Tour bus operators have a duty to drive responsibly and keep tourists and other road users safe. Unfortunately, some tour bus operators find shortcuts, therefore putting the safety of tourists and other road users at risk. When a driver or tour bus company acts negligently, horrendous tour bus accidents occur, causing catastrophic injuries. At the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we protect your right to seek compensation and ensure the word catastrophic in your claim is not exaggerated or used to deny you compensation.
Overview of Tour Bus Accidents
Orange County and California, at large, have many tourist destinations that attract many tourists. Many tour buses operate in California to transport tourists to various destinations. Tour bus drivers maintain hectic schedules and drive for long hours, which increases the risk of fatigue and reduces the drivers’ effectiveness. A fatigued tour bus driver could fall asleep or lack alertness while behind the wheel, thus causing a tour bus collision.
When these accidents occur, the tour bus company could be held liable because of negligent hiring. The company takes responsibility for the crash because of hiring an incompetent and inexperienced driver. The company might also take responsibility for not properly training and supervising the driver. To avoid liability, tour bus firms now run background checks of the drivers they hire, ensure they meet the qualifications and have good driving records.
Keep in mind that California uses the common carrier law that requires commercial buses that transport people and products to uphold the highest degree of safety standards. The statute also requires passenger carriers to exercise the utmost diligence and care. Hired drivers must also possess top-notch skills. A tour bus company violates the common carrier laws by failing to inspect the vehicle frequently for safety reasons.
When you are involved in a public bus accident and incur catastrophic injuries, you could sue the government for the damages. Remember registering a lawsuit against the government is different from suing a private company. California waived the sovereign immunity for specific injury claims involving employee negligence. If you sustained injuries that affected your routine after an accident due to the public bus driver’s negligence, could sue the state or the relevant agencies.
Definition of a Catastrophic Injury Per California Law
According to California law, a catastrophic injury leaves you with permanent or long-term disability, which in turn affects your quality of life. The catastrophic injury could prevent you from engaging in your daily duties/ activities. After the accident, you could live with a permanent disability.
Credible statistics show that a significant percentage of tour bus collision victims sustain life-changing or catastrophic injuries. Still, the victims don’t know how to tell if their injuries are catastrophic when filing personal injury claims. An injury is termed as catastrophic, depending on its results and not its severity.
If you are involved in a tour bus collision, you could suffer an injury like the loss of a limb. Such an injury leaves you unable to walk or perform routines that you used to before the accident. Other times you might not suffer physical injuries after a crash but are left with a trauma that changes your life.
If someone else’s negligence makes you incur a catastrophic injury, California law allows you to seek compensation for your injury. Before seeking compensation, you should understand the injury types termed as catastrophic to prevent complicated legal battles or difficulties when pursuing compensation.
Paralysis is the loss of ability to control motor functions. Paralysis occurs when you suffer spinal cord or neck injuries following a bus crash. Because of the injuries, you might be unable to partially or fully move your limbs or upper body. When you suffer paraplegia or partial paralysis, you might retain limited ability to control your motor functions. In most cases, only specific areas of the body like the legs suffer paralysis. If it’s the lumbar region of your spinal cord that is injured, the injury might interfere with your bladder or sexual functions.
Because of total paralysis or quadriplegia, things are worse because you lose all your ability to control motor function from the neck downwards. If you suffer complete paralysis, you are entirely unable to move the body, which means you will require specialized care for the rest of your life. Paralysis, whether partial or total, usually causes emotional scars, which means as you receive expert care, more money is required for your therapy and medical care.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
Tour bus collisions leave victims with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). When a tour bus crash occurs, you are likely to be tossed around the vehicle receiving violent blows on your head if you don’t wear a seatbelt. TBI can also occur when pieces of shattered tour bus windshield and windows penetrate your skull. The victim is left to endure emotional, social, and cognitive difficulties for the rest of his or her life. Sometimes, after sustaining injuries, you cannot recognize your family or loved ones. You need to relearn daily routines like brushing your teeth, feeding, or bathing.
Note that traumatic brain injury is difficult to discover after an accident. You might experience problems for years without realizing you have brain trauma. Thus, you might end up not pursuing damages for TBI, whereas you sustained the injury. Therefore, after an accident, it is wise to go for medical check-ups regardless of your injuries’ seriousness. You could go for a second check-up if you feel something is not right. Doing so ensures you receive compensation for TBI.
Severe Burn Injuries
The large fuel tanks in buses can burst into flames after a collision leaving the victims trapped in the wreckage. You could sustain serious burns. A burn injury is deemed catastrophic if you sustain serious burns that cannot recover fully. Victims of burns, especially third-degree burns, undergo excruciating pain even after treatment. While some victims require surgeries to correct the disfigurement caused by the burns, others undergo skin grafting. If you suffer burns that require grafting or cause the loss of body functions, you should file a claim for a catastrophic injury.
Loss of Limbs
When a tour bus accident happens, tourists who get ejected from the bus could suffer severe arm or leg injuries, leaving surgeons with no other option but to amputate the legs or arms. In other cases, loss of limbs could occur during an accident, even without needing amputation. When you lose your leg or arm, life changes because you cannot engage in activities you used to when you had a complete leg or arm.
Post-Traumatic Vision Loss
Tour bus collisions are major traumatic events in victims’ lives. Loss of vision is among the trauma effects of a bus accident. Partial or full eyesight loss could occur when you are conscious or unconscious. Loss of vision is common when a collision victim experiences significant head trauma.
Several tour bus accident victims never know they have a vision problem until they go for a check-up after many days of experiencing pain and perplexity. It’s advisable that after the accident, you undergo an eye examination. The physician will check the appearance and movement of the eyes.
You are encouraged to undergo an eye test if you:
- Experience blurred vision
- Have difficulties reading
- Experience severe headaches
- Begin to see doubles
- Have eyes that ache
- Are extremely sensitive to light and glare
- Have problems making regular eye movements
Temporary or permanent eyesight loss can have devastating effects on your life. Because of this, post-traumatic vision loss is considered a catastrophic injury. All the above catastrophic injuries require specialized treatment that can go for months, years, or even a lifetime. Understanding the difference between slight and catastrophic injuries after a bus crash is critical because it determines the damages you receive. Victims who suffer catastrophic injuries are more dependent on other people, and their medical expenses are higher than those who suffer minor injuries.
If you are a bus accident victim and suffer any of the injuries listed above or if the injuries you sustain are life-changing, you need an Orange County Personal Injury Attorney to help you seek compensation. Our attorneys could tell if an injury is catastrophic or not. You should worry less about receiving compensation for minor injuries when you are entitled to compensation for life-altering injuries.
Life-Long Costs Related to Tour Bus Accidents Resulting in Catastrophic injury
If you sustain catastrophic injuries after a bus accident, the odds are that you cannot cater to your daily needs and those of your family or loved ones. Additionally, you cannot work or earn income. The injuries could also result in substantial medical and nursing care expenses. Below are the life-long costs that you could incur:
- Medication costs
- Physical and occupation therapy expenses
- Counseling costs
- Consistent nursing care
- House renovation costs to enable your house to accommodate wheelchair
- Low capacity to generate income
- Costs of buying medical equipment for your specialized care
Available Damages For Catastrophic Injuries Incurred In Tour Bus Accidents
When you file an injury claim for catastrophic injuries, you receive both economic and non-economic damages. Estimating financial losses is a piece of cake for the jury because there is evidence to show the number of days you missed work, lost income, and the property damages stemming from the accident. Your injury attorney could use receipts, bills of services, and other documentation to prove the financial losses you have suffered because of the accident.
However, estimating non-economic damages is usually an uphill task because these depend on the severity of the injuries. The jury has no particular way of awarding non-economic damages, although they should be higher than your medical expenses.
When estimating economic damages, the jury considers income loss or inability to work due to catastrophic injuries. The jury also considers the number of months or years you have not been working and the amount you used to earn to determine lost wages.
Measurement of Losses in Tour Bus Catastrophic Injury Accidents
When you make an injury claim as a casualty, your intention is to be made whole again by the person accountable for the accident. Compensation helps you to cope with the overwhelming effects of the crash. While recovering damages will not restore your health as it was before the accident, the settlement negotiated by your attorney helps take care of the financial losses and restores the life enjoyment you had before the unfortunate tragedy. The main aim of awarding damages or compensation is to help you lead a healthy life under the new circumstances.
If a catastrophic tour bus accident leaves you with paralysis or loss of limb, making you unable to walk, compensation won’t restore your mobility. Instead, it will help you purchase a state of the art wheelchair that will ease your movement, thus improving your quality of life under the new circumstances. After buying the wheelchair, part of the money received as compensation goes to renovate your home to make it easy for the wheelchair to access all the areas you need.
After sustaining catastrophic injuries, you are not likely to go back to your old job. You need to look for another profession, which means vocational training is a must. Part of the money you receive as compensation will pay for the training. If you are confined in a bed because of full paralysis, the funds will be used for your nursing care.
Determining the amount one will receive as compensation is not easy, especially on future earnings and pain. Therefore, the jury works with experts like medical doctors and economists to determine the amount of compensation.
Estimating Future Earning Capacity
Lost earnings are easy to estimate when contrasted to loss of future earning capacity. It is challenging to project future earnings based on present values. The court considers your age, current earning, race, and life expectancy. Life expectancy is estimated using federal government statistics.
Economists are always brought in during this decision to project the likely economic changes and how they would affect your earning capacity. If you earn $100,000 annually, and after an accident, you suffer permanent paralysis, the jury will use experts to calculate the amount of future earning ability annually. The amount will then be multiplied by the difference between your current age and life expectancy.
Estimating Catastrophic Pain and Suffering
The pain and suffering caused by a catastrophic injury is long term or permanent. Estimating pain and anguish caused by the injuries is not easy, considering that it might be physical or emotional. If you are involved in a bus accident, causing catastrophic injuries, your life changes completely. You are left unable to care for your children, have sexual relations, or engage in activities that were part of your life before the accident. This denies your life enjoyment and causes emotional distress.
Regardless of the amount of compensation you receive, it’s not enough to help you overcome the pain and anguish caused by catastrophic injuries. The payment can only help you find other ways of enjoying life under the new circumstances. And because there is no formula for calculating pain and suffering, your injury attorney considers different aspects of negotiating a settlement.
If there is a previous case similar to yours, where a jury awarded the plaintiff a certain amount, your attorney can demand the same compensation. The decision on the amount to be awarded for pain will depend on the jury. It’s up to your injury attorney to estimate a favorable amount of compensation and negotiate with the jury to ensure the amount you receive maximum damages.
Proving Liability in California Accidents
You will not succeed in seeking compensation for your catastrophic injuries if you fail to prove the theory of negligence. A person is deemed negligent if his or her wrongful act, action, or inaction causes harm to another person.
You must prove that the answerable party owed you a duty of care but breached it by acting negligently. You must also prove that the responsible party’s failure to exercise due consideration caused the accident and, thus, your catastrophic injuries.
Remember, under Civil Code 2100, commercial drivers who include tour bus drivers are held to a higher standard of care than regular drivers. If a bus driver commits a simple mistake or exhibits negligence behaviors, then he or she is liable for breach of due care. A tour bus driver owes the tourists in the bus the utmost care but owes other road users’ reasonable duty of care.
Potential Defendants in Tour Bus Accidents
The defendant in a personal injury claim depends on the cause and type of accident. The defendant could be the tour bus operator, tour bus driver, or the driver’s supervisor. If the cause of the crash is a faulty part, the manufacturer of the bus or parts will be the defendant. If poor bus maintenance were the cause of the crash, the party in charge of maintaining the tour bus would take responsibility for the catastrophic injuries sustained. Where the tour bus belongs to the state government or its body, the answerable party will be the state, Orange County, or city agency that owns the bus.
In other cases, there may be more than one defendant in an accident. Where there are many defendants or liable parties, the amount of compensation is shared. But to receive the reward, you must prove that the responsible parties owed you a duty of utmost care and breached that duty. Additionally, you must show that the breach of utmost care was the cause of your catastrophic injuries.
California VC 21702 prohibits bus drivers from driving for many hours without rest. The tour bus company and the driver are usually held liable for violating this law. Most drivers who drive for long hours without rest are encouraged by the company to meet the tight schedules. If you are a victim of catastrophic injuries caused by a driver who violated VC 21702, the tour bus operator and the driver can both be held answerable for the damages.
Comparative Fault in Bus Accidents
California comparative law allows victims of a crash to receive compensation even if they are partly answerable. However, the court must first determine your percentage of fault or negligence that caused the injuries. If you share a particular portion of the blame, the amount to be awarded will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
In comparative negligence cases, both the plaintiff and the defendant must prove negligence by the opposing side. If you partly contributed to the injuries, the defendant must also prove negligence from your side.
Statute of Limitations for Catastrophic Injury Claims
The statute of limitations for bus accidents is two years. If you are filing the claim against a government body, you only have six months to do it. Otherwise, you will lose your constitutional right to file an injury claim. The laws differ with situations regarding the timeline for filing a complaint. So, it’s best to consult with your attorney when seeking compensation for catastrophic injuries caused by a tout bus accident. An attorney will ensure you don’t lose the right to file an injury claim.
Find a Orange County Injury Attorney Near Me
If you get involved in a tour bus accident and suffer catastrophic injuries, you need evidence of your injuries and legal advice to receive compensation. Contact the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney at 714-876-1959 and speak to one of our attorneys who can help you win the case.