In Illinois, there are over 34,000 registered buses that are on the road. This includes mass transit buses, tour buses as well as school buses. In Chicago alone, CTA buses carry passengers on one million bus rides each day. In addition, millions of Illinois schoolchildren ride to school each day on a bus.
Not only are the passengers at risk in a bus crash, but other drivers on the road may also get hurt and killed in a bus accidents. Buses, by their nature are dangerous vehicles. The length and the size of buses create blind spots for drivers traveling in proximity to them.
These buses can top out at 30 tons which makes them dangerous to both their passengers in a rollover situation or drivers on the road who collide with a vehicle that is a large as a tractor trailer. Buses are difficult to stop given their weight and their size and drivers may have difficult maneuvering them both on city streets and on highways.
As a result, bus accidents can cause serious injuries. Those who are hurt in a bus accident have legal remedies that are available to them so that they can receive compensation. Here is some information about bus accidents and bus accident lawsuits. The Chicago bus accident lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC are committed to helping you recover the maximum compensation possible under Illinois law.
Common Causes of Chicago Bus Accidents
Bus Driver Error - Many bus accidents are caused by the actions of the bus driver. Whether the driver is inexperienced or simply makes a critical error, they are often responsible for the accident. While driving a large bus is not always easy, especially on city streets, bus drivers are supposed to have special training that qualifies them to operate the vehicle safely. The bus company or the public transit agency that employs the driver is responsible for the actions of the driver behind the wheel as the operator is an agent of their employer.
Another Driver on the Road - Buses are large vehicles and they need the room to properly brake. In addition, they need space on the road to operate. Another driver on the road can make an illegal turn or can suddenly brake in front of the bus, causing the bus to either swerve or hit another vehicle.
Road Conditions - Local or state governments are responsible for maintaining the roads. However, they may fail to fix potholes or other dangerous conditions that can cause an accident. While government is only liable for these conditions in limited circumstances, they may still be held responsible for an accident that occurs on a dangerous road because they have failed to properly maintain the surface.
Poor Weather Conditions - Sometimes, buses are either trying to keep to a schedule or must operate when the weather conditions are difficult. Illinois winters are snowy and windy and that can create dangerous conditions for buses if the operator insist on not canceling the bus route or trip.
Product Liability - The weather conditions may be perfect and the driver could be operating the vehicle in a perfectly reasonable manner. The issue that causes the accident may be with a bus that malfunctions because it is defective. For example, the brakes could fail to engage when then bus is traveling. In this case, the manufacturer of the bus would be the party that is responsible for any injuries since they sold a defective product that caused the injury.
Different Types of Bus Accidents Arising on Illinois Roadways
There are many different ways that passengers end up traveling on buses. Each of these accidents may have different legal ramifications depending on the type of bus accident that occurs. Here are several different types of bus accidents that can lead to bus accident lawsuits:
School Bus Accidents - Children can be injured in a school bus accident due to the negligent actions of the driver. The bus operator can either be a school district employee or a driver for a third-party transportation company that the school district contracts with to provide bus services.
City Bus Accidents - Many passengers are hurt each year in CTA bus crashes when they are riding on vehicles owned by a transportation authority. These injuries can range from neck and back damage to something more serious such as fractured extremities. In some cases, drivers of other vehicles or pedestrians are killed when they are struck by buses.
Tour Bus Accidents - While the tour bus industry is regulated, some companies involved fail to strictly follow the rules and properly hire and train drivers. Tour buses may overturn or distracted drivers may strike pedestrians walking nearby.
Intercity Bus Accidents - Sometimes, the large buses that travel between cities are poorly maintained or do not have properly trained drivers. When these buses are involved in accidents traveling at high rates of speed on a highways, there are often critical injuries and fatalities. This commonly involves Greyhound and Mega buses.
Why Buses are More Dangerous Than Other Vehicles
An accident with a bus may cause worse injuries than if one was involved in an accident with a regular passenger vehicle. There are numerous reasons why buses are more dangerous than cars to other drivers on the road as well as pedestrians. Here are some of the reasons:
- Buses are larger, and therefore, take more time to come to a stop than passenger cars.
- The extra weight of the bus leads to greater injury since there is a more forceful collision.
- Buses do not always afford the driver with the best vantage point to see the road and pedestrians. Drivers often have difficulty seeing into their blind spots. This is often an even bigger danger when it comes to pedestrians because the bus is in a much higher position.
- Bus drivers are not always properly trained for their job duties or given the best supervision.
- Some buses on the road may be old and, as a result, they are not outfitted with the latest safety equipment.
- For those on the bus, issues such as design and weight distribution can cause the bus to roll over, increasing the risk of severe injury.
Illinois Bus Accident Crash Statistics
In Illinois, there were 1,493 crashes involving school buses in 2017. In these crashes, there were two fatalities and 269 injuries. Nine of this injuries were "A Injuries." This is defined as an injury that is either severe or incapacitating and it results in the victim needing to be carried from the scene of the accident. The victim will usually be unable to drive or work after the accident and there will be damages such as pain and suffering and lost wages.
There were also six fatalities in Illinois in 2017 in bus accidents that did not involve school buses. There were six fatalities in these accidents and 579 injuries. Of these injuries, 44 were classified as "A Injuries."
Nationally, there were 117 people killed in school bus accidents in 2018. Nine of these fatalities were school bus passengers and three were drivers.
Who is Injured in Bus Accidents?
While passengers on a bus are often injured in collisions, the majority of injuries and fatalities occur among the drivers and passengers of the vehicle that is involved in the accident with the bus. This makes sense given that the cars or trucks are colliding with a large vehicle. Other injuries can occur when a bus strikes a pedestrian or a cyclist.
For example, from 2009 to 2018, 70 percent of the injuries in school bus crashes occurred among occupants of the vehicles colliding with the bus. Therefore, school bus accident lawsuits can involve those who have been injured in a collision involving a school bus as opposed to just passengers on the bus.
When those on a bus are injured, oftentimes, it is the driver that stands the greatest chance of becoming a fatality in the accident given their location on the bus.
Illinois Bus Accident Law FAQs
Here are the answers to some common questions that many people ask about Chicago bus accident lawsuits:
Can I Sue the Bus Driver's Employer?
In nearly all cases, the answer to this question is yes.
When you have been injured in a bus accident, your focus is on getting the highest amount of compensation that you can. While the jury may award you money, you want to make sure that the defendant has the ability to pay the verdict or settlement.
So long as the driver was acting within the scope of their employment, they are considered to be an agent of their employer. This means that their employer is liable for their actions because the driver is their representative. The Common Carrier Doctrine means that the bus company would be liable even for actions that are outside the bus driver's scope of employment.
For you as the plaintiff, this has several different advantages that will help your position. First, and most important, is that the corporate defendant will have deeper pockets than the driver of the bus. The driver is a salaried employee and likely would not have the assets to pay millions of dollars so a verdict against them would not help you much.
The bus company will have insurance or a fund available to settle the claim. A bus company like the Chicago Transit Authority is sued dozens of times each year and has money to fund a lawsuit settlement. For them, this is a cost of doing business. In fact, many of the bus accident settlements in Illinois are with the CTA.
The deeper pockets may lead to larger settlements for plaintiffs in bus accident lawsuits. The defendants in these cases are used to being sued so they will attempt to settle the case when the facts are not in their favor.
Can I Sue a Public Bus Company as Well as a Private Bus Company?
Yes. With a few small differences, both defendants are able to be sued just the same.
Many of the possible defendants in a bus accident lawsuit are governmental agencies. For example, the CTA is an independent governmental agency. In addition, school bus accidents involve school districts which are also government agencies. While the federal government cannot be sued, state and city governments can be sued.
These agencies has the same exact liability as a private for-profit defendant. While there are damage caps in state tort claims, these do not apply if the accident was caused by a state-owned vehicle.
There are only minor differences in lawsuits against private and governmental entities. One difference is that the statute of limitations in a lawsuit against the government is shortened to a year. Another difference is that the governmental entity must be given notice of the claim before filing it. This notice must include certain basic information including a brief description of what happened in the accident.
Both of these procedural requirements are strictly followed by a court and care must be taken to comply with them.
How do I Prove That the Bus Operator and Company Were at Fault for the Accident?
You must show that the bus operator breached their duty of care in the circumstances that caused your injury.
A bus company's standard of care is slightly different than that of the average driver on the road. A bus company is a common care, and each state has their own standards for the duty of care that a common carrier must uphold. In general, the duties of a common carrier include measures that must be taken to ensure that the passengers are safe on the bus.
In Illinois, the relevant law is the Common Carrier Liability Act (740 ILCS 25/). This imposes the highest safety standards on the operator of the bus. In some cases, this is even higher than that imposed on the driver of a car on the road.
Some of the duties that are imposed on the bus operator by this doctrine would include:
- Keeping their eyes on the road at all times and not texting while they are operating the bus
- Ensuring that passengers are kept safe from the actions of other passengers on the bus
- Following and obeying all traffic laws while operating the bus
- Hiring bus drivers who are qualified and properly training them to perform their duties
- Keeping the buses well-maintained and ensuring that the bus is in good repair before it goes on the road and transports passengers.
If the bus operator has breached their duty of care and that breach is responsible for your injury, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation from either the bus owner or the governmental entity that is responsible for the bus.
How do I Prove a Chicago Bus Accident Claim Involving Personal Injuries?
You must document and present evidence that the bus operator was negligent.
There are various steps that you should take after you have been injured in a bus accident. To the extent that you are able to document the scene of the accident, you should try to do so. However, it is not always easy to take pictures and speak with witnesses when you have been seriously injured in an accident.
When you have suffered serious injuries, many times it is a lawyer who can help document and investigate the accident. They can hire experts to help reconstruct the scene of the accident. The attorney can also work to locate the witnesses that can testify about the actions of the bus driver.
If you are able to gather any evidence of the accident, make sure to preserve it and present it to the attorney so that they can use it when your claim or lawsuit is filed. The following things may be helpful in proving a bus accident claim:
- Pictures of the scene of the accident
- Testimony of people who witnessed the accident
- Medical records that document your injury so that damages and causation can be proven
- A recreation of the accident scene by an expert
- Pictures of the damage to both the bus and your vehicle
- Toxicology tests on the driver of the bus
How Much can I Recover in an Illinois Bus Accident Lawsuit?
It depends on your injuries, but generally enough to put you in a position as if the accident never happened
Under Illinois law you will be entitled to compensatory damages. This includes both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are meant to pay you back for the actual losses that you have suffered. Generally, these are property losses or other money that has come out of your pocket, such as medical bills. This will also compensate you for lost income, both in the past and future.
Non-economic damages generally pay you back for injuries that you have suffered. This includes pain and suffering and emotional distress. A spouse or partner may also be able to receive damages for loss of consortium.
As you can see from the above examples, when someone is killed or seriously injured in a bus accident, the damages can be extremely high. A personal injury attorney will be necessary to properly value your claim when it comes to either settling the case or seeking damages in court. This will be your only chance to recover for the injuries that you have suffered so you need to make sure that you receive top dollar for your damages and injuries.
Note that some jurisdictions may have statutes that exempt a public transit administration from punitive damages. This is because they are a part governmental entity. This will limit jury awards to only compensatory damages.
What is the Statute of Limitations for an Illinois Bus Accident Lawsuit Involving Personal Injury or Wrongful Death?
It depends whether you are filing a lawsuit against the government or a private entity.
When you are suing a private for-profit entity, you are subject to the general personal injury statute of limitations. In Illinois, this is two years from the time that you were injured or should have known of your injuries.
However, if you are filing a lawsuit against a governmental entity for an accident on a school bus or a CTA bus, the statute of limitations is cut to a year. In addition, some entities have a notice requirement that requires you to provide information about your accident and injuries prior to the commencement of a formal lawsuit.
Courts are very strict about these timelines and it will take extraordinary circumstances for a court to waive them. That is why the help of a bus accident lawyer is vital to help prepare the strongest claim in the time that you have.
Sample Illinois Bus Accident Settlements and Jury Awards Involving Personal Injury & Wrongful Death
Here are some examples of accidents involving buses that have resulted in jury verdicts or settlements in Illinois
Settlement for $6.75 million (2013) - A woman was walking home from work in Chicago when she was killed by a tour bus. She was crossing the street but the driver did not see her and struck her while she was in the intersection. She was in the crosswalk, but the driver made a turn anyway and hit her. After the accident, the bus driver tested positive for cocaine in his system and he was charged with reckless homicide. The bus driver was also a convicted sex offender at the time that he was hired by the tour bus company to drive the bus.
Settlement for $6.955 million (2019) - An 18-month old girl was riding in a minivan. The vehicle was forced off the road by a driver who was operated a suburban bus. The bus driver allegedly cut across three lanes of traffic suddenly, forcing the minivan to collide with a concrete median after the driver lost control. The accident severely injured the girl who suffered a lacerated liver and required five surgeries for her injuries. She was hospitalized for 150 days from her injuries.
Settlement for $6 million (2018) - The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the estate and two young children of a woman who died when she was struck by a Chicago Transit Authority bus while in a crosswalk. The driver of the bus was allegedly speeding and failed to stop or even slow down when the woman was in the crosswalk. Part of the settlement went to each of the woman's children.
Settlement for $1.55 million (2018) - The driver of a CTA bus was allegedly speeding when he was exiting a CTA terminal. The bus collided at a high rate of speed with a small car. As a result, the small car collided with a semi-truck that was illegally parked. The driver suffered injuries to his leg, neck and back. The lawsuit was filed against both the driver as agent for the bus company as well as the owner of the truck that was illegally parked. The lawsuit claimed that the bus driver was operating the bus negligently and did not maintain a proper lookout.
Plaintiff Verdict for $14.564 million (2016) - The plaintiff was driving a motorcycle when a bus turned in front of him, forcing him to collide with the bus. The lawsuit alleged that the bus driver was speeding and did not maintain a proper lookout and accurately judge the speed of the motorcycle. The plaintiff had his leg amputated above the knee and suffered emotional distress as a result of the accident. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was also speeding, and it contributed to the accident. The verdict was reduced because the plaintiff's own negligence contributed to the accident. However, the plaintiff was still able to recover for his injuries because the bus driver was more at fault.
Plaintiff Verdict for $2.33 million (2016) - The plaintiff suffered neck and back injuries that required surgery when he was rear-ended by a bus that was driven by the defendant. The lawsuit alleged numerous instances of negligence, including failures to outfit the bus with proper brakes, keep a reasonable distance between the buses and otherwise operate the bus in a safe manner. The dispute in this case was over whether the plaintiff was injured or not because the defendant admitted that its actions caused the plaintiff's injuries.
Have You or a Loved One Been Injured in a Bus Accident? Get Legal Help Now
The Chicago bus accident attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Attorneys can represent anyone who has been injured in an Illinois bus accident, whether they were passengers on the bus, pedestrians or in a vehicle that was involved in the collision. Bus accident lawsuits sometimes are difficult due to the possibility that there may be more than one vehicle involved and the fact that the driver is an agent for a corporate defendant. When the lawsuit is complicated, you need a Chicago personal injury lawyer on your side with the ability to handle the multiple issues that will arise. We will fight for you to get the financial compensation that you deserve for your injuries.