When people think of bus-related injuries, bus accidents usually come to mind. Because of their size and mass, buses can do major damage if they get into a crash with other vehicles on the road. And in a bus accident, passengers inside the bus could suffer significant injuries – especially if they’re standing up or the seats have no seatbelts.
But even without a bus accident, passengers can get injured if they slip and fall while riding the bus. This could happen if the bus operator is driving aggressively, if the bus cabin has broken components like faulty stairs, railings, or handholds, or if something spills on the bus floor and doesn’t get cleaned up. Injuries could even happen if bus operators fail to remove rowdy passengers from the vehicle and those passengers shove an innocent bystander.
Bus operators are considered common carriers under California law, which means they owe their passengers the highest standard of care. The same standards apply whether buses are operated publicly by the state or privately by a company.
The standard of care for common carriers like buses goes above and beyond the usual reasonable care standard, which is the amount of care a reasonable person would take under the circumstances. Instead, common carriers must use the utmost care and diligence and provide everything necessary for the safe carriage of their passengers – and they must apply a reasonable degree of skill towards this purpose.
Under California’s common carrier standard, bus operators must not only make their buses safe for passengers by regularly maintaining the vehicles and proactively inspecting them for dangers, but they must also warn passengers of any known dangers.
If a bus operator fails in this legal duty, that could amount to negligence under California law. As long as bus employees are acting within the scope of their jobs, the transportation company or public transit entity that employs them would be legally responsible for their actions.
That means if you get injured because of a slip and fall caused by a bus operator’s negligence, you could file a personal injury lawsuit against the bus operator to recover for your losses.
Common Injuries Caused by Slip and Fall Accidents on Buses
A slip and fall can happen when you least expect it, especially if it’s caused by negligence. After all, when you ride the bus, you expect to be safe from preventable dangers like:
- Broken seats, doors, stairs, handrails, or handholds
- Vehicle maintenance defects that could cause issues while driving
- Speeding, sudden stops, improper lane changes, or hard turns
- Moving while you’re getting on or off the bus
- Unsecured large objects that can topple and fall
- Drunk or rowdy passengers harassing others on the bus
- Slippery wet floors caused by spills, rain, or snow
In many cases, the bus driver or the operating entity is responsible for the negligent conditions that lead to an injury. But in some cases, other passengers could stretch out their legs or store their bags in a way that creates a tripping hazard – and they may be responsible for injuries.
A slip and fall could lead to serious, potentially life-changing injuries such as:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from falling and hitting your head on the floor or hard objects around you – these types of injuries are even more dangerous because they may not be obvious right away if you don’t get checked out by a medical professional
- Spine and neck injuries like herniated discs or whiplash
- Broken bones or soft tissue injuries like rotator cuff tears
- Facial injuries and lacerations, broken nose, or dental injuries
The more severe your injuries, the more dramatically they’re likely to impact your life. In addition to the medical bills and out-of-pocket costs that come with recovery from a major injury, you may lose the ability to work and earn an income while you get treatment. In a worst-case scenario, a long-term or permanent disability could make you unable to work for the foreseeable future. You may even need part- or full-time supportive care to function on a day-to-day basis.
If you can prove that your injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence, a personal injury lawsuit could “make you whole” by compensating you for your damages.
Does It Matter If You Get Injured on a Public or Private Bus?
Both public and private buses are held to the same high standard in California. However, the process of filing a personal injury claim will differ based on whether you’re suing a private transportation company or a public (government) transit entity.
- In California, public bus lines like the Metro (Metropolitan Transit Authority or MTA) are usually city or county government entities. Instead of filing a lawsuit with the local court, you would file an administrative claim directly with the MTA.
The biggest difference between suing a public versus a private entity is the amount of time you get to file your claim under the statute of limitations. For public or government entities, the statute of limitations is usually very short – in some cases, just 6 months. This is compared to filing a personal injury lawsuit against a private entity, where the deadline is 2 years.
- Private bus operators like Greyhound, party buses, and tour buses are held to the same “common carrier” high standards as publicly operated buses. However, the process of suing a private bus company tends to be more straightforward, similar to other personal injury lawsuits – you can simply file a claim in court.
What about school buses? You expect that your children will be safely taken care of while being transported to and from school. If your child gets injured in a fall on a school bus, the legal process would depend on whether the bus was owned and operated by public or private entities. For private school buses, the private school would be responsible. For public school buses either owned or chartered by the school district, you may have to file a government claim.
While the process of filing a legal claim may sound complicated, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help simplify the process and help you understand the best options available to you. At Sepulveda Sanchez Law, we take cases on a contingency fee basis so that you don’t have to worry about paying legal fees upfront.
Click here now to contact our knowledgeable attorneys for a free case consultation.