Can I Sue the City if a City Bus Hit Me?

April 16, 2024 | By Francis Firm Injury Attorneys
Can I Sue the City if a City Bus Hit Me?
Texas bus accident attorney

Millions of people depend on city buses daily to reach their destinations, resulting in numerous large vehicles sharing the space with drivers. Each day, there are multiple city bus accidents throughout the county in which large vehicles collide with passenger cars. Motorists and their passengers can suffer severe injuries in these crashes.

Just because a city transit agency owns the bus does not mean that you have to go without financial compensation for your injuries. You can hold the city legally responsible for what its agencies do, just like any careless driver. Before receiving compensation, you need to follow a different set of rules. Still, beating the city in court is possible if your case goes that far.

You must promptly contact an experienced Texas bus accident attorney to schedule a free consultation. Your attorney works under tight deadlines and deals with a powerful bureaucracy with the resources to make your case more difficult. 

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Buses Can Cause Serious Damage to a Passenger Vehicle

When a bus crashes into a passenger vehicle, the car will likely sustain much more severe damage. While buses are smaller and lighter than tractor-trailers, they still weigh 20,000 to 30,000 pounds without passengers, and then a full bus adds considerable weight.

In comparison, the average passenger car weighs about 3,000 pounds.

In a collision between a bus and a car, the impact can result in a range of severe injuries due to the significant size and weight disparity between the two vehicles. 

Common injuries from such accidents include:

Common injuries
  • Whiplash: Sudden impact can cause the head to jerk forward and backward, resulting in neck strain and whiplash injuries.
  • Head Injuries: Even with seat belts, occupants may experience head injuries, including concussions or traumatic brain injuries, especially if the collision involves significant force.
  • Spinal Injuries: The force of a bus collision can lead to spinal injuries, ranging from herniated discs to more severe spinal cord injuries that may result in paralysis.
  • Broken Bones: Fractures and broken bones are common, often occurring in the extremities due to the force of the impact.
  • Soft Tissue Injuries: Muscles, tendons, and ligaments may be strained or torn, causing pain, swelling, and reduced mobility.
  • Internal Injuries: The impact of a bus collision can cause internal injuries, such as organ damage or internal bleeding, which may not be immediately apparent.
  • Psychological Trauma: Beyond physical injuries, individuals involved in a bus-car collision may experience psychological trauma, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or depression.

Prompt medical attention is necessary after a bus-car accident, as some injuries may need life-saving treatment or might not manifest immediately. Seeking medical care ensures that injuries are properly diagnosed, contributing to a smoother recovery process.

Even relatively minor injuries can affect your life in many costly ways, including medical bills and lost income. More severe catastrophic injuries can alter the rest of your life, leading to extensive and ongoing losses.

Further, transit agency bus accidents comprise one-third of the total number of fatal bus accidents in the country. When that happens to a close loved one, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Inexperienced Bus Operators Pose Risks to Other Drivers

How much risk the bus poses to other drivers on the road depends entirely on the skill and diligence of the driver. There have been numerous stories about how transit agencies cannot find enough bus drivers because the driving workforce is aging. The result is that they place younger drivers with less experience behind the wheel, causing more accidents.

The Way the Bus Operates Also Makes it Dangerous

City buses have unique risks because they continuously pull in and out of traffic and stop and start often. Bus drivers must change lanes to pick up or discharge passengers and rarely make a trip in a linear, straight line.

In addition, bus drivers are often distracted by passengers on the bus. They are responsible for what happens inside the vehicle, and even though signs tell passengers to refrain from talking to the driver when the bus is in operation, they rarely listen.

If bus drivers are not distracted by passengers, their mobile device can take their focus away from the road. Regulations strictly prohibit drivers from using their phones when they are driving. However, media reports are often filled with stories of drivers who cause severe injuries because they were texting while driving.

What to Do After You Have Suffered an Injury in a City Bus Accident?

City Bus Accident

The first thing that you should do is gather all the evidence and documentation that you can on your own. Understandably, it is difficult to do at the scene of an accident when you are dealing with personal injuries. If you have any evidence, preserve it in a safe place to hand over to your attorney.

Then, you need to get your injuries diagnosed and treated by a doctor. You have a tight timeline to file a claim, but you also need to reach the point of maximum medical improvement before you know how much to seek in damages.

You can only file a claim after you have the documentation proving your injuries, and the city is closely watching to see if you have diligently sought medical care. You may have a more challenging time connecting your medical condition to the accident if you wait a long time to have your injuries diagnosed.

Contact a Lawyer Right After Your Accident

You should contact an experienced bus accident attorney to handle your case. Going up against a transit agency is complicated because they always see claims and may be very stringent about which ones they will pay.

You stand much more of a chance of dealing with them reasonably when you hire an experienced attorney for your case. Time is of the essence when a government agency is involved, and you should reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident.

Proving Negligence in a Bus Accident

The first step in your claim for compensation against the city is proving that the bus driver was at fault for what happened. Although city bus drivers are still subject to a negligence standard, there is another factor in bus accident cases.

City buses will be subject to the common carrier doctrine. This legal theory imposes an even higher standard of care on those who transport the public for money without discrimination and in the public interest and necessity. Any type of bus company will be subject to the common carrier doctrine.

The doctrine holds that a common carrier has a duty to its passengers to exercise the highest degree of care consistent with the practical operation of its type of transportation and its business. There is a heightened ordinary standard of care when dealing with a common carrier. Still, you have the legal obligation to prove negligence in your case.

Evidence That Can Be Helpful in Your Bus Accident Case

Bus Accident Case

You can use the following to prove what happened in your bus accident:

  • Testimony from people who witnessed what happened
  • Pictures from the scene of the accident
  • Testimony from an accident reconstruction
  • The police report for the accident

In addition, the bus driver will have to file a report about the accident, which your lawyer can obtain along with the results of any investigation conducted by the city transit agency.

There is also an increasing number of black boxes on city buses. These event data recorders can capture information about how the driver drove the bus before the crash, including steering and speed. If your case goes to trial, you can obtain black box data in discovery.

The Government Waives Sovereign Immunity, Allowing You to Sue

In some cases, the government will have sovereign immunity that keeps them from being sued in a lawsuit. However, each state has a tort claims act that governs when and how you can sue a governmental entity.

Through these laws, the government waives immunity in certain circumstances, such as liability in negligence cases for car accidents or failing to maintain roadways in reasonable conditions.

Lawsuits Against the Government Follow a Different Set of Rules

Special rules apply when you are suing the city, and the most crucial is to notify the city of your claim within a specific time after the accident. You may have little time to give your notice, meaning you need to hire an attorney right after the accident to begin working on your claim.

Ordinary statutes of limitations do not apply in these kinds of cases. Therefore, you must begin the process promptly to ensure you get all the compensation you deserve.

You Must Present Your Claim to the City First

Another special rule is that you cannot go to court directly to sue a governmental entity and must first submit a claim to the city, just like the procedure with an insurance company. The city will review your claim and determine whether to offer you a settlement. If the city denies your claim or you cannot reach an agreement, you can sue in court.

The Law Can Cap Your Damages 

Depending on the state law, your damages may be limited when suing a governmental entity, and there may be a cap that determines your overall recovery. 

Usually, this cap is high enough that you can still recover a substantial amount of financial compensation. Some states do not have damage caps, allowing you to get total financial reimbursement when you sue the city.

Legal Case

Even if you are not dealing with an insurance company, you will still have a challenging time getting financial compensation for your injuries. Municipal entities are extremely difficult to deal with in the claims process, and their attorneys and employees see a variety of claims relating to many functions of city business. They often take a hard line in deciding whether to grant a claim and make a settlement offer.

You Need to Negotiate Compensation with the City

The city operates like an insurance company when it makes a settlement offer, where numbers are low, and you need to negotiate to get more money. You will likely have to go through several rounds of offers and counteroffers before you get close to an agreement.

You will need an experienced lawyer who can speak a language the city can understand. You may need to go to court and sue the city, which is like any other defendant and is equal to everyone else in the eyes of the law.

How a Bus Accident Attorney Can Help Your Case?

When dealing with the city, you need an attorney to protect your legal rights and maximize your financial compensation. You should hire an attorney as soon as possible after the bus accident, especially considering your shorter timeframes for a claim.

When you hire an experienced bus accident attorney, they can:

  • Investigate the cause of your accident
  • Gather evidence that can help prove that the city was at fault
  • Explain your legal options and pathways to financial compensation
  • Review your medical records and situation to help determine the value of your case
  • Notify the city about your claim
  • Prepare your claim to file with the city
  • Negotiate financial compensation with the city
  • Sue the city in court if you cannot reach a settlement agreement
Michael Francis, Texas Bus Accident Lawyer

You Do Not Have to Worry About Paying for a Lawyer

Affording a lawyer is not something that you will need to worry about after you have suffered an injury in a bus accident.

A bus accident lawyer works for you on a contingency basis, meaning their compensation depends on whether you receive a settlement and how much money you get. They do not send you bills for their time during the case, nor will they send you one afterward. If there is no settlement or award, you do not have to pay them. You stand to lose much more by not hiring a lawyer.