With highly trained drivers and stringent maintenance and safety regulations in place, bus travel in the UK is relatively safe and accident-free. However, inclement weather, bad roads and other rash drivers on the road combined with crowded buses, standing bus passengers and the lack of seat belts create conditions that contribute to bus accidents.
Bus accident claims occur on a regular basis and while bus accident related fatalities are thankfully few and far between, there are still a number of injuries that people claim for. If you believe that you have suffered an injury as a consequence of negligence by a bus driver, another road user or a pedestrian then you may well have a claim for compensation.
Common Bus Accident Claims
There are many different ways in which bus/coach related accident claims occur with individuals suffering various injuries. Some of the more common bus accidents include:
- Loss of concentration by the driver resulting in the vehicle hitting another vehicle or stationary object.
- When the electric doors are closed before a passenger is able to board or leave the vehicle.
- Spillages and rubbish left on the floor which result in slips, trips and falls.
- Prompt acceleration by the driver before a passenger has an opportunity to find a seat.
- Abrupt use of the brakes which can result in passengers hitting their heads on the seat in front.
- People hit by a bus while waiting at a bus stop.
- Dangerous manoeuvres by other motorists forcing a bus to veer off course.
- Damaged or faulty equipment on the bus can cause injuries.
- Passengers buffeted while forced to stand; often resulting in injury.
- Pedestrian hit by a bus as they cross the road.
- Poorly maintained vehicles.
While the vast majority of bus accidents and injuries may seem relatively minor, if negligence was involved you may still be entitled to compensation
Who Do You Make A Bus Accident Claim Against?
As a passenger in the bus, there is no doubt that you are an innocent party in the accident. On the other hand, the negligent party may not necessarily be the bus driver either. Who the claim is made against will depend on the specific conditions that caused the accident.
Before we look at who you might claim against for an accident which occurred on a bus, or as a consequence of a collision with a bus, it is worth noting the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This act places on the statute books a legal obligation for employers to ensure the health and well-being of not only their employees but also their customers. There are various other acts covering public transport legislation which are specific to bus travel and other forms of public transport, but in effect the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is used as a barometer to prove negligence.
It is also worth noting that while bus companies have a legal obligation to ensure the well-being of passengers; each passenger also has a legal obligation to ensure the well-being of those around them and to act in a considerate manner. There will be occasions where a bus passenger is injured partially as a consequence of actions they took such as ignoring safety notices. This may not necessarily negate a bus accident compensation claim but it may well lead to shared negligence. This effectively means that both the bus company and the passenger were negligent, resulting in an injury. In this instance, any compensation award would be reduced to reflect this degree of shared liability.
Bus Driver Negligence
If the driver of the bus was directly at fault for the accident due to careless or dangerous driving such as driving too fast around corners or braking too hard, you may be able to file a claim against the bus company. The bus company is also liable for any injuries that occur while getting on or off the bus, if the accident was due to the negligence of the driver.
Situations usually out of the control of bus drivers include:
- Potholes causing damage to the bus and subsequent injuries
- Defective road surfaces
- Negligence on behalf of other road users
- Negligence on behalf of pedestrians
Even if you have received an injury as a bus passenger, if the bus company is able to prove they fulfilled all of their legal duties with regards to health and safety then it would be extremely difficult to prove negligence and liability.
Badly Maintained Roads
If the bus accident was caused because of a poorly maintained road then your claim will be filed against the local council/local authorities who are responsible for road maintenance.
If another driver was at fault for the bus accident then the claim would be filed against the driver of that vehicle, in the same way you would claim if it was a regular road traffic accident.
Making A Bus Accident Claim As Another Road User/Pedestrian
If a bus collided into your vehicle while you were driving, you may also be entitled to file a bus accident claim if you sustain any injuries in the collision.
You can also file for compensation if you were injured in a bus accident as a pedestrian or while waiting in a bus shelter or bus station.
Evidence In Bus Accident Claims
It goes without saying that the first action you should take after suffering any injury is to seek the appropriate medical attention and treatment where applicable. This ensures that any injuries are treated as soon as possible and details of the medical examination, the circumstances of the accident and treatment are noted on the patient’s medical records. There will be bus and coach accidents where the police may be called, certainly in cases involving severe injuries and fatalities; this will also provide an alternative source of evidence should your compensation claim go before the courts.
It will obviously depend upon the severity of the injuries received but where possible you should take photographs of the scene of the accident, gather witness statements and retain proof that you were actually on the bus (noting the bus number, date and time) if you’re claiming compensation as a bus passenger. There have been many instances of fraudulent claims involving bus passengers and the ability to prove that you were actually on the vehicle is paramount. It would also be extremely useful to put together a timeline of events pre and post the bus accident so that you can provide a wider picture in court.
Contacting A Personal Injury Solicitor
Bus accident claims are relatively common in the UK therefore the vast majority of law firms and personal injury solicitors will have plenty of experience in this area and will be able to advise you relatively quickly whether or not you have a strong case. In some instances they may request additional medical examinations, at no cost to the claimant, using specialists who may be able to diagnose specific details perhaps missed by a general practitioner.
After reviewing all supporting evidence the solicitor will advise you accordingly. Where they believe you have a strong bus accident claim they will likely advise signing a No Win No Fee agreement, should you choose to use their services. For many people this is often the only financially viable option whereby legal expenses are removed from the equation while pursuing the claim. However, part of the No Win No fee agreement will involve agreeing a “success fee” which is traditionally around 25% of the compensation and is paid as the fee when the claim is won. As with any legal agreement you should double check precisely what you will be expected to pay as some law firms may work differently, or include other fees or costs that you might not be fully aware of.
Bus Accident Claims Process
Once all of the evidence for the bus accident claim has been collated it will be put before the courts, with a copy of the evidence also made available to the defendant. There are many instances where negligence is fairly easy to prove and in such circumstances the defendant may well pursue an out-of-court settlement. This would reduce their legal fees going forward but also ensures that the claimant receives compensation relatively quickly. There will be instances where negligence is disputed or perhaps there was more than one potentially negligent party responsible for the bus accident. These types of claims tend to go before the courts with the judge making a ruling after the claimant and defendant present their own evidence.
There is a common misconception where there may be shared negligence or uncertainty over which parties caused the bus accident. It is not the role of the claimant to determine which parties were negligent or indeed any level of shared negligence. This is the role of the courts and has no bearing on whether or not the claimant should continue with their case.
What Can You Claim For?
As with any bus accident claim there are two specific types of compensation taken into account when calculating what compensation you could be entitled to. These are commonly known as general damages and special damages.
General damages take into account factors such as the following:
- Mental trauma
- The severity of the injury
- Pain and suffering
- Recovery time
- Life changing injuries
Traditionally the courts have used statistics published by the Judicial College as a basis for calculating any compensation awards. These statistics collate historic compensation awards for various injuries and while they have no legal standing in law they are well respected by the courts and insurance companies. In the case of general damages there is a degree of discretion/variation which allows for the specifics of an individual case to be reflected in the final award.
Special damages relate to financial recompense for expenses incurred and future funding. These include factors such as:
- Loss of earnings/income
- Future loss of earnings/income
- Vehicle modifications
- Additional transport expenses
- Alterations to the home
- Medical costs
- Future medical costs
While this list is by no means inclusive it does give you an idea of the various elements covered by special damages. There is no variation/discretion with special damages because they are simply financial recompense for expenses relating to injuries incurred and funding for future injury-related expenses.
Bus Accident Claim Time Limit
As with all personal injury claims there is a three-year window of opportunity when looking to claim compensation as a result of an accident on a bus or coach. It will obviously depend upon the severity of the injuries received but it is advisable to take action sooner rather than later where you may have a legal claim for compensation. As the window of opportunity moves towards the three-year deadline, memories can begin to fade about the day of the accident which may well impact the strength of your compensation claim.
If your recollection of the accident is different to the details of the day, however honest this may be, this will cast some doubt upon the actual events and as a consequence cast doubts on negligence. An inability to prove negligence beyond any reasonable doubt is effectively the end of any compensation claim. So, if you have been involved in a bus/coach accident which resulted in an injury you should take advice from a claims management company as soon as practically possible.
If you’ve been injured in a bus accident and it was due to the negligence of a bus driver, another road user or pedestrian, contact us today to speak with a solicitor who can advise if you have a bus accident claim for compensation.