Every day, millions of commuters in the U.S. use public transportation, including tens of thousands of Illinois residents and visitors who ride buses operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the Pace suburban bus system, Greyhound, Megabus, and other private and public operators.
Meanwhile, thousands of Illinois children depend on school buses to transport them to classes. Every rider expects they will reach their destination safely on a well-maintained bus operated by a properly licensed and trained driver. Unfortunately, bus accidents still occur all too often.
Our bus accident injury attorneys have compiled a comprehensive list of the top bus accident FAQ below.
We hope this will be a useful resource for families in deciding whether and how to take legal action to seek financial compensation for injuries and other damages following bus accidents.
- How is Suing a Public Bus Company Different From Suing a Private Bus Company?
- How Long Do I Have to Bring My Illinois Bus Accident Lawsuit?
What are the Most Common Causes of Bus Accidents?
Here are some frequent causes of crashes that our Chicago bus accident lawyers see in matters involving personal injury or wrongful death.
- Driver Error – Many bus accidents are caused by the actions of the bus driver. Whether the bus operator is inexperienced or simply makes a critical error, they are often responsible for the accident. While driving a large motor coach is not always easy, especially on city streets, 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 operator is responsible for the actions of the driver behind the wheel as bus drivers are agents of their employer.
- Another Driver on the Road -Buses are large vehicles and they need room to properly brake. In addition, they need space on the road to operate. Another operator on the road can make an illegal turn or can suddenly brake in front of the bus, causing the motor coach 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 the 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 insists on not canceling the bus route or trip.
Seek medical attention if a motor coach operator or school district vehicle hits you. Then, contact our law firm. Our office can provide legal advice and answers to you or a loved one regarding bus accidents, your pain and suffering, and other frequently asked questions in a live chat.
What Types of Injuries are Most Often Sustained in Chicago Bus Accidents?
While every accident is different and produces different injuries, there are certain types of injuries that are more commonly experienced by passengers of buses and other large vehicles, like these:
- Broken bones—The force involved in a bus accident can break bones in the arms, hands, fingers, legs, back, and other areas of the body.
- Skin injuries—The high-impact nature of these accidents often sends objects flying through the air which can pierce the skin of bus riders, causing serious lacerations and scars.
- Back/neck trauma—The sensitive construction of the spinal column is especially vulnerable to the impact of a high-speed motor coach crash.
- Head injuries—These are very common injuries in bus accidents. Even when restrained by seatbelts, passengers often strike their heads from the impact of a collision and sustain concussions and other head trauma.
Contact our office suite for a phone consultation to review passenger and passenger safety and rights in these situations as well as what drivers may be at fault.
What to Do in a School Bus Accident?
After you are involved in a bus crash, you should immediately see a doctor and then call an experienced bus accident attorney.
Your legal counsel should start working at once to build a case for compensation and relief to ease your pain and suffering, make up for losses, and alleviate other costs and harms that arise due to the crash.
In a free consultation, lawyers from your law firm may instruct you to get a police report, track your bills and medical expenses, file insurance claims, take your vehicles in for repair, contact the responsible party over the phone, and give a phone call to other passengers involved in the accident cases.
Then, they may seek to set up an attorney-client relationship so their office can go after the drivers, their insurance, another entity, or another party that damaged your safety.
You should contact them for a free live chat over the phone to review your legal protection plan, the law of fault in Illinois, and the bus driver’s or school office insurance plan involved within 180 days of the incident (this notice requirement is for personal injury cases and subject to change. This will give you, a loved one, or a passenger enough time to go after the entity.
How Do I Know if I’ve Been Injured in a Bus Accident?
Common signs include broken bones, cuts, bleeding, headaches, dizziness, and others.
Who is Liable in a Bus Accident?
Whoever caused the crash through negligent conduct or whatever company employed such a person.
Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer in a free consultation about whether or not you can file a claim within the statute of limitations against the owner of the bus, bus operator, business that owns the school buses, or other liable parties.
How Much Compensation Can You Get from a Bus Accident?
In most situations, you will be able to recover your economic and non-economic damages after a bus crash.
The former reimburses you for actual out-of-pocket losses like medical expenses, lost wages compensation, vehicle damage, passenger losses, etc. The latter is compensation for intangible injuries like pain and suffering, disability, scarring, and other non-economic harms that those involved in a bus incident face.
You and your family also may seek and obtain punitive compensation as well as wrongful death damages. But these only happen in unique circumstances and are subject to each state’s specific rules and laws which you should discuss with your bus accident attorney.
How Do I Claim After a Bus Accident?
You must document and present evidence that the bus operator and company were negligent.
There are various steps that you should take after you have been injured in a Chicago 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 an accident attorney 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 driver.
If you are able to gather any evidence of the accident, make sure to preserve it and present it to the bus accident 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 trauma 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
Can You Sue a Bus Driver or Bus Company?
Yes, you can sue the bus companies as well as the bus driver.
So long as the bus driver was acting within the scope of their employment, they are considered to be an agent of their employer. This means that the bus company (their employer) is liable for their actions because the operator is their representative.
The Common Carrier Doctrine means that the company would be liable even for actions that are outside the 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. Drivers are salaried employees 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 likely have an insurance company or a fund available to settle the claim. Injured victims file government entity civil lawsuits against the Chicago Transit Authority dozens of times each year.
The CTA has money to fund a lawsuit settlement as the cost of doing business. In fact, many of the bus injury settlements in Illinois are with the CTA.
The deeper pockets may lead to larger settlements for plaintiffs in bus injury lawsuits. The defendants in a personal injury case of this type are used to being sued so they will attempt to settle the case when the facts are not in their favor.
How is Suing a Public Bus Company Different From Suing a Private Bus Company?
Suing a publicly owned bus company differs with respect to procedural matters such as notice requirements, the statute of limitations, and also the resources available to the defense at trial.
With few exceptions, you can sue a government-owned bus company in Illinois for negligence, and all the same, things you can sue a private company for related to accident injuries.
Governmental bodies including towns and municipalities enjoy certain immunities because of their public status; for example, they cannot be held liable for failure to adopt or enforce any law or for failing to install traffic signs or signals somewhere.
But since these immunities don’t really apply to the circumstances surrounding a motor coach accident, administration agencies and actors generally cannot look to them for relief. They are still on the hook for their negligence the same way a private company would be.
How Long Do I Have to Bring My Illinois Bus Accident Lawsuit?
You have two years from the date of the injury to sue a privately owned bus company for an accident and one year to sue a government-operated bus company. See 735 ILCS 5/13-202  and 745 ILCS 10/8-101 .
In Illinois, the amount of time you have to bring a bus accident lawsuit depends on whom you are suing. If you were injured on or by a bus operated by a public transit system such as the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and are suing the transit operator or related government party, then you have only one year from the time the cause of action accrued to file a personal injury claim.
Often, the company that owns the bus on or by which you were injured will be a private entity. In fact, many of the bus companies operating across Illinois are privately held businesses, and you have two years from the time the cause of action accrued to file your claim against them.
In certain cases, Illinois law gives plaintiffs more than two years to file their bus accident claims, so talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer about how long you have before you file a lawsuit.