When a Georgia bus runs into trouble, what happens to the passengers afterward? Can injured riders recover their damages from the bus company? That will depend on many factors, but these are the most important:
- What kind of accident occurred,
- Who was at fault, and
- The type of bus service that the passengers were using.
Bus Accidents and Why They Occur
Did the passenger’s injury occur because of something that happened on the road or because of something that happened inside the bus? This will determine whether or not the bus can be held liable and how a claimant should seek relief.
Causes of bus injuries include:
- Road accidents
- Negligent maintenance
- Defective manufacture of buses or auto components
- Unsafe conditions inside the bus (such as dangerous floors)
- Negligent or deliberate acts by other passengers (such as assault)
In the case of a road accident, liability will depend upon many of the same factors as in any crash. But bus companies also have special duties of care to their riders. A bus company that accepts all paying passengers is called a “common carrier.” Under Georgia law, it “must exercise extraordinary diligence to protect the lives and persons of [its] passengers.” However, it “is not liable for injuries to them after having used such diligence.” O.C.G.A. § 46-9-132.
Aside from road accidents, passengers can be hurt in many of the same ways as they would on any other business property, such as by slipping and falling on a hazardous floor or relying on broken bus fixtures. They may also encounter dangerous people on the bus and be subject to assaults or robberies. In cases like these, recovery may be possible, but it is more complicated.
Ultimately, whether a bus company is liable to an injured passenger will depend on exactly what took place and whether, by law, the company had a duty to prevent their injury. It is essential to speak to an attorney about any possible case you have, especially if more than one person was injured in the same incident. Although buses regulated by federal law are required to carry a certain level of insurance, the costs of multiple claimants can skyrocket, complicating recoveries for everyone.
Filing Claims against a Bus Company
How you file a claim for a bus injury—and, sometimes, how much you can recover—depends on the nature of the bus service. Was it a commercial bus, selling regular tickets or running charters? Or did it belong to a branch of the government, like public transport or school buses?
Some of the most common bus services we use are:
Since governments manage public transportation, a passenger injured on a public bus will generally need to make a claim against the governmental unit—city, state, or federal—that ultimately owns it.
Filing a claim against a department of the government involves following specific, separate laws and regulations. For example, the city of Atlanta manages MARTA. Under Georgia state law, an injured passenger has six months to file a notice of claim with the city. If MARTA does not accept their claim, they may then file a lawsuit.
A public school district or county may own and operate their buses directly, as they do in Gwinnett County. Alternatively, the schools may contract with a private transportation company if it is certified by the Department of Public Safety. The process of filing a claim will depend on how the bus at issue was owned and managed.
Unfortunately for bus riders, public school liability in Georgia is very limited by law, and determining whether the injury pertains to the actual use of the bus can be very complicated.
Passengers who were injured on or near the bus but not in an accident or collision may find it very difficult to prevail in court. In order to determine whether your child might have a case, you will need to consult an attorney familiar with Georgia accident litigation.
Commercial Intercity Buses or Motor Coaches
Private bus companies often limit their liability through the fine print on the ticket stubs, or at least they try to. For example, the fine print may require a passenger to file a claim within days or weeks. It might also require them to submit to arbitration or to file any lawsuit in one particular district far from home. However, under Georgia law, the company may not be able to enforce clauses that appeared on the ticket or receipt. A Georgia accident attorney will be able to determine whether these clauses really apply and how to handle the process of recovery.
Hotels and other large institutions offer shuttle buses or vans to transport guests and customers, usually over a short regular route. The hotel may operate the bus itself, or it may use a private contractor. Either the hotel or the contractor may be liable for an accident, depending on what exactly took place.
If you have suffered injuries in any type of Georgia bus accident, you may be able to recover damages for:
- Medical bills, including travel expenses for treatment
- Lost wages and/or earning opportunities
- Pain and suffering
However, it is crucial to speak with an attorney. Otherwise, the company may be able to mislead you about what you can recover; worse yet, you may miss a crucial filing deadline. At The Scott Pryor Law Group, you don’t have to pay us unless we obtain a settlement in your favor or win your case. Call us today at 678-325-3434 to schedule a free consultation in Peachtree Corners, Lawrenceville, or Atlanta.