How to recover damages after a Minnesota bus crash
There are a number of benefits to riding a bus. For example, riding a bus:
- Is cheaper than owning and operating a car,
- Reduces pollution and road congestion, and
- Helps the local economy.
Minnesotans understand the benefits of traveling by bus better than most.
Metro Transit provides roughly 50 million rides every year in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area alone.
Although buses are generally safer than cars, accidents do still happen. At Enjuris, we believe knowledge is power. With that in mind, let’s take a look at Minnesota bus accidents, including the legal options available to passengers and drivers involved in a Minnesota bus crash.
Types of buses
In this article, the term “bus” refers to large public and private vehicles that transport passengers for a fee. In Minnesota, buses include:
- Urban and rural public transportation buses (Metro Transit, Mankato Transit System, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, etc.)
- Private intercity bus lines (Greyhound, MegaBus, Jefferson Lines, etc.)
- School buses
- Airport and hotel shuttle buses
- Tour buses
How common are bus accidents?
Bus accidents don’t happen as frequently as car accidents.
Consider the following numbers:
In 2019, 2,725 bus occupants were involved in bus accidents. In contrast, 169,943 cars were involved in car accidents.
What’s more, 0 bus occupants were killed in 2019, whereas 281 car occupants were killed in crashes that same year.
There are a number of reasons why buses are involved in fewer accidents than other motor vehicles.
A study published in the Journal of Urban Health concluded that taking a bus is safer than traveling by car because bus drivers are professionally trained and tend to drive slower and more predictably than cars. On top of that, buses are bigger and more visible than cars.
Common causes of bus accidents
When bus accidents do occur, they happen for many of the same reasons that car accidents take place.
- Poor weather conditions
- Poor road conditions
- Defective vehicle components
A bus is more likely than a car to be involved in a rollover accident due to its high center of gravity.
The collision caused the school bus to rotate clockwise and come to a stop stretched across Highway 23, where it was then struck by a Chevy Silverado truck traveling northbound.
As a result of the impacts, 17 children were injured and 4 were killed.
Olga, the 23-year-old driver of the minivan, was convicted of 4 counts of criminal vehicular homicide, 17 counts of criminal vehicular operation, providing a false name and birth date to a police officer, failing to stop at a stop sign, and driving without a valid Minnesota driver’s license. She was sentenced to 12 ½ years in prison.
How do I recover damages after a bus accident in Minnesota?
Your legal options for recovering damages after a bus accident depends on whether, at the time of the accident, you were:
- A bus passenger,
- A bus driver, or
- An occupant of another vehicle
Let’s take a look at all 3 scenarios.
1. Recovering damages if you were a bus passenger at the time of the crash
If you were a bus passenger at the time of the crash, you can file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the party responsible for the crash.
Common defendants in bus crash cases include:
- The bus driver
- The driver of another vehicle
- The manufacturer of a bus component
In most cases, you’ll prove liability by establishing the elements of negligence:
- Duty. You need to prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care. All drivers owe all others on the road a duty to exercise a “reasonable degree” of care. Because bus drivers are considered “common carriers,” they owe passengers an even higher duty of care. Specifically, bus drivers must exercise “extraordinary care.”
- Breach. You need to prove that the defendant breached their duty. In other words, you need to establish that the defendant failed to exercise a reasonable degree of care (or an extraordinary degree of care). For example, if a bus driver was texting while driving at the time of the crash, they clearly failed to exercise an extraordinary degree of care.
- Causation. You need to prove that you were injured as a result of the defendant’s breach. In other words, but for the defendant’s breach, you wouldn’t have been injured.
Although most personal injury lawsuits filed by bus passengers are due to injuries that result from crashes, it’s also possible to be injured (or even killed) by another passenger. If you’re assaulted by a passenger, you may be able to sue the perpetrator and the bus driver so long as the driver knew or should have known about the potential assault and failed to do anything to stop it.
2. Recovering damages if you were a bus driver at the time of the crash
A bus driver who is injured on the job may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that pays medical expenses and lost wages to employees who are injured in the course of their job.
Workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy in Minnesota, which means that a bus driver can’t file a workers’ compensation claim and file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer.
However, if a third party (such as another driver) caused the bus driver’s injury, the bus driver can sue them for any damages not covered by their workers’ compensation claim.
Unlike personal injury lawsuits, there’s no need for a bus driver to prove that anyone’s negligence caused the crash. Rather, the bus driver must simply prove that they were injured while performing their job duties.
3. Recovering damages if you were an occupant of another vehicle at the time of the bus crash
If you’re injured as an occupant of another vehicle in an accident caused by a bus, you can file an insurance claim against the bus driver’s insurance company or a personal injury lawsuit against the bus company. Bus companies are liable for the actions of their employees under the doctrine of respondeat superior.
It’s important to keep in mind that most buses are owned by governmental agencies. For example, Metro Transit is owned by The Metropolitan Council, a regional governmental agency. When suing a governmental agency, you have to jump through certain hoops that you don’t have to jump through when suing a private individual.
Perhaps the biggest hoop you have to jump through when suing the government is providing the appropriate governmental agency with written notice of your claim within 180 days of the accident. Failing to provide proper notice could result in the loss of your right to file a lawsuit.
Available damages in a Minnesota bus accident
Minnesota allows bus accident victims to recover the following damages:
- Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by your accident (e.g., medical expenses, lost wages, property damage).
- Non-economic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by your accident (e.g., pain and suffering, loss of consortium).
- Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant. Under Minnesota Statute Section 549.20, punitive damages are only available if you can prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant showed a “deliberate disregard for the rights and safety of others” or that the defendant acted with “indifference to the high probability of injury to the rights or safety of others.”
Statute of limitations for bus injury cases
Minnesota limits the amount of time bus accident victims have to file a personal injury lawsuit. This time limit is called the statute of limitations.
In most personal injury cases in Minnesota (including car and bus accidents), victims have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit.
If you fail to file your lawsuit within this time period, your case will be forever barred (with a few narrow exceptions).
When to call a Minnesota bus accident lawyer
Bus accidents are typically more complicated than car accidents. Often, there are multiple injured parties, multiple defendants, and multiple insurance companies involved. What’s more, a governmental agency might be one of the defendants.
An experienced personal injury attorney can explain your legal rights and help you negotiate with the insurance companies or pursue a personal injury lawsuit.