Thousands of people put their safety in the hands of bus drivers, bus company workers, and contractors. Unfortunately, not all these people get to their destination safely because of accidents. After a bus accident, most victims are usually confused, but this is not advisable because you need to stay calm and gather evidence for compensation. At the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we have highlighted the required evidence in bus accident cases to help you win your injury claim.
What to do After an Accident Involving a Bus
The large capacity of buses enables them to accommodate many passengers compared to other standard vehicles. In the event of a crash, bus accidents cause more injuries compared to a four-passenger vehicle.
If you are a bus passenger or a motorist and are involved in a bus accident, there are specific steps that you should take. If you take the rights steps after a crash, the steps will go a long way in helping you receive compensation. Below are some of the steps that, if taken, will help you gather the evidence necessary to win maximum compensation for your injuries or losses.
Call 911 for Help
California requires victims of bus accidents to exercise their duty of care. It doesn’t matter if you are a passenger or motorist, you need to contact law enforcement after an accident. Take note that in most cases, the bus driver or driver of the other vehicle may not be in a position to call for help. As such, anyone who has not sustained significant injuries can call for assistance.
In case there are people injured after the crash, make sure you notify the police about it too so that an emergency response team can go to the scene.
You are encouraged to stay at the scene until the police arrive. However, if you have suffered significant injuries, you should seek medical attention. Remember that bus accidents are catastrophic, primarily because of their large sizes. If you are a passenger, get out of the bus quickly because there is a probability the large fuel tanks might explode. Getting out of the bus fast will also prevent entrapment in case other vehicles on the road cause more accidents near the wreckage.
If you are the driver in the other vehicle involved in the accident and need immediate medical attention, you should consider leaving the scene. However, make sure your car remains at the scene.
Victims of bus accidents should stay at the scene and wait for the police so that you can give their account on what happened to lead to the accident. If your injuries don’t allow you to remain at the scene, you can leave for the hospital, but after seeking medical attention, make sure you still report to the police. The reason you are encouraged to remain at the scene is if the bus driver is the one responsible for the crash, he or she will not be readily willing to report.
When reporting to the law enforcers, disclose all information and everything you can remember before the accident that might help with the investigation. But if you suspect you are partly to blame for the accident, avoid sharing details that might be incriminating since the plaintiff’s attorney might use the statements against you.
Usually, when police officers arrive at the scene of a crash, they make sure those injured receive medical attention. After, they secure the scene and begin their investigations. They will speak to witnesses, and in case they suspect drunk driving to be the cause of the accident, they will conduct sobriety tests.
Once the police have gathered the information they need, they will put in a police report. You should request a copy of the report when leaving the scene. The report is critical because it contains all the evidence needed by attorneys or insurers to award or deny a claim.
If you have suffered injuries or losses in the accident, you should know that somebody must take responsibility for the injuries and provide compensation. But before that, you must know the cause of the accident so that you can find the liable party. This means that you must collect all the pieces of evidence that you feel will help you win your case. Evidence is the only thing that will tell the judge the cause of the accident, the injuries sustained, and the party at fault.
There are several ways you can gather evidence. One of the ways includes taking pictures of the scene. Photos play a pivotal role in showing the angle in which the collision occurred. Based on the angel revealed in the pictures, it becomes a piece of cake to establish the person at fault. Taking pictures of the injuries suffered and the damages on your vehicle are also essential when it comes to negotiating with insurance adjusters.
Taking videos of various angles of the crash and the surroundings of the scene is equally critical. A video or picture of the surrounding will help experts find other things that may have led to the collision.
In the event you are a passenger on the bus, taking photos and videos from inside the bus is an essential step towards receiving compensation. Many things can cause injuries to passengers inside the bus. And by taking the pictures and videos of the injuries sustained by passengers, accident reconstruction experts can use them to show what might have caused the accident and the person who should take responsibility.
Before going for a medical examination for the injuries, ensure you take pictures of the injuries. The images are crucial because not only do they prove the extent of the injuries, they help demonstrate the pain and suffering you went through, making it easy to be awarded pain damages.
Remember that buses in San Diego have different owners. Some belong to the local government, individuals, or private firms. The parties responsible for the accident also vary. It is for this reason that you should collect all the information you can find about the bus before leaving the scene. Jot down the name of the bus driver, the insurance company that provides coverage for the bus, and any other information that may help you identify the bus.
Besides, you should speak to witnesses because their statements can make or break your injury claim. Witnesses can be your fellow passengers on the bus or bystanders who witnessed the crash happen. In most cases, onlookers are the best witnesses because passengers on a bus might be sleeping or on their phones, so they might not have seen what caused the accident.
Make sure you write down the contact information of the witnesses you talk to once they give their statement regarding the collision. Contact information helps trace these witnesses if you need them to testify in court.
Reporting to Your Insurer
If you are a motorist involved in an accident with a bus, you must notify your auto insurer about the crash. In your insurance policy, there is a clause that requires you to notify the insurance company any time you are involved in an accident. Failure to report the accident might result in the cancellation of your coverage or an increase in insurance premiums. The insurer also might fail to renew your coverage.
Keep in mind that the bus driver might report to his or her insurer that you are responsible for the accident. Therefore, failing to report an accident to your insurer might result in you being blamed for an accident even though you are not at fault.
California uses the comparative negligence system when it comes to determining fault. It means that damages are awarded based on the percentage of negligence. Both drivers may be responsible, and in such a case, the damages awarded will depend on the percentage of fault blamed on you.
When informing your insurer about the crash, do not disclose everything unless your injury attorney deems it necessary. Also, you should watch the words you use at the scene if you are the motorist in the other vehicle involved in the crash. The things you say might be used by the passengers and the driver of the bus to institute claims. So, always inform your insurer about the accident to avoid the repercussions of withholding this information.
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
Take note that insurers are in this business of making profits. Paying personal injury claims is not part of the profits, which is why they will try every means possible to deny a claim. For this reason, instead of reaching out to the bus driver insurer directly, get a personal injury attorney to do it on your behalf. An attorney understands all the tricks insurance adjusters use to deny claims, so you are assured your rights and interests are protected if you hire an attorney.
If the insurer of the responsible party fails to settle with your attorney, then the attorney will file a petition with the court seeking damages.
Causes and Required Evidence in Bus Accident Cases
Bus accidents have multiple causes. These causes are the ones that help find the person responsible for the accident. Below, we have highlighted the various causes of bus accidents, the person responsible for such scenarios, and the evidence required to prove fault.
Many bus accidents are associated with reckless or negligent drivers. Reckless driving means operating a vehicle with disregard of traffic rules, your safety, or the safety of other road users.
Evidence is required to prove negligence or reckless driving. You can argue that the driver was speeding, carelessly changing lanes, failed to yield, or ran a red light hence the reason for the accident. You can also argue that the driver exhibited distracted driving behavior, such as using the phone while on the wheel. All these are proof of negligence.
The law prohibits bus drivers from operating a phone while driving. As such, if you see a driver using a phone, you can take a picture so that in the event of an accident, it will be easy to prove that the driver’s negligence was the cause of the crash. Camera footages that capture a driver exhibiting behaviors of reckless or negligent driving can be instrumental in proving the party to blame for your injuries.
Also, when a motorist is involved in an accident with a bus driver, gathering evidence at the scene, as mentioned earlier, can help in building a strong case. If you suspect the bus driver is intoxicated, you can notify the police so that they can conduct sobriety tests. In case it is discovered the driver was under the influence, you can use the test results to strengthen your evidence.
Whatever evidence you have to prove negligence by the bus driver, you can use it against his or her insurer or employer for compensation.
Hazardous Road Conditions
Potholes have been linked with several bus accidents. In most cases, a bus hits a pothole and rolls over. Also, when a bus driver is trying to avoid a pothole, he or she might collide with an oncoming vehicle.
If you suspect poor road conditions to be the cause of your accident, you should avail evidence to support your argument. If it is determined that the accident was due to a hazardous road condition, the fault will shift from the bus driver to the state body in charge of maintaining the road.
Take note that when proving hazardous or poor road conditions, you will need images of the road condition at the scene. Taking pictures of the pothole or cracked cement will help establish the cause of the collision. If there were any eyewitnesses, bringing them in to testify on how the bus hit or tried to avoid a pothole can help build your case.
If, in the end, it is established that the crash was due to a hazardous road condition, the state of California or its agencies will take responsibility for your injuries or losses.
Drinking and driving is a serious offense. Bus drivers are held higher by the law than others, and in case of a drunk or drugged driving conviction, the consequences are severe than those of a typical driver. Bus drivers are governed by carrier laws that are very strict on DUI cases.
After an accident, the police arrive at the scene and conduct sobriety tests to rule out intoxication as the cause of the accident. In case the driver is already in the hospital, a blood sample will be taken and tested. If the test results indicate that the driver was driving with a BAC of at least .04%, the driver will be subject to DUI charges.
If you will be pursuing compensation, getting a copy of the test results showing intoxication can help a lot with your case. You should get a copy of the results and present it to the insurer to prove the bus driver was under the influence.
Apart from the blood test results and the police report, you can use the DMV report to strengthen your injury claim. Usually, after the arrest of the bus driver for drinking and driving, the physical license is confiscated until a DMV hearing happens. If the DMV decides to suspend the license after the hearing, they issue a report containing information on the reason for suspending the license. You can present the report to your insurer as confirmation that the bus driver was under the influence, thus winning you a hefty compensation.
Bus drivers, especially tour bus drivers, are always competing with the schedule. In a bid to try and satisfy customers, a commercial driver might stay on the road for long hours resulting in fatigue. Some drivers even end up falling asleep while driving, thus causing accidents.
Although it is not a walk in the park to prove a bus driver was fatigued, it is among the leading causes of accidents. If a bus driver gets too tired and falls asleep behind the wheel, he or she is likely to swerve between lanes. Finally, such drivers lose control of the bus colliding with other vehicles. Both the driver and passengers sustain serious injuries, which is why any time you see a driver sleeping while driving, you should record a video or take pictures because these will act as evidence if an accident occurs.
When preparing a report at the accident scene, police will cross-examine passengers and witnesses to find out what they know about the accident. In the report, they usually indicate the behaviors the driver was exhibiting before the crash. If the report shows the driver displayed signs of fatigue, he or she will be held liable for your injuries, and you will receive compensation.
Sometimes adverse weather conditions may cause accidents. The bus driver may observe defensive driving but due to poor visibility or slippery road, an accident occurs injuring passengers.
When an accident occurs due to lousy weather, there will be nobody to blame for the crash. You will turn to your insurer for compensation. Note that your insurance company will also need evidence before awarding damages. The police report and witness statements will be necessary to prove the accident was not the bus driver’s fault, and instead, it was due to lousy weather.
You can use the videos or pictures you captured at the scene of the accident to support your assertion of lousy weather being the cause of the collision.
Preserving Evidence for a Claim
Preserving evidence is a critical part of receiving compensation for your damages. You need evidence to show that the plaintiff’s negligence caused your injuries. It is the reason people are encouraged to gather evidence after the accident. A lot of people gather evidence but fail to preserve it the right way, which results in them losing a personal injury claim.
When you gather evidence, it might take long before settling the case so you should consider preserving this information. Some of the ways you can do this include:
Requesting Copies of Your Medical Treatment
On top of the pictures that you take at the scene, you want to get copies of the treatment you receive. Pictures will not always hold in court; hence the reason judges might request for definite evidence. In such a case, copies of the doctor’s report will be enough to demonstrate the type of injuries sustained.
In the medical records, make sure you include all the fees you paid for the treatment. Every coin you pay out of your pocket to receive treatment for the injuries, including ambulance and emergency fees, should be included in the report. This will ensure the damages you receive are enough to cover your medical bills.
Protecting All Documents Relating to the Accident or Injuries
Make sure any document related to the accident is properly and safely stored for easier access in the future. If there are many pieces of evidence, store them in one folder and label it for easy identification.
Use Electronic Means to Record and Store Evidence
Once you have prepared all the documents you need as evidence and made copies, you should back up these documents electronically. If the hard copies are lost, you can recover the soft copies and print them for use as evidence.
You will store the documents by scanning them using a scanner or smartphone and store them in your email or cloud storage. Storing evidence in a soft copy form makes it more comfortable to send to your personal injury attorney or insurer in case they need the evidence.
Find a San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Every accident scene usually has onlookers and witnesses. Medics and law enforcement officers also come to the scene to conduct investigations. Unfortunately, many people discover they don’t have the evidence needed to pursue a personal injury claim months after the bus accident. At the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we don’t want you to make the same mistake. Our attorneys will help you with evidence gathering and preservation to ensure you have all the necessary evidence to win a claim. Call us today at 619-478-4059 for a zero-obligation consultation.