In a city like Washington, D.C., traffic can be a nightmare. Prior to the pandemic, D.C. was ranked as the 3rd worst city in the nation for traffic congestion. A study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that D.C. drivers spent an average of 102 hours per year in traffic delays. (source)
Fortunately, Washington, D.C. has a robust city bus system that serves people who are there for work, tourism, or any other reason.
The 2 primary bus systems in Washington, D.C. are the Metrobus, which mainly serves commuters and runs hundreds of routes in the city and surrounding areas, and the D.C. Circulator. The Circulator is a $1 ride along 6 specific routes that are designed for easy access to points of interest. It runs every 10 minutes and stops in the Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Woodley Park, U Street, and Capitol Hill neighborhoods, along with the National Mall.
|Metrobus fast facts|
|1,595...||Buses in fleet|
|1,500...||Square miles covered in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia|
|390,000...||The average number of trips per weekday in 2017|
|123.6 million...||Approximate trips made in 2016|
|Source: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority|
Bus accidents are unusual, which is part of what makes them newsworthy. Here are a few examples of Washington, D.C. bus accidents:
These bus accidents didn’t result in a high number of fatalities — or even injuries — but there’s always potential that a disaster could happen.
If you’re ever involved in a bus accident, it will be important to know what type of bus you’re on.
Bus accidents are often caused by the same conditions that cause car accidents. For instance, driver distraction or fatigue can cause any kind of accident, including a bush crash. Weather conditions, road conditions and signals, vehicle equipment defects, and a lack of driver training or experience can also play a role in causing an accident.
One difference between a bus and a passenger car is that a bus is at higher risk of a rollover or tipping accident because of its size and center of gravity. There are also some accidents where a bus is too tall to clear a low bridge or tunnel.
A tip-over or rollover is more likely for a bus than a passenger car because of the height and distribution of weight within the vehicle. Adding to the risk of injuries is the fact that most bus passengers don’t wear seatbelts and buses don’t tend to be equipped with airbags. So even though bus accidents aren’t as common as car accidents, injuries are often more serious when a bus crashes.
Liability is not the same as negligence. If a person or company is “liable,” it means they are responsible for something happening or that has happened. But if they’re negligent, it means they were irresponsible in a way that resulted in an injury.
Usually, a car accident involves 2 drivers. One driver caused the accident and the other is the victim — although both could be at fault to different degrees. If you were injured in an accident with another car, you would either rely on your own no-fault insurance coverage or you could file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
A bus accident, however, could be a little more complicated in several ways:
There are myriad other ways an accident could happen, and knowing who is at fault is going to be the key to recovering financial damages.
State and federal regulations include common carrier laws. A common carrier is an individual or business licensed to transport passengers for a fee.
Every common carrier has a duty to follow certain rules to ensure the safety of its passengers. These duties include:
If a common carrier bus company doesn’t do what’s required in order to ensure a safe ride for passengers, the bus company is negligent.
The legal challenges that arise when a charter bus or another private transportation motorcoach is in an accident are different from crashes involving a public bus.
In many situations, an employer is liable for the negligence of an employee on the job. This applies to bus accidents, too. Even if the driver made a mistake, the bus company could be the liable party.
If the bus is owned by the District government, sovereign immunity might apply. The doctrine of sovereign immunity prohibits citizens from suing the government in some cases. That doesn’t mean you can’t get the compensation you deserve, though. Some courts interpret sovereign immunity as inapplicable to school districts, cities, municipalities, and counties — which are likely the operators of a bus system. However, you’d file a claim differently against a government than you do against a private person or company.
If you need to file a lawsuit against the District of Columbia, you must file a Notice of Claim letter within 6 months of the date of the accident. Your letter must be received by the Office of Risk Management and must contain the following:
This can include expenses for medical treatment, lost wages, and other costs related to the accident.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance covers your medical treatment after an accident injury. Insurance companies are required to offer no-fault PIP insurance to all D.C. drivers, in addition to your required liability coverage. However, you’re not required to purchase it.
PIP insurance would benefit you if you’re injured in a bus accident as the driver or occupant of your own vehicle.
In Washington, D.C., PIP covers:
The major benefit to PIP is that if you’re injured in an accident, your medical bills can be paid right away, rather than waiting for the insurance company to determine who was at fault.
However, PIP does not cover lost wages or pain and suffering. It’s solely for medical expenses.
Each state (and the District) follows 1 of 4 fault systems. These laws determine how much a plaintiff can recover in an accident where the plaintiff shares some responsibility for the injury.
The District of Columbia follows a pure contributory negligence standard, which means if the plaintiff shares any degree of fault, they can’t recover damages for an accident.
Even if you share some liability, you can make a claim for PIP (no-fault) medical benefits from your insurance company. Because it’s no-fault insurance, your claim should not be denied because of contributory negligence. However, you would not be able to recover damages in a lawsuit because of this negligence standard.
If you’re injured as a bus passenger, it’s unlikely that you would be held liable for your own injuries — though it’s possible if you were behaving in a way that was unsafe on the bus or you were not following the rules of the bus company.
For instance, if you are on an uncrowded bus and choosing to stand rather than sit, you could have some degree of negligence if the court finds that you would have been uninjured (or less injured) had you been sitting at the time of the accident. In other words, even though you didn’t cause the accident, a court could find that you could have prevented yourself from being injured.
Here are 10 tips to keep yourself safe before, during, and after your bus ride:
If you were injured in a Washington, D.C. bus accident, you might be able to recover damages (costs) related to the injury, including:
In order to recover these expenses, you might wish to consult a Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer. Bus companies and government agencies have deep pockets to defend against personal injury claims, but that doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to recover damages. It means you need your lawyer to help you navigate the legal system and receive what you deserve in compensation.