Every day, millions of people depend on public buses to get around their cities.
And in bustling areas like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, public transport is one of the most essential parts of many residents' lives. Unfortunately, bus accidents are fairly common, with nearly 63 thousand bus accidents that occur every year.
Whether you've been involved in a bus accident as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, it's essential that you take the right steps, like seeing a doctor, documenting the incident, and working with an experienced bus accident attorney.
Learn more about how common bus accidents are, why they happen, and what you should do if you're ever a victim of one.
How Likely Is a Bus Crash?
In Louisiana, public transportation is an essential part of everyday life. There are currently more than 29 thousand public buses available to citizens all across the state, with many of them driving through and around the lively neighborhoods of New Orleans.
The good news is that, statistically, you're not very likely to be involved in a bus crash. The average person has a 1 in 6,800 chance of being the victim in a car, truck, or bus-related crash. Even so, some bus accidents are more common than others—and one of the most prevalent kinds of bus crashes involves school buses.
What Are Common Types of School Bus Accidents?
Type #1: School Buses and Other Vehicles
An accident that involves both a school bus and another vehicle is one of the most common types of bus crashes. These accidents can range from mild fender-benders to resulting in life-threatening injuries. Everything depends on the speed at which both vehicles were going, which is why Louisiana enforces strict speeding laws.
Type #2: School Buses and Pedestrians
Although there are fewer buses than passenger cars in the U.S., school buses are still eight times more likely to cause a pedestrian-related fatality per mile traveled. This is likely because buses are larger, harder to maneuver, have more blind spots, and take longer to stop than normal passenger cars.
Type #3: School Bus Occupants Only
Some accidents only involve school bus passengers. Bus crashes like these can be caused by driver error and poor road conditions, like distracted driving, unsafe lane changes, and low visibility.
Why Do Bus Accidents Happen?
Many vehicle-related accidents happen because of things that could have been prevented with a little extra attention. Some common causes are due to driver error, driving during weather conditions, practicing unsafe driving techniques, and more.
- Driver Error: Driver error means that the accident happened because of something the driver did or failed to do according to the road rules. Some examples of driver error might be failing to use turn signals or blind spots, not noticing traffic lights or stop signs, or driving distracted by eating, drinking, talking, and using a cellphone.
- Weather and Road Conditions: Over the course of ten years, 21% of motor vehicle accidents were due to weather conditions. Although it's sometimes still necessary to drive even during poor conditions, drivers should always be extra cautious. Some common concerns might be heavy rain and fog, which can change road conditions and make it harder for the driver to see what's in front of them.
- Lane Changing: Unsafe lane changes are usually not intentional, but they're still commonly done by drivers in larger vehicles like buses or trucks. As the largest-sized occupants of the road, bus drivers should always be sure to check their blind spots before switching lanes.
- Turning Left: Left turns are a challenge that is unique to those in larger vehicles. Buses need more clearance when making left turns, and when the amount of space a bus has is miscalculated, accidents against pedestrians or passenger vehicles can occur.
- Defective Equipment: School buses, city buses, and charter buses should be inspected before each trip. However, this is usually not the bus driver's responsibility: The bus company should have routine inspections to ensure that the bus is in good mechanical order and is safe to drive.
- Driving Under the Influence: One of the leading causes of passenger car accidents is driving under the influence. City buses and charter buses travel extra-long routes and might encounter other drivers who are under the influence.
- Speeding: Driving too fast in a bus can be dangerous because of its weight. While Louisiana has statutory speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, it's always a good idea for bus drivers to err on the side of caution and take it a little slower.
Who's At Fault In a Bus Accident?
Since there are a few different types of bus accidents, it can be hard to identify who exactly is at fault. The bus has either hit another vehicle, a pedestrian, or crashed, which solely involves the bus occupants. So how do you determine who's at fault?
In accidents that involve other motor vehicles, the driver that hits another car is usually considered at fault under Louisiana law. However, there are always exceptions to every accident. For example, if the passenger car driver made an unsafe lane change and caused the bus to rear-end them, then the other driver would be at fault.
Generally speaking, there is no single answer for who's at fault during a bus accident. Context matters and an investigation might even have to take place to decide. The most important thing you should remember is to not admit fault if you're a driver or pedestrian involved. At this point, it's a good idea to contact an experienced attorney who can help protect you.
What Should You Do If You're in a Bus Accident?
Step #1: Call the Police
Whenever there is an accident, you must notify the appropriate authorities. For example, in workplace-related injuries, you would tell your manager or property owner of your injury. For vehicular accidents, you need to call the police.
No matter the severity of the accident, the police should always be notified. Getting the police to the scene of the incident is crucial for your and everyone else's documentation. When they arrive, they'll be able to take photos, witness testimonies, check on any injuries, and even help with calling an ambulance if the accident is especially severe.
Step #2: Seek Medical Attention
One of the biggest mistakes that bus accident victims make is not seeking medical attention immediately following a bus accident. Even if you feel fine, there is always a chance that there are underlying issues that you might accidentally overlook.
Some head and neck injuries don't even become noticeable for weeks. At this point, you could still file a claim against the bus driver for the accident, but your request will be taken less seriously because you waited too long to see a doctor.
If you plan to file a personal injury claim, then going to a doctor right away is a crucial step. Your doctor will give you a complete physical to identify any potential injuries, which essentially builds your injury claim's foundation.
Step #3: Document Your Accident
Although seeking medical attention should be your priority, you might have a chance to document the accident right after it's happened. For example, if you're waiting a few minutes to interview with the police, you could take some time to gather information from the other passengers.
Taking your own photos is also beneficial because it helps show the incident through your eyes. This is almost crucial when dealing with a judge and a jury. Although not every personal injury claim will be taken to trial, you always want to have the proper documentation and photo proof.
If you can't document the accident because of your injury, don't feel pressured to do so. What's more important is that you get medical attention right away. After you begin feeling better, you can obtain a copy of the police's official report. Also, be sure to keep your documents from the hospital, like medical bills, prescriptions, and doctors' notes.
Step #4: Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
When you're recovering from something as significant and scary as a bus accident, the last thing you might be thinking about is contacting a personal injury attorney. This is understandable, but the good news is that your attorney is there to make the process easier so that you have less to worry about and less work to do.
If you've been injured, then hiring an auto accident attorney will take your personal injury claim out of your hands and begin filing for you. The process of filing a claim can last anywhere between a few weeks to a few months. Still, with incidents like bus crashes, it can be easier to prove injury since several witness accounts from the passengers, drivers, pedestrians, and any bystanders.
Having an attorney in your corner is also crucial because the bus driver most likely belongs to a company that has its own lawyers and protective insurance to avoid claims like these. Going up against major corporations like insurance providers is not an easy battle if you're inexperienced in personal injury law, so be sure to do your research and hire an expert personal injury attorney right away.
Have You Been Injured? We Can Help You Today
Whether you're a pedestrian, bus passenger, or were in another car, being in any type of bus accident means that you're likely eligible for some type of compensation. And even if you haven't been injured, it's a good idea to call an experienced auto accident attorney to cover any potential damages.
The good news is that the expert team at Schwartz Law Firm has got your back. With more than 20 years of experience in New Orleans, Chris Schwartz and Will Brierre are here to get the compensation you deserve from your bus accident.
Remember that insurers are not on your side—but your attorneys are. Contact Schwartz Law Firm today for a free consultation and case evaluation.