Whether your injuries are minor or life-altering, a Kentucky bus accident lawyer can help you get the compensation you need
A bus is a vehicle, just like a car or truck. That means a bus can get into an accident that leads to injuries for passengers, occupants of other vehicles, or pedestrians.
In a car accident, it’s often clear who was at fault and how the crash happened. But a bus accident could involve several different factors and it can be more challenging to determine who was at fault and whose expenses should be paid by a liable party.
Kentucky bus accident statistics
The 2019 Traffic Collision Facts report issued by the Kentucky Traffic Data Services shows that out of 241,515 vehicle collisions that year, there were 390 school bus collisions and 12,240 collisions involving other types of buses. Of those, 1 of the school bus accidents and 5 of the other bus accidents resulted in fatalities.
Riding a bus in Kentucky
Cities and towns everywhere rely on bus transit for many of their residents, commuters, and tourists. There are lots of reasons why people choose to ride buses. They are usually convenient, riders can relax and not have the hassle of driving themselves, and you don’t have to worry about gas or parking (or other expenses related to driving a car daily) or traffic.
The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) offers bus service from the suburbs to downtown Cincinnati (Ohio), as well as Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties. TANK has a fleet of 100 fixed route buses and 25 on-demand vehicles. The company provides rides to more than 3 million passengers in an average year.
The primary bus transportation service in the Louisville metro area is Transit Authority of River City, or TARC. TARC has 227 buses and 2,000 bus stops throughout the area.
There are also smaller bus services and private bus services that provide transportation outside the urban centers.
Types of bus transportation
- School buses
- Transit buses (city buses, shuttles, and commuter buses)
- Intercity buses (buses designed for long-distance travel)
- Passenger vans (vehicles that hold 15 or fewer passengers, often used for private organizations like churches, assistance for seniors or disabled individuals, daycare, and other entities)
There are also private bus transportation services like Greyhound, Peter Pan Bus Lines, and others, like charter bus companies for longer distances or inter-city travel. A charter bus is rented by a team, organization, or group of people who are traveling together.
School buses are different from other types of buses because they’re designed to be safer. There’s a reason why school buses are yellow. They are highly visible and, unlike other kinds of buses, they have flashing red lights and stop-sign arms. School buses are also equipped with protective seats designed to cushion children in a crash, high crush standards, and rollover protection features.
Who is liable for a Kentucky bus accident?
Unfortunately, that’s a question for a lawyer.
A bus accident is complicated because there’s potential for several defendants (liable parties) in a lawsuit.
Let’s look at a few scenarios:
- You’re a bus passenger.
- You’re a pedestrian or cyclist sharing the road.
- You’re the driver or an occupant of a passenger car that collided with a bus.
- You’re the bus driver.
If you’re a bus passenger, it’s unlikely that you had a role in causing an accident. But that doesn’t mean you’re always going to receive full compensation. For example, if there were empty seats on the bus and you chose to stand, the court could reduce your damages because your actions contributed to your injuries because standing while the bus was in motion is more dangerous than being properly seated.
If you’re a pedestrian, cyclist, or another driver who is involved in a collision with a bus, liability will be determined the same way as in any other car accident. Lawyers, insurance companies, accident reconstructionists, and other experts will review the evidence and determine how the accident happened and who was at fault.
If you’re the bus driver, you could be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to cover the cost of your injury. Almost every employer in Kentucky is required to provide workers’ compensation insurance for employees, which would include any bus driver who isn’t an independent contractor. The main benefit to workers’ compensation insurance is that it’s a no-fault system. That means you don’t need to prove that anyone was negligent in order to receive compensation. You only need to have been performing a task related to your job at the time of the injury.
Depending on the nature of the accident, possible defendants could include:
- The bus driver. Often, the employer (bus company) is liable for a driver’s negligence. But the circumstances of the crash and the driver’s behavior will determine whether the bus driver is a defendant.
- The bus company or government authority. The bus company is responsible for maintaining vehicles, driver training and screening, and company operations.
- The government agency that maintains the roadway. Some bus accidents are because of poor road conditions, confusing signage, insufficient lighting, or other conditions that are controlled by a government entity. If the bus, itself, is owned by a government agency, that creates even more liability.
- The bus manufacturer (or manufacturer of certain parts). When you purchase a car, usually it’s made in a factory by a single manufacturer that builds it from components also made by the same company. For example, if you have a Honda, it’s built with Honda parts. But trucks and some buses are different. A bus might have components made by several different companies. So if the accident happened because of brake failure, steering failure, or some other mechanical issue, the bus manufacturer and the manufacturer of the failed system could both be liable.
- The person or company that performs bus maintenance. Sometimes a bus company hires other companies to provide routine maintenance on the bus fleet. If a maintenance provider failed to correctly maintain a bus in a way that resulted in a crash, the provider could be liable.
- Another driver, cyclist, or pedestrian who caused the accident. Ultimately, a bus is a vehicle like any other. It can be hit by a car, swerve to avoid a pedestrian or cyclist, or be involved in any other type of road accident caused by an external factor.
Common carrier liability
A bus company is a common carrier. 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:
- Safe, well-lit, unobstructed entries and exits
- Security where necessary
- Completing thorough background checks of drivers to ensure qualifications
- Adequate training for drivers
- Proper maintenance
Common carriers are held to a higher standard than other types of businesses because of the nature of the industry. Transportation can involve risk, and these companies have a duty to keep passengers safe.
Common causes of bus accidents
A bus accident can happen in a variety of ways, but here are some of the most common causes:
- Driver error. All drivers make mistakes, even when they’re trying to do the right things. One problem with buses is that because they’re so large, it can be difficult for a driver to see other vehicles on the road. Buses have bigger blind spots than passenger cars, and it can be difficult to maneuver and merge into traffic.
- Driver fatigue. Bus drivers have rigorous schedules and it’s a tough job. Exhaustion is common. When a driver starts to become tired, their reaction times are slower and they become less alert, which can be a major factor in causing an accident.
- Driving while intoxicated. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is illegal for all drivers, and it’s especially problematic for a commercial bus driver who’s transporting passengers. Bus drivers who are operating vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs can be criminally charged and held liable for civil damages.
- Bus maintenance. State and federal laws require bus companies to perform certain routine maintenance checks to ensure that buses are safe and functioning properly, but some companies fail to perform the required checks.
- Mechanical problems. Brakes, tires, suspension, steering, and lights are all components that could break down during the operation of a bus—even with regular maintenance. If a defective part causes an accident, the manufacturer may be held liable under Kentucky’s product liability laws.
- Road design. Buses maneuver differently from cars because of their massive size, shape, and height. Sharp curves, short merging lanes and areas of poor visibility can result in bus accidents.
- Weather conditions. Snow, heavy rain, wind, and other bad weather conditions can leave roads slippery and impact the driver’s visibility or maneuverability.
- Road conditions. Weather isn’t the only condition that causes accidents. Potholes, poor lighting, construction zones, unmarked curves and other road maintenance issues can cause bus accidents.
10 tips for staying safe before, during, and after your bus ride
- Arrive at the bus stop early or on time so that you’re not running to catch the bus.
- Wait until the bus is fully stopped and the driver opens the door before attempting to board.
- If there are other riders waiting, approach the bus patiently and in an orderly line.
- If you must cross the street, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least 10 feet in front of the bus so the driver can see you. Wait until the driver motions you to cross.
- Use the handrails when boarding or exiting the bus.
- If you’re wearing loose clothes, bags with drawstrings, backpacks, or other gear, make sure that you’re keeping it close to your body to avoid getting stuck in the bus doors.
- Never walk behind a bus.
- As soon as you exit the bus, walk a safe distance of 10 feet from the bus until it pulls away.
- If you drop something while on a moving bus, don’t attempt to retrieve it. Let the driver know that there’s a loose object on the floor and retrieve it when the bus is stopped.
- If the bus has a seat belt, use it. Encourage your children to wear their seat belts on school buses when available.
Do you need a bus accident lawyer?
If you were injured in a Kentucky bus accident and you’ve incurred financial costs as a result, you might be able to recover damages (money) to cover your expenses.
If you were seriously injured, you can receive compensation for costs that include:
- Medical treatment and ongoing therapies
- Lost wages, past and future (including loss of earning capacity)
- Compensation for emotional distress, including pain and suffering and loss of consortium
- Additional expenses related to daily life
- Property loss