane of travel, brake effectively, respond appropriately in emergency driving situations, and make reasonable decisions.
Generally, this presents a problem when a passenger vehicle attempts to pass or fails to stop when the bus has stopped to let passengers off.
According to the FMCSA, around 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle operators—including bus drivers—who are in an accident reported feeling fatigued when they crashed. Driver fatigue is a particular risk to bus drivers working during the nighttime or mid-afternoon hours, as these are times when the body instinctively wants sleep.
Injuries Commonly Sustained in Bus Accidents
Due to the massive size of most buses, the individuals most likely to become injured in a bus-involved accident are the passengers of other vehicles. Bus-involved accidents often result in catastrophic injuries, including injuries to the brain and the spinal cord—the organs that make up the body’s central nervous system.
Other types of injuries that commonly occur as the result of a bus-involved accident include:
- Broken bones;
- Spinal cord damage to the spinal vertebrae or discs;
- Internal injuries, which can result in blood loss and organ failure;
- Soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash; and
- Traumatic limb amputations.
Seeking Compensation After a Clearwater Bus Collision
If a bus accident injured you because of someone else’s negligence, you can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury.
This process involves:
- You hire a personal injury attorney who helps you to determine all sources of potential liability and all insurance resources that may be available to compensate you for the damages you sustained as a result of the accident. Bus carriers are commonly liable for their drivers’ actions. Additionally, the carrier must perform background checks, ensure that the driver receives proper training, and perform regular bus maintenance. Other potential sources of liability in bus accidents include the drivers of other motor vehicles, the governmental agency tasked with maintaining roadways, the person or entity responsible for providing maintenance on the bus, or the manufacturer of parts that malfunctioned and factored into the cause of the accident.
- Your bus accident attorney contacts the at-fault party’s insurance provider by submitting a demand package to them. This demand package contains details about how the bus accident occurred, information and documentation about your injuries and accident-related expenses, and a demand for payment of the value of the claim. The insurance provider can either accept the demand as submitted, reject the demand and provide a reason for the denial, or make a settlement offer to attempt to resolve the claim for an amount less than the total value of the claim. If the insurance company outright rejects your demand, you and your diligent Clearwater bus accident attorney can discuss the option of immediately filing your claim in court.
- Your bus accident lawyer will continue negotiating with the insurance provider to obtain a fair settlement offer on your behalf. At some point within the two-year statute of limitations for Florida personal injury claims, if it appears that the negotiations have stalled, your proactive bus accident lawyer in Clearwater will file your claim in court as a personal injury lawsuit. Negotiations can continue after you file a lawsuit, but often filing is the catalyst for these discussions to begin in earnest, as litigation is time-consuming and expensive for all sides. Most claims for injuries resulting from bus-involved accidents resolve outside of court. However, insurance companies commonly try to wait the claimant out by refusing to offer fair compensation until they face the expense and uncertainty of litigation.
- As negotiations continue, your bus injury lawyer may prepare to present your case in court by gathering needed evidence and deposing witnesses.
- A settlement can be offered and accepted at any point before the court reaches a decision.
- Once your claim resolves either by a court decision or a negotiated settlement, your Clearwater bus crash attorney will collect your compensation. Our lawyers work on a contingent-fee basis that allows you to withhold payment for their services unless they secure a positive resolution to your claim. If they recover compensation for you, it will go to your attorney, who will deduct the cost of their services before cutting you a check for the remainder of your settlement.
Speak with a Clearwater common carrier collision lawyer about the specifics of your bus accident claim before filing, you can also review some of our legal resources about getting started with a claim.
The Compensation You Can Seek Through a Clearwater Bus Crash Claim
Individuals whom Clearwater bus accidents have injured can seek compensation for both the expenses (also known as economic damages) as well as the emotional and psychological impacts (also known as non-economic damages) they incurred as a result of the accident and their injuries.
Common expenses accident victims incorporate into their bus accident claims include:
- Expenses related to the medical treatment of their injuries, including ambulance transport, emergency services, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, surgical services, prescription medication, physical therapy, and necessary medical devices, such as a wheelchair.
- Income loss if the bus accident injuries caused them to miss work.
- Loss of future earning capacity if the injuries result in permanent disabilities and affect their ability to earn an income.
- Property damage, such as the cost of repairing or replacing a damaged vehicle.
Serious injuries often do not only have physical impacts but psychological ones. Accident victims can also seek compensation for these impacts, which commonly include:
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
Were You Injured? A Clearwater Bus Accident Attorney Can Help
Because of the regulations imposed by the FMCSA on commercial motor vehicles such as buses, bus accident claims are complex endeavors requiring extensive knowledge of the law and the necessary evidence to prove a case. The Perenich Law family has assisted people injured to obtain compensation for their injuries for decades, and a Clearwater bus accident lawyer from our firm has ample experience with these cases.
Let us begin by hearing your story and answering your questions during a free case evaluation.