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If you’re injured in a bus accident involving a public or private bus, you’ll have to jump through some unique hoops before filing a lawsuit
Oregon is one of the fastest-growing states in the country. Since 2010, Oregon’s population has increased 10.6%. The influx of people has caused traffic congestion, which has motivated many people to consider commuting by bus.
According to INRIX, a traffic data and analytics company, the Portland metro area ranks 14th worst in the nation and 115th worst in the world for traffic congestion.
The term “bus” refers to large public and private vehicles that transport passengers for a fee. In Oregon, this includes:
- Urban and rural public transportation buses (TriMet, LTD, etc.)
- Private bus lines (Coach, Greyhound, Flixbus, etc.)
- School buses
- Airport and hotel shuttle buses
- Tour buses
Although bus accidents are relatively rare compared to other types of motor vehicle accidents, they do happen from time to time. Let’s take a closer look at bus accidents in the Beaver State.
Oregon bus accident statistics
Traveling by bus is about 10 times safer per mile than traveling by automobile, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
|Oregon bus vs. car accident statistics (2019)|
|Vehicle type||Fatal||Injury||Property-damage only||Total|
|Source: Oregon Department of Transportation|
Across the country, the number of fatal bus accidents has decreased despite the fact that the number of registered buses has sharply increased.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were 462,156 registered buses in 1975 and 348 fatalities. In contrast, there were 995,033 registered buses in 2019 and only 258 fatalities.
Bus travel has gotten safer due in large part to stricter driver regulations, improved vehicle safety features, and an increase in bus-only lanes.
Common causes of bus accidents
Bus accidents are often caused by the same factors that cause car accidents—such as:
- Poor road conditions
- Poor weather
- Mechanical failure
Additionally, there are some other factors that are more likely to contribute to bus accidents, including:
- Driver fatigue
- Inadequate training
- Improper maintenance
- Distractions caused by passengers
- Motor vehicle driver confusion with respect to bus operations
Rollovers are more common with buses than passenger cars due to a high center of gravity. Rollovers can be particularly devastating given that most passengers are not wearing seatbelts.
Several passengers were ejected through glass windows.
“There were moans and groans coming from all around,” passenger Evelyn Douglas told The Oregonian. "Passengers had been thrown into a helter skelter."
Ultimately, 14 people died as a result of the crash and 5 were injured, making it the deadliest bus crash in Oregon history.
How can passengers recover damages after a bus accident?
The majority of bus accidents are “property-damage only” accidents, meaning they don’t result in any injuries to passengers. However, there are certain features of buses, such as a lack of seatbelts and airbags, that certainly make injuries possible.
If you suffered an injury as a bus passenger in Oregon, you have a couple of options for recovering damages:
- File an insurance claim against the at-fault driver, or
- File a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver (at which point the at-fault driver’s insurance company will likely step in and defend the at-fault driver).
To prove fault in most bus accident cases, you’ll need to establish the 3 elements of negligence:
- Duty. You need to establish that the at-fault driver owed you a duty of care. All drivers owe all others on the road a duty to exercise a “reasonable degree of care.” What’s more, bus drivers are held to an even higher standard, owing passengers the “highest degree of care and skill.”
- Breach. You need to establish that the at-fault driver breached their duty. In other words, you need to show that the at-fault driver failed to exercise the required level of care.
- Causation. You need to prove that your injury was the result of the at-fault driver’s breach. In other words, but for the driver’s breach, you wouldn’t have been injured.
Some factors that might lead to a negligence lawsuit against a bus driver include:
- The bus driver was working while tired
- The bus driver was operating the bus while under the influence of alcohol
- The bus was overloaded or improperly loaded
- The bus was not properly maintained
Not all bus accidents are caused by an at-fault driver. Other at-fault parties may include:
- Manufacturers. If the bus accident was the result of a defective vehicle component, you can file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the defective component.
- Landowners. All landowners have a duty under Oregon premises liability laws to keep their property free from dangerous conditions. If the bus accident is caused by poor road conditions, such as a large pothole or obscured traffic signal, you may be able to sue the landowner.
- Other passengers. Unfortunately, Oregon residents are all too aware that injuries suffered by passengers can be the fault of other passengers. If you’re injured by a bus passenger, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the assailant (in addition to any criminal charges the state may file against the assailant). What’s more, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the bus driver if the bus driver knew (or should have known) that the assault was imminent and failed to do anything about it.
How can bus drivers recover damages after a bus accident?
A bus driver who is injured on the job can usually file a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy in Oregon, 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.
Unique issues in bus accident cases
In many ways, bus accidents are just like car accidents. But there are some important differences as well. Here are 3 things to keep in mind if you’re considering filing a bus accident lawsuit:
- Notice of claim. There’s a good chance that the bus you were on is owned by a government agency. Governments enjoy something called sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is a complex topic, but for purposes of a bus accident lawsuit, it simply means there are some extra legal hoops you have to jump through when suing the government.In Oregon, you must serve the government agency with a proper “notice of claim” before filing your lawsuit. What’s more, the notice of claim must be served within 180 days of the accident. If you fail to serve the notice within 180 days, you risk having your lawsuit dismissed.
- Multiple plaintiffs. When a bus crashes, multiple passengers often suffer injuries. As a result, multiple passengers end up fighting over a limited amount of insurance funds. For this reason, it’s important to meet with an attorney as soon as possible following a crash to ensure that you get your fair share of compensation.
- Evidence. The good news is that bus accidents often generate more evidence than car accidents, everything from bus maintenance logs to black boxes. The bad news is that this evidence may be difficult to obtain without help from an attorney.
Bus accident damages
Bus accident injuries can range from minor bumps and bruises to catastrophic brain and spine injuries. On top of that, bus accidents, particularly when fatalities are involved, can cause emotional trauma among passengers.
Oregon allows bus accident survivors to recover 3 types of damages:
- Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by an accident (medical expenses, lost wages, property damage).
- Non-economic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by an accident (pain and suffering, loss of consortium)
- Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant and are typically only available if the defendant acted “with malice or has shown a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm.”
Bus accident statute of limitations in Oregon
Oregon limits the amount of time an injured passenger has to file a lawsuit following a bus accident. In most cases, this time limit (known as the statute of limitations) is 2 years.
If you fail to file your lawsuit within the 2-year statute of limitations, you will be forever barred from filing a lawsuit based on the accident.
Finding the right bus accident attorney in Oregon
Were you or a loved one injured while riding a bus?
Due to the complexities of bus accident cases, we encourage you to sit down with a personal injury attorney.
You can find an experienced Oregon personal injury attorney using our free online directory.
In the meantime, here are a couple of articles to help you prepare for your first meeting:
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.