If you are involved in a bus accident in Fort Myers, you could suffer catastrophic injuries. You could be riding on a bus that crashes, or you could be hit by a bus when you are in a passenger vehicle, on a motorcycle, on a bicycle, or walking as a pedestrian. If you are inside the bus, injuries may be caused by seats, items flying through the cabin, and other passengers’ items. The less protection you have around you if you are hit by a bus, the more serious your injuries could be. A pedestrian’s injuries have a higher risk of being catastrophic or deadly than someone who is in a large truck. If you are in a bus accident or you lost a loved one in a bus accident, you should contact a bus accident attorney as soon as possible.
Hiring a Fort Myers Bus Accident Attorney
Though Florida is a no-fault state, and your insurance company will cover your medical expenses if you have PIP up to the limits of your coverage, you could be entitled to more compensation, especially if the person who caused your accident was grossly negligent. However, these additional damages are often limited, and you must have suffered injuries that are significant and permanent. You should always retain a Florida bus accident attorney to help you with your case. Even if you are not entitled to general or punitive damages, you may get more money from your insurance company if you have an attorney working on your behalf.
Keep in mind that insurance companies are in business to make money. That means that they are going to offer you the least amount possible to get you to go away. The more the insurance company has to pay, the less money it makes. A bus accident attorney ensures that you get a fair and reasonable settlement or otherwise will take your case to court. Insurance companies know this, so they are more willing to come to a fair and reasonable settlement if an attorney is negotiating on your behalf; insurance companies definitely prefer to stay out of the courtroom. Not only does it cost them more for their attorney to represent them, but they know that a jury will award more than they are offering.
Your Rights. Your Recovery. Our Responsibility.
In addition to psychological, physical, and/or occupational therapy related to injuries suffered in a bus accident, underlying conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, or even prescription drugs that lower your immune system, could prolong healing. Along with prolonged healing, you have a higher risk of infection. Share this information with your attorney so that he or she can negotiate for the compensation you deserve, including pain and suffering, future medical costs, and future lost wages.
If your doctor believes that your injuries could be permanent, have the doctor document those permanent injuries be in a letter or in your medical records for your attorney.
If You Are in a Bus Accident
Even if you are not injured in a bus accident, you should be checked out by the emergency room or your doctor as soon as you can leave the accident scene. Because of the adrenaline coursing through your body, you may not realize that you have an injury until hours or even a couple of days later. You could also have internal injuries that remain hidden for a few hours.
If no one else thinks to take pictures or are unable to take pictures, you should take pictures of the accident if you are physically able to. The pictures will help you remember the accident should you have to recount it for your attorney, and will also help the attorney with his investigation. Be sure to get pictures from all angles. If the bus crashed because of a maintenance or repair issue, if possible, take pictures of the damage, for example, if a wheel came off the axle or if the engine catches fire. The pictures may be used as part of the investigation if it is found that the bus company did not properly maintain the bus.
Bus Accident Injuries
Depending on the severity of the accident and whether you are on the bus or hit by the bus, injuries could range from minor cuts and scrapes to catastrophic long-term injuries and even death. Injuries may include:
- Bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, and abrasions. These generally heal quickly unless you have an underlying condition that prevents them from healing. Whether you have an underlying condition or you are healthy, you should be careful of infection. If open wounds get infected, they will cause additional problems and take longer to heal.
- Sprains, strains, pulled muscles, and other soft tissue injuries. These take several weeks to heal unless you need surgery to repair a pulled muscle. If you require surgery, you may have the limb in a cast for several weeks and then could require physical therapy to strengthen the muscle again. Therapy could last from several weeks to a few months.
- Fractures. A minor fracture may not need surgery to repair, but you will be in a cast for several weeks. A compound fracture is one that breaks the skin and usually requires surgery. As with any other open wound, you face a higher risk of infection, which means that it takes longer to heal.
- Head, neck, and back injuries. These are all usually considered catastrophic injuries. Side effects of these injuries could include paralysis or ongoing pain, even after the injury has healed. Additionally, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been associated with concussions. You should tell your attorney if you suffered a concussion, or if you have lost feeling in any part of your body, if you have suffered a head, neck, or back injury. It is possible that you may need long-term medical care for these types of injuries.
- Burns. Should the accident cause a gas leak or an explosion, you could also suffer from burns. Even minor burns are painful and should be looked at by a medical professional immediately. They may be minor at the time, but within 24 hours could turn into a bad burn, especially if the burn is not treated as soon as possible.
- Amputations. If a limb is damaged so severely, it may have to be amputated.
- Internal bleeding and other internal injuries. You could suffer internal injuries and bleeding without suffering external injuries.
- Psychological injuries. Because bus accidents may involve many people, and because of the severity of these injuries, a victim could suffer from depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a bus accident. Be sure your attorney knows if you are having difficulty processing the accident and are seeing a therapist.
Bus Accident Causes
Bus accident causes could be a true accident when someone else causes the accident or it could be caused by the negligence of the driver or the bus company. Causes may include:
- Another vehicle caused the accident. Another vehicle may run a light or could pass the bus and merge in front of the bus without leaving enough space. Or a vehicle may cut a bus off so as not to miss an exit.
- The driver is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- The maintenance crew does not keep the bus properly maintained, and a malfunction causes the wreck. For example, a bald tire could pop or separate, or the wipers may not keep the rain off the windshield well enough for the driver to see.
- The driver may drive erratically by swerving lanes or speeding.
- The driver exhibits road rage and causes an accident.
- The driver could be driving while distracted.
- If the driver or the bus company is found to be grossly negligent, a court may award you extra compensation. If another vehicle caused the accident, you could collect from the other driver, and if both are at fault, you could collect from both in certain circumstances.
Recovery of Damages
The amount of damages you could recover from a bus accident depends on your injuries and the actions of the person who caused the accident, whether it was the driver, the company, or someone in another vehicle. In many cases, your insurance company may cover the damages, but if you are entitled to general damages or punitive damages, or if your special damages are more than the limits on your policy, you may collect from the bus company’s insurance or another driver’s insurance if another driver caused the accident. Three types of damages are available: general, special, and punitive.
Economic damages, often referred to as special damages, are those that have a specific dollar amount. Special damages may include:
- Medical expenses incurred because of injuries from the accident
- Future medical expenses that are incurred after settlement or trial
- Lost wages because of time lost from work due to being out with injuries
- Future lost wages if you cannot return to work after the settlement or trial because of injuries you sustained in the accident
- Replacement or repair of personal property
Because a specific dollar amount cannot be attached to future lost wages and future medical expenses, they are sometimes grouped in with general damages. Insurance companies often use a formula for determining future medical expenses and lost wages. Let your attorney know if you have underlying conditions that may cause your injuries to heal slower. Conditions may include diabetes, immune system diseases, or even prescription medications that lower your immune system, such as chemotherapy.
You should also let your attorney know if additional injuries arise after you receive treatment for your initial injuries or if a treating doctor causes additional injuries.
Non-economic damages, often referred to as general damages, are those for which you cannot assign a dollar amount. They are usually awarded if your injuries are long-term or permanent and include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of use of a limb
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- The death of a spouse
If you lose your spouse due to an accident, you may file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death attorney can determine your eligibility to file such a claim.
Punitive damages are only awarded when the person or entity that caused your accident was grossly negligent or their actions were done with the intent to knowingly harm you. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant and to hopefully act as a deterrent to similar behavior in the future.
For example, a court might award punitive damages if the accident investigation finds that the bus company continuously ignored maintenance requests by the maintenance crew or the bus driver and the accident was caused by the defective part. Another situation where you might receive punitive damages is if the bus driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and was the cause of the accident.
If another driver caused the accident because of negligent behavior, for example running a red light because the driver was drunk, that driver could be held liable for damages, including punitive damages for those injured on the bus.
Bus Accident Statistics
Of the 402,385 automobile crashes reported in Florida in 2017, the latest year that statistics are available from the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 8,008 involved buses. Of those, there were no fatal accidents, 14 incapacitating accidents—which means that the injuries were most likely catastrophic, 70 non-incapacitating injuries, and 173 possible injuries. Passengers in the same bus accidents suffered one fatality, 53 incapacitating injuries, 412 non-incapacitating injuries, and 1,139 possible injuries.
Contact Viles & Beckman if a Bus Accident Injured You in Fort Myers
If you were injured in a bus accident or you lost a loved one in a Fort Myers bus accident, call Viles & Beckman, advocates for the injured since 1995, at 239-334-3933, or contact us online, for a free case evaluation. We serve people in Fort Myers as well as Naples, Sarasota, Cape Coral, and throughout Florida.