A bus accident is a frightening and overwhelming experience, and it can be difficult to know what to do after an accident occurs. It is important for bus accident victims to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Accident victims have legal rights, and these are subject to a statute of limitations which begins to run as soon as the accident occurs. Insufficient insurance policy limits can also complicate the ability of accident victims to obtain compensation. A Chicago bus accident attorney can guide injury victims through the legal process.
How Victims Obtain Compensation After a Bus Accident
After any traffic accident, insurance companies conduct investigations to determine who was “at fault” for causing the accident. This process is complicated when the accident in question involves a commercial vehicle, such as a bus. If a bus driver’s negligence causes a traffic accident, many other companies can also bear liability and thus have a legal obligation to compensate passengers and other injury victims. This can include the company which owns the bus, operates the bus, and hires or supervises the negligent driver. In the case of an organized bus tour, the tour company can also be liable for the bus driver’s negligence.
The Legal Complications of Bus Driver Negligence
Commercial bus accidents present complications which can make it even more difficult for injury victims to be compensated for their losses. This is what happened to dozens of victims of a September 2014 bus accident which occurred on the on-ramp to a Delaware highway. The New York Times reports that the bus operator’s erratic driving behavior caused the bus to roll off the ramp. Three passengers were killed. Dozens of others sustained serious injuries - many requiring hospitalization. The National Transportation Safety Board found that the bus driver was speeding and had “blacked out” prior to the accident (though he was not found to be incapacitated at the time of the accident). He had also exceeded the ten-hour federal limit for daily commercial driving by nearly five additional hours. This was further exacerbated by the fact that he had not taken the requisite eight hours off before beginning his marathon fifteen hours of driving on the day of the accident. The driver eventually pleaded guilty to three counts of operating a vehicle causing death.
The legal complications came when the victims attempted to obtain compensation for their injuries. The insurance carrier filed documentation with the court stating that the bus was insured for $5 million (the minimum amount allowed by federal law), and that the claims would likely exceed this amount. The insurer therefore deposited the $5 million with the court in order to allow the judge to determine how to allot the total among the survivors and family members of the passengers who had been killed. While this is a common practice for insurers, it creates a brutal court battle, in which victims must challenge each other to convince the court that they have the superior claim.
Chicago is not immune to these incidents. Earlier this year, as NBC-5 reported, four were killed and five injured in a Chicago bus accident on the city's West Side.
By consulting with a Chicago bus accident attorney as soon as possible, injury victims will have better access to compensation, and better protection from procedural complications such as lapsed statutes of limitations or insufficient policy limits.