Were You in an Accident Involving a Bus in West Palm Beach?
Local governments in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County spent years studying how to provide everyone with the best transportation while relieving traffic congestion. One of their many focuses was to create a bus system to serve commuters.
At the same time, the Palm Beach County School District is responsible for picking up and dropping off children at more than 18,000 bus stops in the county. Tour buses, interstate passenger buses, and private buses for church groups or other organizations also frequently take to the streets around West Palm Beach.
While bus travel is generally safer than traveling by passenger car, when a bus accident does occur, the injuries are often catastrophic due to the size of the bus. If you sustained injuries in a bus accident, let an experienced West Palm Beach bus accident attorney from The Shiner Law Group help you obtain compensation for the expenses and psychological impacts of your injury.
Focused 100 percent on personal injury, our firm is devoted to helping accident victims recover compensation for the harm done to them. Contact us for a free case evaluation. You can talk to our attorneys, obtain answers to your legal questions, discuss the details of your case, and learn more about how we can help you pursue the maximum amount of compensation available to you.
Table of Contents
1. Common Causes
2. Common Injuries
4. The Importance of Treatment
5. Wrongful Death Claim
6. Benefits of Hiring An Attorney
7. Speaking With A West Palm Beach Bus Accident Attorney Near Me
Common Causes of West Palm Beach Bus Accidents
Buses are massive vehicles that can measure up to 35 feet in length and weigh up to 40,000 pounds. This is many times the size of most passenger vehicles. A bus’s size and lack of maneuverability can cause an accident, particularly if the driver lacks the experience to handle the vehicle.
Some of those impacts include:
- Significant blind spots. A blind spot is an area around the vehicle that the driver cannot see by looking in the rear- or side-view mirror and must instead look over the shoulder to ensure the travel lane is clear before changing lanes, backing up, or turning. All vehicles have these areas. On smaller vehicles, the blind spot is generally in the area around the rear. Because the bus is so big, it has large blind spots on all four sides.
- Wide turns. Buses, like tractor-trailers and other large trucks, must swing wide to negotiate a sharp corner. This presents a hazard to drivers in adjacent lanes that the bus may need to turn.
- A high center of gravity, which makes the bus more likely to overturn when the driver attempts emergency maneuvers or negotiating sharp curves or corners.
- An increased stopping distance. No vehicle can come to an immediate stop. It takes some distance for the vehicle’s brakes to stop it. The heavier the vehicle, the more distance it requires.
Increased wear and tear. Buses are not only big, heavy vehicles, but they’re also driven hundreds of miles each day on routes. All of this driving, in combination with the vehicle’s weight, causes parts to wear out more quickly. Buses need regular maintenance, and bus companies must provide records during accident investigations. The carrier must perform regular maintenance, as worn-out parts increase the risk of the vehicle losing control.
A Glance at School Bus Accidents
More than 471,000 school buses operate in the U.S., transporting around 25 million elementary and secondary school children to school and back each day. While experts generally agree that school buses are the safest method of transporting children to school, more than 100 people die in the U.S. each year in traffic accidents involving school buses.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines a school bus accident as any crash in which a vehicle, used as a school bus—regardless of body design—is directly or indirectly involved. This includes pedestrian-related accidents occurring as children cross the road to get onto or off of the bus.
Nearly 70 percent of those injured or killed in accidents involving a school bus are in other, often smaller, vehicles. Another 17 percent of the victims of school bus accidents are pedestrians whom the bus or another vehicle struck. School bus passengers and bus drivers account for 6 percent and 5 percent of the injuries and fatalities experienced in school bus accidents.
About City Bus Service in West Palm Beach
Palm Tran is the public bus service provided throughout Palm Beach County. Palm Tran features 32 routes and transports around 35,000 people throughout the county each day. Its annual ridership is at around 9 million.
What Makes Bus Accidents More Likely in West Palm Beach?
Traffic congestion is a common cause of bus accidents in tourist-heavy places such as West Palm Beach. Additionally, traffic in locations such as around Clematis Street—particularly during the late-night hours—sees too many alcohol-impaired drivers who can cause accidents with buses.
Frequent road construction is another common source of bus accidents. Work zones are often confusing for everyone, whether they’re driving a bus or driving a Prius. These areas often feature narrowed travel lanes and temporary road alignments that are difficult to navigate a large vehicle through.
The Types of Injuries Incurred in Bus Accidents
As previously mentioned, the injuries sustained in bus accident crashes are often serious, or even catastrophic. Catastrophic injuries result in permanent disabilities that prevent the individual from earning an income or performing personal care tasks independently.
Some of the injuries most commonly associated with bus accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI): This type of injury involves damage to the brain that a blow to the head or body can cause, such as a passenger on a bus might sustain from striking their head off the window, the seat in front of them, or other objects on the bus, or that the occupant of another vehicle might sustain due to the force involved in colliding with a much larger vehicle. Through its various lobes, the brain controls all the body’s functions and involuntary responses. Despite its importance, however, the brain only has a limited ability to heal from injury. Because of this, TBIs often result in permanent deficits, such as difficulty speaking or understanding spoken language, memory loss, difficulty moving in a balanced and coordinated manner, and an inability to control one’s emotions or impulses.
- Spinal cord injury (SCI): The primary task of the spinal cord is to relay messages from the brain to the rest of the body. Like its partner in the body’s central nervous system, the brain, the spinal cord only has a limited ability to heal from injury. Contrary to popular belief, a spinal cord injury rarely features a severed cord, but rather one that is intact and bruised. Spinal cord injuries usually result in a loss of sensation or function below the injury, or paralysis. Paralysis occurring after an injury to the cervical (neck) area of the spinal cord often extends to all parts of the body from the neck down, a condition known as tetraplegia or quadriplegia. An injury low on the spinal cord that paralyzes the lower extremities is called paraplegia.
- Other injuries to the spine: Damage to the spinal vertebrae and discs is another type of serious back injury that can result in a loss of mobility, chronic pain, and surgical procedures to provide stability to the back.
- Limb amputations: Traffic-related crashes, including bus accidents, are among the most common sources of traumatic limb amputations. A traumatic limb amputation occurs when the victim’s arm, leg, hand, foot, or finger is sheared off by sharp metal or destroyed by being crushed beneath a heavy object. Some limb trauma results in a surgical amputation as the damage to the body part is considered too damaged to repair or must be removed to save the sufferer’s life.
- Internal injuries: The violence of the accident can also result in damage to organs such as the lung, liver, kidney, or spleen. Broken ends of ribs often cause this damage. If not detected and repaired promptly, it can result in a life-threatening loss of blood.
Compensation for West Palm Beach Bus Accidents
Bus accident victims can suffer significant losses. They can be compensated depending on the severity of injuries and other factors. The type of compensation you can recover in such cases might include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of earning ability
- Loss of past and current wages
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation costs
- Past treatment bills
- Future treatment costs, if any
Other compensation can also be included, depending on your situation.
The Importance of Treatment After a Bus Accident
It is essential to understand that your top priority after a bus accident must be to get immediate medical attention. Bus accidents can result in life-altering injuries, which can be prevented if treated immediately. Therefore, it is important to get treated as soon as possible, even if your injury appears minor. Certain severe injuries might seem minor but can result in major complications later on. Moreover, not getting treatment immediately can also affect the entire legal case.
Wrongful Death Claim after a Bus Accident
According to Florida law, a wrongful death claim in West Palm Beach can be made be a victim dies due to breach of contract, negligence, or wrongful act of an individual, group of people or an organization. Depending on the case, the dependants and family of the deceased victim may be compensated for their losses. The amount of compensation granted depends on the financial needs of the surviving family.
As per the wrongful death statue of Florida, the surviving family of the deceased can recover damages that may include the following depending on their case:
- Emotional and mental pain and suffering
- Medical costs
- Loss of support
- Loss of services provided by the deceased
- Loss of instruction and guidance for minor children
- Loss of protection and companionship
- Funeral costs
The court evaluates each case by focusing on the relation to the deceased, replacement value, and potential future income. Other factors might also be considered depending on each case. An experienced bus accident attorney can ensure that you recover a fair amount of compensation after the bus accident to help you make this tragic loss a bit bearable.
What a Common Carrier Is (and Why It Matters)
A common carrier transports passengers or goods on a regular route for a fee and provides its services to the general public. In addition to metropolitan or interstate bus lines, common carriers also can include train lines, taxis, airlines, and cruise ships. Common carriers have an increased responsibility to protect the safety and property of their passengers from their arrival at the bus station until safely dropping them off at their destination.
The increased duty of care owed to passengers is why it matters whether the bus you rode is a common carrier. The increased duty of care to passengers includes:
- A higher level of liability insurance to compensate passengers and others who become injured in an accident that was the fault of the bus driver or carrier.
- Protection against security threats at the station or on the bus. Negligent security is when you can hold the carrier legally responsible for injuries incurred during a crime that the possessor or owner of the station or the bus knew was possible and but did not take adequate measures to mitigate the risk. Bus drivers cannot drop off individuals in areas with an unreasonable risk of injury.
- The requirement that carriers vet the drivers they plan to hire by checking their criminal record and driver history.
- The requirement that bus drivers obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate the bus. A CDL requires the individual to get basic training driving the bus and passing a written test. Additionally, the CDL requires the driver to submit to drug and alcohol screenings before being hired to work as a driver and after any accident involving bodily injury, human fatality, or a vehicle that is so badly damaged that a tow truck must remove it. Drivers are also tested randomly throughout the year as required for CDL maintenance.
Frequently Asked Questions About West Palm Beach Bus Accidents
Whether you’re catching a ride on a Palm Tran bus, your child rides a school bus to school each day, or you’re headed to another region of the U.S. on a Greyhound, buses around West Palm Beach provide an important transportation option for residents to get to work, school, or activities.
However, buses aren’t just an affordable means for getting around the city. They’re also massive vehicles, far larger than most of the vehicles driving alongside them. The size of the vehicle increases the risk of having an accident and suffering an injury in the accident. The number of potentially liable parties in bus accidents increases the risk of confusing an injured person while seeking compensation.
The Shiner Law Group has answers to the questions our West Palm Beach clients most frequently ask about bus accidents. Should you need answers to questions about your specific case, reach out to us today. You can trust The Shiner Law Group to provide compassionate services and aggressive advocacy as you pursue compensation for your injuries.
I was just in a bus accident in West Palm Beach. What should I do?
The first thing you should do after being involved in an accident is to seek medical attention. Often, EMS will evaluate bus accident victims at the scene before being transported. If you were neither assessed at the scene nor transported to a medical facility from it, you should contact your physician for a prompt evaluation. Many serious injuries present delayed symptoms, which means you could have sustained far worse injuries than you realize.
Once you have received treatment for your injuries, it is time to talk to an experienced bus accident attorney about your case.
Do so quickly after the accident because:
- Many common carriers are funded and operated with the involvement of taxes and city governments. Because these carriers operate as quasi-governmental entities, the statute of limitations may be far shorter than the standard four-year time frame in which to file a personal injury claim. Remember, if you fail to meet the statute of limitations for your claim, you could miss out on your right to seek compensation for your injuries.
- Insurance adjusters often strike quickly in cases involving obvious liability on the part of their insured. A common insurance adjuster tactic is to make a quick and low settlement offer in hopes that the person—who a hospital may admit for injuries at the time—is desperate enough for a resolution to accept the settlement without talking to an attorney first. Accepting a low settlement in exchange for a quick resolution often results in the claimant not having enough compensation to pay for their expenses. They can’t go back and ask for more.
- Bus accidents are heavy with the amount of documentation that requires verification and evidence to gather. The more time your attorney has to study your case, the better they can offer the services necessary to help you obtain compensation.
My child was injured as a pedestrian when a school bus hit her. Is there compensation available?
Yes. The parents of an injured child can seek compensation for the expenses related to the child’s injury. Personal injury claimants who suffered their injury as children can also pursue compensation for their injuries on their own, once they reach the age of 18, even if the accident happened many years before.
An experienced bus accident attorney can discuss the advantages of seeking compensation now, versus waiting for the child to reach the age of 18 and file their own claim.
Why is the bus company liable for the actions of the bus driver?
Most companies have some liability for the actions taken by their employees during the normal scope of employment. This is called vicarious liability. Additionally, if bus operators fail to meet other responsibilities, they can cause an accident.
These responsibilities include:
- Ensuring that the drivers they hire are properly licensed, vetted through background and driver history screening, and properly trained to handle the common situations that arise, including dealing with unruly passengers to dealing with traffic congestion.
- Carrying the proper amount of liability insurance as required by state laws and federal common carrier regulations.
- Ensuring that the stations and stops where passengers go to catch the bus are free from hazards that can cause injury. This includes taking security measures to prevent passengers from injuries from criminal activity and promptly repairing hazards that could cause a passenger to slip and fall.
How do I know who is liable for the injuries I sustained in a bus accident?
Liability is the legal responsibility for the accident. Legal responsibility for the accident means you are responsible for paying for harm caused to other people or their property. In bus accident cases, the many liable parties may include the bus driver, the transportation company, other roadway users, and even the manufacturers of defective auto parts used on the bus or in proximity to the bus when the accident occurred.
To prove that someone caused your accident, you must show:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care, which is the actions that a reasonable person would take in similar circumstances to protect the safety and property of others.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. The breach refers to the actions the at-fault party took that violated the duty of care. For example, if the bus driver had a duty of care to ensure that passengers were safe when dropped off at their destination and then knowingly left a passenger in the middle of a violent altercation at the bus stop, that would constitute a breach.
- The breach resulted in an accident that caused your injuries and left you with associated expenses and impacts.
Are West Palm Beach bus accident lawsuits only available to injured bus passengers?
No. Anyone whom a bus accident injured, if in someone else’s carelessness or recklessness caused it, can file a claim against an at-fault party, including:
- Bus passengers injured at the station, on the bus, or even at a bus stop.
- Bus passengers who were injured due to an accident that was caused by a negligent bus driver.
- Bus passengers who were injured due to an accident that was caused by the carelessness or recklessness of another roadway user.
- Occupants of other motor vehicles who sustained injuries due to an accident caused by the bus driver.
- Bicyclists, motorcyclists, or pedestrians injured due to an accident caused by the bus driver.
- Bus drivers who were injured due to an accident caused by other roadway users.
- Anyone injured in an accident that was the result of defective auto parts used either on the bus or another vehicle sharing the roadway with the bus.
What is the increased duty of care that bus drivers owe?
If a bus transports passengers for fare on a regularly scheduled route, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) considers it a common carrier and regulates it. Common carriers owe an increased duty of care to their passengers.
The duty of care refers to the actions that a reasonable person would take in given circumstances to protect the health and property of others. The increased duty of care calls for the carrier to look out for the safety of passengers from the time they arrive at the bus station to start their journey until they safely drop them off at their destinations.
Some of the requirements that common carriers are subject to include:
- An increased amount of liability insurance, to compensate those injured in accidents caused by the driver or the carrier.
- Responsibility to ensure that the bus stations and the buses themselves are free from features that would pose unreasonable risks to passengers.
- The responsibility to take security measures to prevent guests from suffering harm as the result of a criminal act either at the station or on the bus.
- The responsibility to ensure that the passenger’s drop-off location isn’t in a highly dangerous area where they are at risk of personal injury.
- Ensuring that the bus drivers providing transportation to passengers have been properly vetted through criminal background and driving record checks, that they are properly licensed to operate the vehicle, and that they have obtained the on-the-job training necessary to handle the day-to-day rigors of the job.
If I slip and fall over torn flooring at the bus station, can I file a lawsuit?
Without knowing the other details of your case, generally, you can seek compensation for a slip and fall accident resulting from torn flooring if the property owner or possessor knew or had reason to know about it.
The property owner or possessor is liable for injuries incurred by guests due to unmitigated hazards on the property.
What can I recover compensation for after a West Palm Beach bus accident?
In Florida, individuals whom a bus accident injured can recover both economic and non-economic damages. You can use the court system to seek compensation from the at-fault party for both the expenses and the quality-of-life impacts you incurred in your accident.
Bus accident claimants often recover compensation for impacts and expenses such as:
- The cost of medical treatment, including emergency treatment, ambulance transport, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, physician and surgical services, prescription medication, physical therapy and rehabilitation, and the provision of assistive devices such as crutches or a wheelchair.
- Lost wages if you are too injured to work or you have to miss work to attend an injury-related appointment.
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injury results in permanent disabilities and you are no longer able to earn in the same capacity as you did before the accident.
- Property damage that was incurred by you as a result of the accident.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of consortium, which is damage collected on behalf of the injured person’s spouse for the loss of physical intimacy and companionship that often accompanies serious injuries.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life if your injury bars you from participating in activities and hobbies that were an important part of your life before the accident.
How much will I have to pay for an attorney to start working on my case?
This answer may come as a surprise to you, but it will not cost you anything to have an experienced West Palm Beach bus accident lawyer from The Shiner Law Group begin working on your case.
Because our firm understands completely that you need access to the experience and legal guidance that only an attorney can provide, we offer our services on a contingent fee basis. This means that you do not need to pay us for our work on your case unless we achieve a positive resolution.
Benefits of Hiring A West Palm Beach Bus Accident Attorney
Unfortunately, no matter how big the loss, the bus companies will instantly begin preparing their large defense in order to make their case strong. Therefore, bus accidents victims would have a hard time fighting the strong defense of the bus company without the help of an experienced and qualified bus accident attorney.
Bus companies can go to great lengths, while spending huge amounts of money, to protect themselves and might do anything they can to prove themselves right. It is highly recommended that you consult a good lawyer to fight on your behalf while you or your loved ones recover from the accident. Being a victim of a bus accident can indeed be emotionally, financially and physically draining. This is why; you need a legal team that will be compassionate and dedicated to fighting for your right in order to make your devastating experience bearable.
Speaking With A West Palm Beach Bus Accident Attorney Near Me
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a bus accident, it is essential that you immediately hire an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury lawyer to establish a strong case on your behalf. Feel free to contact Shiner Law Group to get a free case evaluation of your case now. Our experts will walk you through the legal process of filing a bus accident injury claim and will get the best possible monetary compensation that you deserve to make this difficult time easier for you.
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