Many adults and children in Wesley Chapel use buses as their main mode of transportation to and from work or school. From the Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT) to private bus companies, many of these large vehicles travel on the local roads every day.
While buses can provide an efficient, cost-effective transportation option for commuters, they come with many safety concerns. Buses have much larger blind spots than the average car, and they are much more difficult to steer. A collision with a bus could be catastrophic for a driver, cyclist, pedestrian, or bus passenger. Additionally, most passengers do not wear a seatbelt while on a bus which can make injuries from bus accidents much more severe.
Whether you were on a bus that got into an accident or a negligent bus driver struck your car, reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Our Wesley Chapel bus accident lawyers from Hancock Injury Attorneys can advise you of your options and help you take action to get the compensation you deserve.
Does the Bus Company’s Personal Injury Protection Cover Accidents in Wesley Chapel?
Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage is mandatory for most drivers in Florida, including school bus drivers and private bus operators. PIP offers coverage for a percentage of the expenses associated with treating and recovering from a physical injury sustained in a vehicle accident. It generally covers medical bills, lost wages, and incidental expenses.
If you were a passenger on a private bus during an accident, you could make a claim under the bus company’s PIP coverage. However, the bus company’s PIP typically will not cover an occupant of another vehicle involved in the accident.
Seeking Coverage from Your Insurer
If you were operating a motor vehicle when a bus struck you, you could file a claim with your insurer. Buses that are part of a public transportation system typically do not carry PIP coverage. If you were injured in an accident with a public bus, you must turn to your own insurance policy first for PIP insurance.
To receive more than $2,500 from your PIP coverage, a physician other than a chiropractor must state that you suffered an “emergency medical condition,” which is defined under Florida Statute § 627.732. If your insurance coverage still does not adequately address your damages, a local attorney can help you file a bus crash
claim with the government entity responsible.
Do Buses Have to Carry Liability Insurance?
Yes. According to the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), if a bus carries over 15 passengers, the bus must carry at least $5,000,000 in liability insurance coverage. Buses carrying less than 15 passengers must carry at least $1,500,000 in insurance coverage. These amounts are per crash, so if there are multiple parties injured, the insurance money would be spit amongst them. According to current Florida law, the liability insurance would payout after your PIP insurance if you carry car insurance yourself.
Who Is Responsible for a Bus Crash?
Florida is a no-fault state, so determining blame in an accident does not usually affect whose insurance pays for your injuries and damages. However, if you suffered a serious injury—one that is permanent, or causes permanent impairment of a bodily function, or results in scarring or disfigurement—could bring a lawsuit seeking damages for your unreimbursed losses, as well as pain, suffering, and diminished quality of life.
In bus accident cases, there often are multiple parties who played a role in the incident. In addition to the bus driver, other potentially liable parties may include:
- The bus driver’s employer
- Other motorists involved
- The vehicle manufacturer
- The person responsible for maintaining the vehicle
Our experienced lawyers can help you determine who is responsible for your bus collision injuries.
Proving Negligence in a Bus Accident Case
If you decide to bring a lawsuit against the responsible party, you will need to prove negligence. Negligence occurs when a lack of reasonable caution causes someone else an injury.
To demonstrate this legal concept, your attorney must prove:
- The responsible party had a duty to keep you safe
- That party breached its duty
- The breach of duty caused the accident
- The accident caused your injuries and damages
Anyone using the public roads has a duty to obey the law and consider the safety of other road users, so establishing an obligation and a breach is generally straightforward in a motor vehicle accident claim. Any violation of law is proof of negligence. Evidence of carelessness, distraction, or poor judgment also could help establish negligence. A personal injury attorney in Wesley Chapel can help you compile the evidence necessary to establish a link between the bus accident and your injuries.
What Is the Timeframe for Legal Action?
In most personal injury cases in Florida, you have four years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit seeking damages. However, it is generally best to take prompt action. Over time, witnesses might become unavailable, your memories might fade, and evidence could disappear or deteriorate.
In an accident involving a public bus, it is even more important to act quickly. For a claim against a state or local government entity, you must notify the party within three years of the incident.
You may not file suit until the government has had six months to investigate or settle the claim. An experienced bus wreck attorney can ensure that a potential government defendant receives the required notices in a timely fashion.
Collecting Compensation in an Injury Claim
Damages awards in personal injury cases in Wesley Chapel usually include compensation for the plaintiff’s unreimbursed and future expenses associated with the injury, as well as non-economic losses such as pain and suffering. In rare cases where a defendant’s conduct was especially egregious, a court might award punitive damages.
It is important to note that Florida Statute § 768.28 limits the amount the state or a local government can pay an injured party in a negligence case. If a public bus was involved in the incident, you could collect no more than $200,000.
Additionally, if the court rules that you were partially responsible for the accident, you will not receive the full damages award. Under Florida’s pure comparative negligence doctrine, the court will reduce your compensation by your assigned percentage of fault. A skilled lawyer can help you understand how these laws affect your bus accident claim.
Is it Necessary to Work with a Lawyer?
While you have the right to handle your bus crash case alone, working with a dedicated attorney can improve your chances of success; especially due to the complex nature of bus accidents. Attorney Mike Hancock has spent years working in personal injury law, so he understands the nuances of the legal system. He also has experience as an insurance defense attorney, and he can guide you through negotiations with your insurer. Working with a lawyer allows you to focus on your recovery instead of the complicated legal case.
Call a Wesley Chapel Bus Accident Attorney Today
Bus accident cases have a lot of moving parts. Oftentimes there are multiple defendants, many injuries, and a large number of witnesses to get information from. Getting the compensation you deserve is no simple matter. You need a savvy legal representative who understands all the nuances of injury cases in Florida.
Working with our Wesley Chapel bus accident lawyers is the best decision you can make for your case. Schedule a free consultation today to get started.