While a bus accident is not as common as other motor vehicle accidents, it can have catastrophic consequences for everyone involved. Arizona is an at-fault auto accident state, meaning victims of negligent drivers have the right to pursue compensation for their losses from the party responsible for the accident. The first step is identifying those losses and the at-fault party from your bus wreck by talking to a personal injury lawyer about the details of your case.
What Damages Can Passengers Recover From a Bus Wreck?
Tort law, commonly referred to as personal injury law, governs civil cases involving bodily harm caused by negligence or malicious intent. The law uses the term “damages” to refer to the recoverable losses victims incur. Most accident cases, including collisions involving buses, have some variation of the economic and non-economic compensatory damages listed below. Consider how these may apply to your claim and what you need to prove them.
Economic damages have an absolute monetary value with tangible evidence. The most common examples are the medical expenses directly related to your injuries:
- The cost of emergency care, including aid from first responders, ambulance services, and treatment provided by the hospital emergency department
- The cost of hospital stays, including necessary surgeries and medications
- Outpatient care expenses, including visits with doctors and specialists and the transportation costs to and from visits
- Use of any essential medical devices
- Rehabilitative treatments, such as physical or occupational therapy
Severe injuries typically result in a significant amount of lost income. Therefore, you can claim current and future lost wages and the loss of earning capacity associated with injuries causing disability. In addition, if you have any damaged property or needed replacement services, such as household help or childcare, you can include those costs in your demands.
Proving Economic Damages From a Bus Wreck
To recover losses, you must provide evidentiary support for all damages claimed. Sometimes collecting this evidence is tedious. However, it should be relatively accessible. For example, for economic losses, provide medical bills, pay stubs, recent tax returns, professional estimates, and doctor recommendations to support your claim.
Non-economic damages are arguably more subjective. These losses reflect how the accident and your injuries impacted your mental and emotional health. Common examples include:
- Physical pain and suffering caused by the injuries and the medical care you endured
- Emotional distress or mental anguish, often manifesting as anxiety or depression disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Loss of your ability to enjoy life
- Lost consortium if your injuries impacted spousal intimacy
These general damages are common in cases involving severe injuries and often amount to significantly more than economic losses. However, they can be more challenging to prove.
Proving Non-Economic Damages From a Bus Wreck
Attorneys may use various pieces of evidence to prove your accident’s negative impact. For example, they can interview family and friends to testify to the noticeable changes in your mental state or hire doctors and mental health experts to provide testimony on your behalf. Valuing these losses is often better left to a legal expert who understands your claim’s worth.
Who Can File a Claim for a Wrongful Death Caused by a Bus Wreck?
Arizona tort law defines any personal injury resulting in a death that would otherwise constitute a tort claim. For example, you could likely file a wrongful death claim if you lost a loved one because of a negligent driver or relative party. Arizona allows a personal representative or the surviving spouse, parent, guardian, or children of these deceased to file a wrongful death claim and receive compensation for their economic and non-economic losses.
Recoverable Damages From a Wrongful Death Claim
The damages from a wrongful death claim differ somewhat from those available in other personal injury cases. For example, you can still claim the medical expenses incurred while your loved one was alive and the pain and suffering they endured before death. However, other recoverable damages include:
- Lost income. You can claim the financial contributions your loved one made to your household and the loss of benefits, such as healthcare and retirement plans. You can also claim the loss of inheritance if your loved one listed you as a beneficiary for their estate.
- Loss of companionship. You can claim the loss of love, affection, nurturing, society, and guidance your loved one provided.
- Funeral and burial expenses. The law recognizes the at-fault party’s liability for funeral costs and expenses related to burial or cremation.
- Survivor’s pain. You can claim your emotional pain and suffering caused by your loss.
- Other related expenses. You may claim damaged property or replacement services needed to accommodate the role your loved one played.
No monetary award can replace the loss of life. However, Arizona personal injury law can alleviate the financial burden and provide justice for grieving loved ones. Still, you must determine whose negligence caused the accident before you can draft a demand letter.
Who Is Liable for Damages From a Bus Wreck?
As the party filing a fault-based claim, you are responsible for identifying and proving who is responsible for your losses. Like many auto accidents involving commercial vehicles, multiple parties could be liable for a bus accident. Typically, the fault lies with the driver or the driver’s employer. You can often identify the at-fault party by determining the cause of the accident.
Common Causes for Bus Accidents
Common examples of bus driver negligence include distracted driving, driving under the influence, failure to obey traffic signs and signals, driver fatigue, excessive speeding, and improper maneuvering. Bus drivers are responsible for following the rules of the road and the industry standards set by federal and state law. When the driver fails to abide by those laws, resulting in an accident that causes bodily harm to passengers, the injured parties have the right to file a claim for damages.
Sometimes the driver’s employer is liable for damages. For example, if they fail to provide adequate training for the driver or maintenance for the bus, they could be responsible when the driver makes a mistake or if the bus has a mechanical issue that leads to loss of control. Additionally, the laws are different for commercial and public buses. Finally, if the at-fault party in your case is a government entity, filing a claim against that entity is different and sometimes more challenging.
Can You File a Claim Against a Government Entity for a Bus Wreck in Arizona?
The Arizona Tort Claims Act governs cases involving bus accidents where the liable party is a government employee or agency. Citizens can file a claim against a government agency if the employee who caused the accident is responsible under independent circumstances. The rules for this process include the following:
- You must file within 180 days following the accident.
- You must provide a written notice detailing the accident, each party’s roles, and the damages you suffered.
- You must allow the government agency 60 days to respond to your claim.
If you do not receive a response within the allotted timeframe, your attorney will likely file a lawsuit and carry the case to court. If you have questions about government liability for your accident and injuries, you would probably benefit from speaking with a personal injury attorney.
When Do You Need Help From a Bus Wreck Lawyer?
Given the question of liability and the high stakes surrounding a bus accident case, hiring a lawyer is often an advantage. If other passengers suffered significant injuries on the bus, the driver or their employer could face multiple civil claims. Insurance companies will go to great lengths to avoid a substantial payout, including resorting to bad faith tactics, such as undervaluing your claim, delaying the investigation into the accident, or denying your claim without a valid reason.
When you hire a personal injury lawyer with experience in Arizona auto accident cases, you have someone with relevant expertise protecting your right to compensation. You can also focus on physical and emotional recovery while your attorney handles the case.
Duties of a Bus Wreck Lawyer
Some responsibilities transferred from the victim to the attorney include:
- Gathering evidence. Your attorney will investigate the accident independently to collect necessary proof of negligence and damages. They also do the tedious work of interviewing experts and people who know you to value your non-economic losses.
- Negotiating for a settlement. Most auto accident cases conclude with a settlement without seeing the inside of a courtroom. Personal injury attorneys have seasoned negotiation skills they will use to your advantage along with the leverage provided by the evidence they collect.
- Handling administrative work. Civil claims require extensive paperwork, and mistakes during the process can cause delays for your case. Your attorney will complete and file all the necessary paperwork to ensure you are within your right to pursue compensation.
When you work with an experienced attorney, you have the advantage of a professional and compassionate representative on your side. They understand the emotional toll of these cases and can offer the peace of mind you may need to make it through the process. They also advise you from the start to ensure you make no mistake that could negatively impact your right to claim damages.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Right To Compensation After a Bus Wreck in Arizona?
You can take steps in the moments, days, and weeks following the crash, which could significantly increase your negotiating power and help you secure a fast and fair settlement. As you build your case, consider the evidence you need and how your actions can impact your case.
What To Do in the Immediate Aftermath
Your immediate response to a bus accident is likely shock. However, if you have the mental and physical ability, the following actions could benefit your claim:
- Take photographs of the accident, including images of the bus, injuries visible on your body, and any other vehicles or objects involved in the crash.
- Gather contact information from the driver and anyone involved, including other passengers and bystanders.
- Use your phone to record the scene and narrate how the accident happened from your perspective, including any details leading up to the crash that may be relevant.
- Provide a statement to the police.
From the time of the crash, keep any physical documentation, such as a copy of the police report and your medical records, along with photographs in one place to keep track of everything. Then you can turn all this information over to your attorney during the initial meeting.
What To Do in the Days That Follow the Bus Wreck
A common mistake made by personal injury victims is waiting too long to seek medical attention. If you need emergency care, you will have medical records directly correlating your injuries to your accident. Following through with aftercare and follow-up visits is essential to your health and claim. These records prove the severity of your injuries and are critical sources of evidence demonstrating your pain and suffering.
If you suffered injuries not requiring emergency medical services, you should still see a doctor as soon as possible. Ideally, you would have a doctor in the hospital emergency department or an urgent care physician conduct a complete evaluation on the same day. However, if you prefer to wait, avoid waiting more than 72 hours after the accident to ensure the insurance company cannot use the delay to negate the value of your claim.
Finally, try not to speak with anyone other than your attorney about the accident. This includes posting about it on social media platforms. Insurance companies sometimes monitor online activity to look for evidence they can use against you.
Can a Bus Wreck Lawyer Help You Build Your Case?
Most personal injury attorneys work on contingency and offer free case evaluations with no obligation. Therefore, you have nothing to lose from contacting a legal professional as soon as possible.
The aftermath of a severe bus wreck can be physically, emotionally, and financially devastating. Still, with the help of an attorney specializing in Arizona tort law, you can recover your losses and start rebuilding your life. If you have questions about your right to compensation and how a personal injury lawyer can help you, contact MDK Law Group to schedule your free consultation today.