Who’s liable when a bus crashes in the Buckeye State?
Ohio is the 7th most populated state in the country. There are more people in Ohio than in Colorado and Minnesota combined.
It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that Ohio’s public bus system consists of 61 public transit systems responsible for over 100 million trips every year.
Unfortunately, these trips don’t always go as planned.
Sometimes, buses collide with other vehicles. Other times, passengers suffer injuries while boarding or exiting buses.
In this article, we’ll take a look at bus accidents in Ohio, including how to determine liability and what damages you can recover if you’re injured in a bus accident in the Buckeye State.
Types of Ohio bus accidents
When people think about bus accidents, they generally think about public transportation buses like:
- Allen County Regional Transit Authority (ACRTA)
- Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA)
- Western Reserve Transit Authority (WRTA)
However, bus accidents can also involve:
- Private bus lines (Coach, Megabus, and Greyhound)
- School buses
- Airport and hotel shuttle buses
- Private charter buses
- Tour buses
The applicable laws and regulations, as well as the method of recovery, generally depend on whether the bus involved in the accident was publically owned or privately owned.
|Fatal bus crashes in the U.S. by type of bus (2015-2017)
Common causes of bus accidents
Most bus accidents involve crashes with other vehicles or fixed objects. Here are some common causes of bus accidents in Ohio:
- Distracted driving
- Failure to obey traffic signals
- Driver fatigue
- Exceeding speeds safe for conditions
- Inadequate training
- Improper maneuvering
Most infamous bus accidents in Ohio history
One of the most notorious bus accidents in Ohio history didn’t actually occur in Ohio.
On March 2, 2007, a chartered motorcoach carrying 33 members of the Bluffton University baseball team from Bluffton, Ohio, accidentally entered an exit ramp (believing it was the left lane of the highway) in Atlanta, Georgia. The bus continued along the ramp at highway speed and was unable to stop at the stop sign at the end of the ramp. The driver lost control of the bus, which crashed through a chain-link security fence and fell 19 feet onto the interstate highway below. Seven occupants were killed and several other passengers were injured. The accident prompted a new federal law (discussed below).
Another infamous bus wreck involved a school bus in Perry County, Ohio.
On December 19, 2019, a school bus collided with a Ford Mustang that failed to stop at a red light. Miraculously there were no fatalities, but the accident gained national notoriety when the security footage from the school bus was released. The footage shows students being tossed around the bus and it prompted a discussion as to whether school buses should require students to wear seatbelts.
Bus accident laws
A handful of federal and state laws intended to make bus travel safer have been passed over the years.
Federal laws require most for-hire buses and buses that cross state lines to meet certain safety standards. These safety standards address everything from license requirements to vehicle weight limits.
In addition, the federal Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2011 was enacted after the Bluffton University bus crash. This law requires certain buses to include safety features like seat belts, reinforced windows, crush-resistant roofs, and flame-resistant interiors.
Ohio has also passed several state laws that address bus safety. The majority of these laws apply to school buses in Ohio.
Bus accident liability in Ohio
Determining who’s liable for a bus accident requires that you determine who caused the accident. In most cases, there are 3 possibilities:
- Bus driver. Bus drivers are “common carriers.” As a result, bus drivers are required to exercise the “highest degree of care” for the safety and protection of their passengers. If a bus driver fails to meet this standard of care by, for example, speeding or running a red light, they may be liable.
- Manufacturer. The manufacturer of the bus or a bus component may be liable if the bus or component was somehow defective and the defect caused an accident.
- Other drivers. Another driver on the road may be liable if they failed to exercise a “reasonable degree of care” while operating their vehicle.
Workers’ compensation for bus accidents
If you’re a bus driver involved in a bus accident, you’ll most likely file a workers’ compensation claim instead of a personal injury lawsuit. Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that pays medical expenses and lost wages to employees who are injured on the job.
Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance, which means that you can receive compensation regardless of who’s at fault for the accident.
Bus accident injuries and damages
Traveling by bus is one of the safest ways to travel.
Nevertheless, buses are generally not equipped with seatbelts and rollovers are more common than with smaller vehicles. Accordingly, injuries do happen on occasion.
Common bus accident injuries include:
Fortunately, Ohio awards economic damages and non-economic damages in bus accident cases.
Economic damages are tangible losses that come with a price tag (medical bills, property damage, lost wages, etc.). Non-economic damages refer to losses that don’t have a clear dollar value (pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc.).
If a loved one is killed in a bus accident, certain family members can recover damages associated with the loss by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Statute of limitations and other procedural requirements
A statute of limitations refers to the amount of time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. If the plaintiff doesn’t file the lawsuit within this time limit, the lawsuit will be thrown out and the plaintiff won’t be able to recover any damages.
In Ohio, the statute of limitations for bodily injury or property damage resulting from a bus accident is 2 years.
If the plaintiff is under the age of 18, the 2-year clock doesn’t start running until they turn 18.
Unlike many states, the 2-year statute of limitations generally isn’t reduced if you’re suing a public transportation system in Ohio (such as the Western Reserve Transit Authority). However, there are a number of important procedural requirements that only apply when you’re suing a public transportation system.
If you think the government might be liable for your injury, it’s important that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible to make sure you’re proceeding properly.
Do I need a bus accident attorney?
A bus accident isn’t as straightforward as a regular car accident. There may be several liable parties, including large companies (which have a team of well-paid attorneys representing them) and government agencies. What’s more, there are usually dozens of witnesses (many of whom will be filing their own lawsuits).
An experienced personal injury attorney can help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. To locate a bus accident attorney in your area, head over to our free online directory.