How to Claim Injury Compensation for a Bus Accident: Understand Your Rights

You have a right to fair compensation for bus accident injuries. Learn how to make a valid claim against private and government bus companies.

From big cities to rural counties, Americans of all ages take billions of bus trips every year. Nearly 480,000 school buses carry 26 million children to school every day.¹

Add the number of public transportation buses, private motor coaches, and tour buses on public roadways, and it’s no surprise to learn that over 63,000 bus accidents happen every year.²

Seeking injury compensation after a bus accident is more complicated than other types of motor vehicle accidents. Here’s what you need to know.

The Bus Injury Claim Process

If you’re injured in a bus crash caused by the driver of another vehicle, you’ll file an injury claim with the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company, just as you would after a two-car auto accident.

When the driver of the bus you were riding in caused the crash, or you were in another vehicle that was hit by the at-fault bus driver, your claim will usually be made to the bus owner’s liability insurance company.

You can also file a claim with the at-fault bus driver’s personal auto insurance company, although the driver’s insurer may deny your claim. The driver’s personal policy may exclude coverage for incidents arising while the insured was driving commercially.

Basic Steps of the Bus Injury Claim Process

  1. Send Notice: Government claims require the use of special notification forms. For non-government injury claims, you or your attorney will send a notification letter to the insurance company to let them know you intend to pursue compensation.
  2. Establish Fault: As with any traffic accident claim, it’s up to the claimant to prove the bus driver did something wrong, or failed to do what any reasonable driver would do in similar circumstances. You bear the same burden of proof no matter if the bus involved was a government-owned bus or a privately owned bus company.
  3. Demand Compensation: Calculate the value of your injury claim based on your medical expenses, lost wages, and car accident pain and suffering. Your demand packet will include medical bills and other supporting documentation.
  4. Negotiate a Settlement: You or your attorney should be able to reach a compromise settlement with the insurance company after a few rounds of offers and counter-offers.
  5. File a Lawsuit: If negotiations fail, or there isn’t enough money to go around, you’ll need to file a lawsuit to preserve your claim.

Uncomplicated personal injury claims can settle as quickly as a few months, assuming you recovered from relatively mild injuries.

How long it takes to resolve your bus passenger injury claim will depend on the severity of your injuries, the number of people injured in the crash, and the available insurance policy limits.

For example, a bus crash may result in serious injuries to several bus passengers. Even the million-dollar limits of a commercial liability policy may not be enough to cover all the claims. The insurance company will file an interpleader action, asking the court to decide how to allocate the available funds. It could take years to finalize all the claims.

Watch Out for the Statute of Limitations

Every state has deadlines for resolving personal injury claims. If you haven’t settled your injury claim, you must file a lawsuit against the responsible party before your state’s statute of limitations deadline. The statute of limitations filing period for non-public transportation injuries in most states ranges from one to five years.

The rules are different for government claims. The statute of limitations for filing public transport injury claims is sometimes as little as 30 to 60 days.

If you miss the deadline, you will lose your right to pursue compensation for your injuries, no matter how badly you’re hurt.

Government-Owned Bus Accident Claims

State and federal governments provide most public transportation. For example, a city usually owns transit buses. The local school district may own school buses.

Injury claims against the government are made under the rules of the Tort Claims Act for federal agencies. Many states and municipalities have adopted their own version of the Tort Claims Act to handle injury claims by private citizens.

Act quickly to initiate your injury claim after an accident caused by a school or city bus driver. Injuries caused by school buses are more common than you may think.

Filing an injury claim under the Tort Claims Act is different from filing one against a private person or company. Claims against government agencies have special forms to complete and firm deadlines. If your forms are late or incorrect, you may lose your right to compensation.

Notice of Intent to File a Claim

If you’re considering filing a personal injury claim against a government-owned or managed public transportation authority, refer to the specific laws in your state and municipality.

Depending on where you live, be prepared to file a “notice of claim.” Use the exact claim form required by the agency responsible for the bus accident.

Most government claim forms must include:

  • The injured person’s name and address
  • A description of when, where and how the bus accident happened
  • A description of your damages, such as your medical costs, lost wages, broken glasses, etc.
  • A statement of your intent to seek compensation for injuries and property damage caused by the agency’s employee, for example, the bus driver

Be sure to submit the notice on time, and to the right place. Keep a copy for your records.

Common Government Injury Claim Pitfalls

Every government entity is different, ranging from county school districts, to big city municipal transit authorities. What all government bodies have in common is making injured claimants jump through hoops to pursue accident compensation.

Watch out for these pitfalls when filing a government injury claim:

  • Find the Correct Agency: Governmental bodies are known for having layers of bureaucracy, with each department and division having its own rules and forms. You must verify the correct department responsible for processing your bus accident claim.
  • File Correct and Accurate Forms: Using the wrong form, failing to fill out every line completely, or making a mistake in the information provided will result in a rejection of your claim.
  • Meet the Deadline: Most government agencies must be correctly notified of your injury claims in as little as four to eight weeks. If your claim is not filed correctly the first time, by the time you find out about the mistake you’ve missed the deadline.

It pays to work with an experienced bus accident attorney who can make sure your claim is filed correctly and on time to the appropriate agency.

Case Example: Parents Sue for Death of Child from School Bus Accident

On January 29, 2018, first-grader Arlana Haynes was killed when her school bus rolled over, ejecting the child from the bus.

The bus driver, Shalita Harris, was charged and ultimately convicted of vehicular homicide and reckless driving for speeding while approaching a curve, causing her to lose control of the school bus. Harris’s conviction was upheld on appeal in July 2021.

Through their attorney, parents Angelica Rose and Christopher Haynes filed suit against the Houston County School District and driver Shalita Harris for the wrongful death of their daughter. The lawsuit sought the value of their daughter’s life and $250,000 in punitive damages.

Privately Owned Bus Accident Claims

People rely on privately owned transportation and tour buses to carry them to and from sporting events, shopping, medical treatment, and more. Any individual or business licensed to transport passengers for a fee is known as a common carrier.

State and federal laws closely regulate most common carriers. The laws hold carriers to a very high standard for the safety of their passengers, called a duty of care. Strict enforcement of the laws forces common carriers to take special actions to avoid injuries to passengers.

When a bus company or agency violates their duty of care, they’ve become negligent, meaning they did something wrong or failed to do what they’re supposed to do to keep passengers safe.

Proving Bus Accident Negligence

To win your bus accident claim or lawsuit, you have to prove the carrier’s negligence was the direct cause of your injuries.

Because common carriers have a higher duty of care to passengers, you won’t need as much evidence to prove your case as you would in other injury claims. But don’t let that stop you from collecting as much evidence as you can.

Evidence to support your case includes:

  • Photographs taken at the time of your injury and several days after
  • Witness statements
  • Incident or police reports
  • Weather reports
  • Your written notes about the accident and your injuries

You’ll also need evidence of your injuries, such as:

Bus Accident Passenger Lawsuits

Public transportation continues to be more affordable and safer than traveling by car, but accidents do happen.

If you’ve sustained minor injuries in a bus accident, you can probably settle your claim fairly without a personal injury lawyer.

Soft tissue injuries like bruises, sprains, and strains can usually be settled directly with the insurance company. You can demand the total of your medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and a small amount for pain and suffering.

On the other hand, severe injury and wrongful death claims are complicated and difficult to settle outside of a courtroom. High-dollar claims against a government agency are time-sensitive and complex. In a bus accident lawsuit, there may be several injured parties fighting for the same portion of funds.

Compensation for severe or fatal injuries includes much more than the total medical bills. You’ll need a good attorney to pursue compensation for future care, consortium claims, lost wages, and lost earning potential. You also deserve compensation for your tremendous pain and suffering.

You have too much to lose by handling a bus injury claim without expert legal advice. Most personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation to bus accident victims and their families. There’s no obligation, and the attorney won’t get paid unless they win your bus accident case.

Bus Accident Injury Claim Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>