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After a bus accident in Houston, determining liability is essential when making a legal claim. Find out who is liable for a bus accident in this article.

Various bodies operate buses in Houston, Texas, including private companies, school districts, and government agencies. Different types of people ride the bus as well, from working professionals to children and senior citizens. Bus accidents can be devastating because they may result in severe injuries and even fatalities in some cases. 

Houston bus accident lawyer can help file a claim against the party or parties responsible for the bus crash. However, liability is usually difficult to discern in bus accident claims. Figuring out the liability party from the bus driver to the bus companies can be confusing. In this article, we'll help you figure out who the liable parties in a bus accident are. 

Responsibility of a Common Carrier

Most bus companies are common carriers. Also, these are companies and individuals responsible for transporting products and passengers. This includes airlines, taxis, school buses, public buses, cruise ships, etc.

According to the Texas Transportation Code, the duties of a common carrier are the same as those stated in the common law. This means they must exercise a high level of caution towards their passengers. In addition, drivers need to provide transportation within reasonable limitations. 

Is a Company Bus a Common Carrier?

Common carriers offer their driving services to the public. This means a private company bus doesn't qualify as a common carrier. Instead, they fall into a different category known as private carriers. Private carriers are also known as contract carriers. 

This set of carriers provides personalized transportation services as part of a special agreement with a passenger or group of passengers. The difference is whether the company holds its services out to the general public as potential customers.

Private bus companies are also private carriers if they don't do business with every customer that wants to do business with them. If they can refuse business, then they're private carriers. 

Common Causes of Bus Accidents

Many things could go wrong simultaneously, leading to a bus accident. However, most times, the cause of a bus crash is negligence. A Houston bus accident lawyer can help you determine the cause of the bus accident you were involved in. Below are some crucial contributing factors to a bus accident. 

Driver Fatigue

One of the common causes of bus accidents is driver fatigue. Most bus drivers spend hours driving without taking breaks. Due to tiredness, they tend to have slower reaction times, and their judgment is impaired, making it difficult to focus. As a result, a tired driver might miss important details like seeing animals run into the road and swerve at the last minute.

Dangerous Road Conditions

Another common cause of bus accidents is dangerous road conditions. Construction zones, bad weather, and many more roadway hazards increase the risk of accidents. Sometimes they result in severe injuries for both the bus driver and passengers.

Speeding and Aggressive Drivers

Negligent bus drivers might also try to make more trips and start speeding to finish trips. Sometimes, drivers choose to disregard traffic signs to meet up with their schedules. These are dangerous acts that not only put the driver's life at risk but also the passengers and other road users.

Distracted Driving

Taking your eyes off the road is quite dangerous, even for a short while. Doing this amounts to distracted driving, and it is one of the common causes of bus accidents. So it is crucial to keep your eyes on the road, no matter how long you drive. 

Faulty Equipment

Bus companies and manufacturers are usually responsible for bus maintenance. Most times, the bus driver has a high degree of control over the bus but cannot compensate for bus defects.

If a vehicle doesn't meet industry standards for safety and maintenance, it could lead to an accident. Lost traction, faulty brakes, and parts flying off can cause serious problems for drivers, passengers, and other road users.

Driver Error

Proper training is essential for bus drivers. Experience is also necessary because an inexperienced driver can mess things up, resulting in life-threatening situations. Therefore, it's crucial to train drivers before putting them on the road.

Are Bus Drivers Liable for Accidents?

When considering liable parties, you might wonder if bus drivers can be held responsible. Commercial drivers are common carriers. Therefore, they bear an amount of responsibility for ensuring the safety of passengers. If a bus driver acts negligently behind the wheel and causes a crash, you can file a personal injury claim.

However, this doesn't always mean bus drivers are liable. For example, the driver isn't responsible for accidents caused by hazardous road surfaces. Additionally, driver fatigue cannot be considered negligence if the driver has been driving long hours without a break. A skilled Houston bus accident lawyer can help you determine if the driver is liable for the accident or if you need to turn to other parties.

Is the Bus Company Liable for Injuries of the Passengers?

The bus company is responsible for ensuring their buses are in excellent working addition. They're also responsible for hiring competent and experienced drivers. Therefore, passengers can hold the company liable for injuries sustained in the bus crash. 

Buses on the road must be in good functioning order. The company must also ensure that every defect identified is fixed immediately to avoid an accident while the bus is on the road and to prevent passenger or pedestrian injuries. Bus companies are also responsible for providing proper training for drivers and can be held liable for hiring unqualified drivers.

A Houston bus accident lawyer can help determine if the bus company is liable if you're a passenger and sustained injuries from the bus accident. After examining the crash evidence, a personal injury attorney will provide legal advice on how to proceed and who you can hold accountable for your injuries. 

Other Liable Parties in a Bus Accident in Houston

Most times, you can hold multiple parties liable for a bus accident. Apart from the bus company and bus driver, other responsible parties include:

Government Agencies

A government agency usually operates mass transit; an example is the Metro in Houston. Therefore, drivers of bus lines are government employees. As a result, government vehicle accident claims are subject to certain restrictions and procedures.

In Texas, some of these restrictions include:

  • Claimants must submit a notice of their personal injury claim to the right government agency within six months of the accident. Time limits usually vary by jurisdiction.
  • Liability and damages caused by the bus accident are restricted. This means that injuries sustained while boarding or exiting the vehicle doesn't count.
  • The accident must occur during the bus driver's duties as a government employee. 
  • Compensation in public liability claims is capped at $250,000 per person and $500,00 for every accident.

Claims against government entities can be complicated. However, a Houston bus accident lawyer can conduct a proper investigation and ensure that claims are filed promptly while your rights are protected.

Bus Manufacturer

Sometimes, mechanical issues might be the cause of the accident. This could be because the vehicle manufacturer didn't conduct proper inspection and maintenance of the bus before sending it out. Mechanical failures due to faulty parts and components could result in a car accident. In such a case, the manufacturer is the at-fault party, and you can hold them liable for damages.

An experienced Houston bus accident lawyer understands the role a defective part could play in a bus crash. Therefore, they'll ensure a comprehensive assessment of the bus to determine if one or more parts of the bus were faulty. If defective parts are found, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer to receive fair compensation for damages.

School District

Schools need buses to transport their students to and from school. Most of these buses are owned by school districts. Although parents trust these buses and their drivers to transport their kids safely, most school buses are poorly maintained and lack essential safety features. 

That's why school bus crashes occur, and children tend to suffer severe injuries. School bus drivers could also be easily distracted while driving, leading to school bus accidents. Filing an injury claim against a school district is similar to filing against the government. The main difference between them is the maximum compensation you can recover as a claimant.

The district might not be the only one parents can hold responsible for their children's injuries. Therefore, it's essential to contact a Houston bus accident lawyer to discuss all the options available to recover financial compensation.

Other Motorists

Sometimes, other motorists on the road might be amongst the liable parties. For example, even if the school bus is a commercial vehicle, other drivers might have acted negligently on the road. Therefore, you can hold them partially or fully responsible for the accident. 

What Happens When a Bus Hits Your Car?

Many things determine what happens afterward if your car is hit by a bus. Factors like:

  • Where and when the bus accident took place
  • The angle you were hit
  • The speed you both were traveling
  • If you wore a seatbelt or not

In rare cases, you and your passengers could walk away without a scratch. However, in most cases, your car might be totaled, and you might have serious injuries, emotional trauma, and debts to deal with afterward.

From the accident scene, your immediate concern would be coping with the aftermath of the accident. First, however, you need to take steps to improve your chances of fair compensation. Therefore, do the following:

  • Seek Medical Attention: Buses are larger than cars. Therefore, you should always seek medical care if your vehicle collides with a bus. You might not notice the symptoms immediately if you suffer internal injuries like a traumatic brain injury. However, you should still visit a medical professional to create a medical record and prevent your injuries from worsening.
  • Exchange Contact Information: Unless you were severely injured at the accident scene, you should always exchange contact and insurance information with the bus driver before leaving the scene. Also, collect the contact information of witnesses at the scene.
  • Collect Evidence: Make videos and take pictures of the accident scene, property damage, and injuries. This is a great way to preserve evidence of what happened and how it occurred.
  • Seek Legal Assistance: You need to consider your legal options, and contacting a Houston bus accident lawyer can help you figure out how to proceed. 

What Compensation Can You Get After a Bus Accident in Houston? 

As a bus accident victim, you can claim economic and non-economic damages. Both of them cover your financial and non-financial losses, respectively, and examples include:

  • Lost wages 
  • Cost of medical treatment 
  • Loss of earning capacity 
  • Property damage 
  • Loss of consortium 
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish 
  • Out-of-pocket expenses, etc.

If you lose a loved one to a bus collision, you can also claim funeral and burial expenses. Finally, if you file a lawsuit, your Houston bus accident lawyer might be able to ask the court for punitive damages, a type of compensation that punishes the at-fault party.

A Houston Bus Accident Lawyer Can Help

Getting compensation as a bus accident victim can be a tedious process. In addition, it can be confusing to determine who is liable for your injuries. That's where a Houston bus accident lawyer enters the picture.

At Calhoun Meredith, our lawyers would help you investigate the accident and determine who the liable parties are. We'll also help you file all the vital claims to hold the liable parties responsible. Finally, as your legal representative, we'll protect your rights and advise you on which legal course to take. 

We'll negotiate with the at-fault party and their insurance carrier to pursue maximum compensation on your behalf. To learn how we can help, contact our law firm today.

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