Recently, St. Petersburg has been selected as the first city in the region to obtain service from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, the SunRunner.
However, the citizens of St. Petersburg are not new to transit bus service, as the transit authority has provided bus transportation throughout the region for several years and currently transports more than 31,000 riders each day. In addition to transit buses, approximately 33,000 students are transported on school buses for the Pinellas County School District. Many vacationers arrive in the area in church or tour buses.
While buses are an essential mode of transportation in and around St. Petersburg, they are not immune from accidents caused by negligent drivers. If you have been injured in a bus crash, the team of experienced personal injury attorneys at Perenich Law Injury Attorneys can provide information about the personal injury claims process. As well, a St. Petersburg bus accident lawyer may be able to assist you with your claim.
About Buses in St. Petersburg
Buses are generally much larger than other vehicles on the roadway, as they are designed to transport many passengers. Entities operating the buses that provide transportation to the public for a fee are generally considered common carriers. In contrast, those operating buses providing transportation for hire that is not available for the public—such as school districts—are commonly referred to as private carriers.
Buses that transport passengers for a fee across state lines—such as those offered by Greyhound—are considered passenger carriers involved in interstate commerce.
Most buses are under the authority of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which subjects the carrier and its drivers to specific regulations, such as:
- A required regular schedule for maintenance of the vehicle and pre-trip inspections performed by the driver before each trip to look for visible issues that could compromise the safety of the vehicle.
- A special license required to operate the vehicle, known as a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which can only be obtained if the driver passes a written test, and is subject to annual physical exams and drug and alcohol screening to ensure they are physically capable of performing the tasks of the job and free from certain substances that can impair one’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.
- An increased amount of liability required to ensure the availability of compensation if the large vehicle is involved in an accident.
Causes of St. Petersburg Bus Crashes
According to the FMCSA, accidents involving 84 school buses, 78 transit buses, and 15 intercity buses occurred on U.S. roadways in a single year. Here is a look at the common causes of bus collisions in St. Petersburg:
Accidents Involving Negligent Bus Drivers
Negligent bus drivers can cause accidents that result in injuries to passengers, occupants of other vehicles, or even vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists.
The types of bus driver negligence that can result in accidents that cause injuries to others include:
As mentioned, buses are massive vehicles. Because of their size, they are harder to maneuver, prone to rolling over, require more distance to come to a complete stop than other types of vehicles, have significant blind spots, and have difficulty negotiating sharp corners without turning wide into adjacent travel lanes. Not only do drivers need training to operate the vehicle, but the carriers who employ them must receive training on how to handle the day-to-day rigors of the job.
Bus drivers often are on duty for several hours at a time, and some operate during the nighttime hours when humans are instinctively wired to sleep. As explained by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), most adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep daily. However, bus driver shortages and other issues can cause drivers to work overtime hours or shifts they are not used to, leaving drivers fatigued and at-risk of an on-the-job accident. Driver fatigue mimics the deficits caused by alcohol impairment, such as the inability to maintain speed or a single lane of travel, delayed response to emergency driving situations, and difficulty making responsible driving decisions. Driving after being awake for 17 consecutive hours can produce effects similar to the legal 0.08 impairment limits for alcohol.
While individuals would like to believe that the driver of their bus is completely focused on the task of driving for every second they are behind the wheel, the truth is that there are a lot of driver distractions for bus drivers, including talking to or monitoring passengers, communicating with the carrier,
Accidents Involving Other Negligent Drivers
Not all bus-involved accidents are the fault of the bus driver.
Many times, the carelessness or recklessness of other drivers can result in an accident, such as:
Distracted driving, particularly texting, that causes a driver to take their eyes from the road, their hands from the wheel, or their thoughts from the task of driving safely. Distracted driving accidents involving buses often occur when the bus driver stops the vehicle and extends the stop arm to pick up or drop off passengers, and the distracted driver in the following vehicle fails to notice until it is too late to stop.
Alcohol impairment, particularly in the area around downtown St. Pete, where tourists and residents alike go to unwind.
Speeding, which not only makes it harder to control the vehicle but also reduces the amount of time the driver has to respond to hazards such as a bus stopping or traveling slowly ahead of them, makes it difficult for other drivers—including bus drivers—to judge a safe gap in traffic in which to pull into a travel lane, and increases the severity of the crash.
Injuries on and Around the Bus
Bus drivers, passengers of buses, and occupants of other vehicles are not the only ones at risk of becoming injured in a bus-involved accident. According to the National Safety Council, school buses injure about 2,000 and kill about 20 pedestrians and cyclists each year.
Bus drivers and carriers owe a higher duty of care toward paying passengers and are tasked with taking actions to protect their welfare at the bus station or stop, as well as on the bus. Individuals can become injured in many non-traffic related accidents, such as:
- Slips and falls at the bus station, stop, or due to cluttered aisles or slippery steps on the bus.
- Injuries resulting from crimes committed at the bus station or on the bus.
- Injuries resulting from the driver dropping a passenger off at an unreasonably safe location.
Seeking Compensation for St. Petersburg Bus Accident Injuries
Regardless of how your bus accident injury occurred, if it was the result of someone else’s negligence and the expenses of your injury exceed your personal injury protection policy or your injury meets the serious injury threshold, you can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of it through the personal injury claims process.
This process generally begins when one of our St. Petersburg bus accident attorneys values your case based on the severity and expenses of your injuries and submits a demand for payment on the value of the claim to the at-fault party’s insurance provider. The provider assigns an adjuster to the claim.
After reviewing the details of the demand and investigating the accident it pertains to, the insurance adjuster can:
- Deny the claim and notify the claimant of the reason for the denial.
- Accept the claim and pay the demand.
- Offer a settlement to resolve the claim for less than the demanded value.
If the insurance adjuster offers a settlement, your attorney can negotiate to obtain a higher offer. If the insurance company denies your claim or fails to make an offer that fairly compensates your injury, you can file the claim as a personal injury lawsuit in court. This is a legal claim filed in civil court, generally within two years of the accident date.
Who Is Liable For Your Bus Accident Injuries?
The foundation of a successful personal injury claim depends on your ability to prove that someone else was liable for the accident that injured you.
There are several potential sources of liability in a bus wreck, depending on how the accident occurred, including:
- The bus driver, who holds a CDL and has an increased duty of care due to the size of the vehicle and its use for transporting passengers.
- The carrier that employs the bus driver and must ensure they are properly licensed and adequately trained for the job, that the vehicle they are driving is properly maintained and regularly serviced, and that it possesses the required amount of insurance.
- Other drivers, whose negligence could have caused the accident that resulted in your injuries.
- The individual or entity tasked with servicing the bus.
- The manufacturer of defective parts on the bus or other vehicles involved in the accident.
- Liability means legal responsibility for the accident and the physical harm or property damage that resulted from it.
How To Prove Liability in Your Bus Accident Claim?
To prove liability, you must show:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care to take actions to avoid causing physical harm or property damage to others.
- A breach in the duty of care occurred when the at-fault party took actions that endangered others.
- This breach resulted in a bus accident that injured you.
The Expenses and Impacts You Can Seek Compensation For
Individuals injured in St. Petersburg bus accidents can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of the injury, such as:
- All injury-related medical expenses.
- Wage loss.
- Loss of earning capacity.
- Property damage incurred in the accident, such as damage to your vehicle.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
How an Experienced Lawyer Can Help
A seasoned bus accident lawyer in St. Petersburg can bring crucial experience to your claim. This includes experience with the legal process and a deep understanding of the type of compensation needed after suffering serious injuries.
We can provide services such as:
- Determining liability and insurance resources.
- Establishing a value to your claim.
- Managing communication with the insurance adjuster to protect your claim and negotiate a settlement.
- Timely filing your lawsuit and other court-required paperwork.
- Gathering and organizing the evidence and witness testimony needed to prove your claim.
- Litigation services, including the preparation of trial exhibits, the presentation of your case, and the delivery of opening and closing statements.
- Assistance collecting your negotiated settlement or court award.
Additionally, the dedicated St. Petersburg bus crash lawyers at Perenich Law Injury Attorneys offer:
- A free case evaluation, which is time you have with our legal team to answer the questions you have about your claim and learn more about the services we can provide to assist you.
- A contingent-fee billing method, which allows you to only pay for your legal team’s services if we achieve a positive outcome to your claim.
Let a St. Petersburg Bus Accident Attorney Help You With Your Claim
The founders of Perenich Law Injury Attorneys have spent decades building strong bonds and lasting relationships with those seeking recovery and justice. Let us explore your legal options to seek compensation after a common carrier collision. We have six office locations located throughout the Tampa Bay area for your convenience, including right here in St. Petersburg. For your free case evaluation with a St. Petersburg bus accident lawyer, contact us today.