Bus accidents can be terrifying events. Because buses are larger than passenger vehicles, they are more likely to inflict significant damages to the vehicles they strike, which also increases the likelihood of injury. Although some may think that the large size of buses protects the bus passengers in a collision, bus passengers are not immune from injury either. This is particularly true for school bus accidents as school buses lack seat belts. Even some private buses and shuttle vans do not have seat belts to protect their passengers.
Common Bus Service Providers in Georgia
Bus accidents can involve anything from school buses, public bus services, or private charter buses and shuttles.
- Georgia School Bus Accidents - School bus accidents are every parent’s worst nightmare. School buses generally do not have seat belts, so the potential for injury to children exists, even though school buses are larger than most other vehicles on the roadways. Whether your accident involves a private school bus or a public school bus, the entity that owns and operates the bus should still be responsible for any damages. Although school districts in Georgia generally have immunity from lawsuits, there is a Georgia law that says that immunity is waived to the extent of the insurance the school district purchases to cover injuries resulting from the ownership and use of its school buses. There is also a Georgia statute that requires counties, cities, and independent school systems that use school buses to purchase insurance that insures school children riding in the bus.
- Public Bus Accidents - Metro Atlanta has a number of different counties that provide public bus service for their residents. The most popular and well-known bus service is provided by MARTA, which is Atlanta’s Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority. MARTA operates a bus service, as well as Atlanta’s local rail system for transportation by train. MARTA’s bus service operates primarily in Fulton, Clayton, and DeKalb Counties. There is also limited service to a location in Cobb County. Other popular bus services in the Atlanta metro area include Cobb County’s Cobb Community Transit Service, and Gwinnett County Transit.
- Private Bus Accidents - In addition to public transit system’s operating in the Atlanta area, private companies also provide transportation services that include bus and shuttle service. Private bus services includes charter bus services that may provide local, regional, or interstate transportation. These services may be used for everything from local party buses to providing travel for vacations, corporate outings, or school trips. Locally, Groome Transportation provides a popular shuttle service that provides transportation to the Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport from several surrounding Georgia cities, including Macon, Athens, Augusta, and Columbus.
Investigating Bus Accidents
Like any motor vehicle accident, an important part of handling any bus accident claim is investigating the cause of the accident. An adequate investigation will help determine who was at fault. In Georgia, a police officer investigating a bus accident will generally try to determine who was at fault and issue a citation to the negligent driver. Although a citation is generally not admissible in Georgia, a guilty plea to a citation is admissible.
If you hire a lawyer to handle your bus accident claim, you should expect the lawyer to thoroughly investigate the accident. This includes interviewing any witnesses who were either on the bus or were in another vehicle and saw what happened. Some bus accident investigations may require an inspection of the accident site. In bus accident cases involving serious injuries or death where liability is in dispute, the services of an accident reconstructionist can help determine who was at fault.
Standard of Care for the Operation of Georgia Buses
While Georgia bus drivers have to follow the same rules of the road that apply to other drivers, bus drivers have additional rules that apply to them. Most drivers on the roadways have to exercise what is called “ordinary care” or “ordinary diligence.” However, buses are considered common carriers. This means that under Georgia law, they owe their passengers a heightened duty of care. Georgia courts have frequently said that this heightened duty of care requires the exercise of “extraordinary diligence.” This does not mean that bus drivers are always liable to their passengers following a bus accident, but it does mean that it is easier to hold them responsible for passenger injuries.
Bus drivers also must comply with various state and federal regulations that apply to the service they provide. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations may apply to the bus service, which would create standards for, among other things, the maintenance and inspection of the bus and hours of service requirements for the bus driver. An experienced Georgia personal injury attorney can conduct the necessary legal research to find all of the local, state, and federal regulations that apply to the bus company and its drivers.
What Insurance is Available in a Georgia Bus Accident?
A common question that people have following a bus accident is what insurance is available to cover their damages. The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including who was at fault and whether you were a passenger in the bus.
The person who was responsible for causing the accident should have liability insurance that can be used to pay your damages. For example, if the bus driver was at fault, then the bus’s liability insurance will provide coverage for the bus driver’s negligence. If another vehicle’s driver was responsible for causing the accident, then that driver’s liability insurance should apply.
But what if the at-fault driver’s liability insurance is not able to pay all of your damages? This is where uninsured motorist coverage comes into play. Your uninsured motorist coverage, or the uninsured motorist insurance for the vehicle you were in, may be available to pay for your damages if the negligent driver either has no insurance or not enough insurance. It is important to remember that your uninsured motorist insurance, as well as the uninsured motorist coverage for any resident relatives, is available to you even if you were a passenger in another vehicle at the time of the accident. So, if you were a passenger in a bus and sustained injury, it is important that you notify your own car insurance company and the car insurance provider for any relatives you live with.
If you were involved in a Georgia bus accident, it is important that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A number of important steps must be taken very quickly to ensure that your rights are protected. These steps include investigating the accident, determining who was at fault, finding all available sources of insurance, putting all insurance companies on notice of the accident, and ensuring you get the necessary medical treatment. If you would like a free consultation about your bus accident case, call The Champion Firm, P.C. today at (404) 596-8044.