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Bus Accidents


Although mass transit tends to be quite safe, sometimes accidents occur involving buses. Bringing a claim arising from a bus accident can be complicated by issues such as governmental immunity, determination of fault, and fraud.

Bus Accidents

Due to the size and weight of the typical bus, low speed accidents often have little impact on a bus or its passengers, but can have a serious impact on a passenger vehicle which collides with a bus. When the impact is great enough to cause injury to the passengers on a bus, as the passengers are typically unrestrained, there can often be multiple injuries. If the bus rolls, goes off the road, or catches on fire, injuries to passengers can be very serious.

As previously suggested, where a vehicle is hit by a bus, that vehicle and its passengers can suffer very serious injury.

Governmental Immunity

As buses are often operated by a governmental authority, such as a municipality or a public school, even when the bus driver is at fault there may be an attempt to avoid compensating injured persons on the basis of governmental immunity. As governmental immunity laws vary significantly by state, and can be tricky to analyze, it is a good idea to have any governmental immunity issues evaluated by a lawyer in the jurisdiction where the bus accident occurred.

School Bus Accidents

The majority of serious injuries associated with school buses seem to relate to passenger boarding and disembarking, for example when passing motorists disregard the signals on the school bus, children cross the street in an unsafe manner, or when the bus driver loses track of a child and either turns off the signals prematurely or strikes the child with the school bus. Serious accidents also occur in highway accidents, or where school buses roll or go off of the roadway.

Modern school buses are designed to incorporate a significant degree of passive restraint into the seat design - that is, the seats are constructed to try to minimize injury either from children being ejected from their seat or from collision with the seat in front of them. While there has been some debate over the use of seat belts on school buses, the consensus to date is to try to improve the safety through better design. Trying to enforce a seat belt rule on a bus full of children or teenagers can be unrealistic for a school bus driver. In many cases, retrofitting buses with seat belts could increase the danger of injury, as the seats may not be adequately secured to the floor to withstand the momentum that would result in an accident if the students wore seat-belts - it is bad enough for kids to be ejected from their seats in an accident, but potentially much worse if the seats come loose from the floor.

Where a public school bus driver causes an accident, there may be an attempt by the school board to claim governmental immunity in relation to the injuries that result.

Fifteen Passenger Vans

Although not truly "buses", fifteen passenger vans are used in a similar manner by many church groups, private schools, and similar organizations. It is often asserted that fiteen passenger vans are unsafe, due to a high chance of rollover in the event of a collision. Thus, following an accident, the passengers have a potential product liability claim in addition to any claims of negligent driving conduct.

Problems With Fraud

In larger municipalities, there has historically been a problem with people boarding buses after an accident has occurred, then claiming to have been injured while riding the bus at the time of the accident. Some cities have even staged bus accident scenes, making it appear that a collision had occurred, to catch people who attempt this type of fraud. Also, even within the context of a real accident, sometimes bus passengers are known to exaggerate their injuries or to attribute a pre-existing condition to the accident. This type of fraud and misrepresentation can make it more difficult for people who actually suffer injury to establish their claims.