Bus accidents can result in serious injuries and a significant amount of property damage. The large size of the vehicle, large number of passengers, and the lack of safety restraints such as seatbelts and airbags mean that an accident poses significant risks to passengers and other vehicles. In addition to the unique dangers involved in bus accidents, there are aspects of bus accident lawsuits and settlement negotiations that differ from run-of-the-mill auto collisions. The following article reviews some of the unique features of bus accident lawsuits and settlements.
Private vs. Government Employees
One important aspect of bus accident lawsuits involves the fact that many buses are owned by state or local government entities. A public school bus, for example, is likely to be owned by a government entity. A government employee may receive the protection of "sovereign immunity," accelerated or special procedural requirements to make a claim, and caps on the total amount of damages available.
Identifying the ownership of the bus company involved in your accident will help ensure that you choose the correct bus accident lawsuit process. If the bus involved in your accident was a private, rather than government entity, the process will follow the procedures and rules that normally apply in negligence and personal injury cases.
Sovereign immunity refers to the government's immunity from lawsuit. However, the government will typically permit a lawsuit by waiver or consent to suit. Rather than deny the right to suit altogether, most government entities will permit a lawsuit to proceed if the complaining party complies with the stricter procedural requirements associated with lawsuits against the government.
Traditional interpretations of the sovereign immunity doctrine suggest that school districts, cities, municipalities, and counties are not entitled to sovereign immunity. However, there is debate about this position and state laws may still impose procedural requirements on those pursuing a claim against these kinds of entities and a close examination of the local interpretation and procedural requirements is recommended.
Notice of Claim and Statutes of Limitations
A bus accident lawsuit involves several important deadlines for action. In general, statutes of limitations are laws that require injured parties to begin their lawsuit within a specific period of time. Failure to commence a lawsuit before the expiration results, with some exceptions, in the loss of your ability to sue. Statutes of limitations are set by the jurisdiction in which the accident took place and may vary greatly between jurisdictions.
A notice of claim is notification of your intent to sue. As with statutes of limitations, the failure to file a notice of claim results in the loss of the ability to sue. Although the statute of limitations on personal injury suits is often two or more years, a notice of claim tends to require action within just a couple of months. A notice of claim is required to be in writing and, depending on the local rules, must include certain specific pieces of information about the accident and your injuries.
The proper filing of a notice of claim does not fulfill the requirements of the statute of limitations. Nor does filing a notice of claim commence a lawsuit. Those involved in accidents with a government entity should comply with both sets of requirements.
In addition to the other protections offered to government defendants, there may also be a limit on the amount of damages that can be recovered. States may limit the availability of "non-economic damages" for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other difficult-to-quantify injuries. States may also limit or bar punitive damages, damages that are intended to punish the responsible party.
Get a Free Case Assessment
Bus accident lawsuits can be a complicated affair. The assistance of a qualified lawyer can help ensure that you aren't tripped-up when determining the parties involved and managing the claim process. Contact a local attorney to schedule a free case assessment to discuss your situation and learn more.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.