Buses are a common method of public transportation used by millions of people around the country. Unfortunately, every year bus accidents occur, injuring people. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, "[i]n 2014, 3,978 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, a 5-percent decrease from 2013." The number of fatal bus accidents in 2014 also decreased, from 282 to 234. However, in 2015, there was an increase in the number of motor vehicle accidents, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. It is unclear if bus accidents increased as well. If you or a loved one has been injured by a careless bus driver, you may decide to hold that driver and his employer liable for your injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Negligence In Colorado
Personal injury cases, like bus accidents, typically involve an area of law called negligence. Negligence is "[t]he failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation." Black's Law Dictionary 1133 (9th ed. 2009). In a given situation, you are expected to use reasonable care to make sure that you don't injure other people or damage property. For example, if you are operating a motor vehicle you are supposed to do so safely and responsibly. If you text your friend while driving down the road and rear-end someone because you were looking at your phone and not the road, then you may be liable for negligence.
Proving negligence is a court of law requires the plaintiff to prove certain elements. In Colorado in order to prove that the defendant was negligent the plaintiff must show "the defendant owed a legal duty of care; second, the defendant breached that duty; third, the plaintiff was injured; and fourth, the defendant's breach caused that injury." Vigil v. Franklin, 103 P.3d 322, 324 (Colo. 2004). If a plaintiff can prove all these elements by a preponderance of the evidence than the plaintiff may be able to hold the defendant liable for any damages that the defendant caused.
Bus Accidents And Employer Liability
In a negligence case involving a motor vehicle accident, normally the only person that you can seek redress from is the driver of the other car. In cases involving an employee driver, you can also seek damages from the driver's employer. Bus drivers are usually employees of either a private company or a government entity. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, employers can be held liable for the torts its employees while in the course and scope of their employment.
For example, Joe is a bus driver for ABC Tour Bus Company, a private company. While driving a bus full of passengers, Joe rear-ends the car in front of him. He hadn't been paying close attention to the road, as he was trying to figure out what street to turn on to drop off the group. The traffic in front of him slowed suddenly and Joe reacted a bit late. He smacked into Bonnie's car injuring her and damage to her car. No one on the bus was injured. Bonnie later brings a personal injury lawsuit against Joe and the tour bus company, as Joe was acting in the course and scope of his employment because he was transporting passengers.
It is not always clear if an employer will be liable for the actions of its employees. For example, if an employee is on is a lunch break and is not doing anything to further the employer's business, then the employer likely cannot be held liable for a negligent action the employee does. Another way that an employer may escape liability is if the employee commits an intentional tort, such as an assault while working. Thus, if an employee punched someone because the employee had a personal grudge against that person, then the employer may not be responsible the action of that employee.
Government Claims And Notice Provisions
In general, government entities have sovereign immunity, which means they cannot be sued unless they waive that immunity. Most government entities have waived their immunity. The federal government did so under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Supreme Court of Colorado waived the state's immunity in 1971 and the state subsequently passed the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act. C.R.S. 24-10-104 (2016). If you are injured by a government employee then you may be able to file a lawsuit against the government entity that the employee works for. For example, if you are injured by a city bus employee, then you may be able to file a claim against the city.
The big thing to be aware of when seeking to bring a claim against a government entity is that often you must give a government notice that you have a claim within a limited time frame. While the statute of limitations may be a few years, the notice provision may have a much shorter time frame. If a person fails to comply with the notice claim, this can bar that person from bringing a claim for damages. For example, under Colorado law, the notice provision requires a person to inform the government that they have a claim "within one hundred eighty-two days after the date of the discovery of the injury." C.R.S. 24-10-109 (2016).
Contact An Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a bus accident, you want an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to represent you. Jeremy Rosenthal has been practicing personal injury law in the state of Colorado for over a decade. He is dedicated to helping his clients recover just compensation for their injuries so they can move on with their lives. Contact his office today for a free case consultation.