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With the increasing amount of congestion on the roads, more and more people in California are finding it convenient to avoid the stress of driving, and travel by bus instead. However, more buses on the roads inevitably means more accidents involving buses. If you are a regular or occasional traveler by bus, you need to recognize that there is the possibility of an accident, and be clear about how you would go about obtaining a bus accident settlement, if the worst should happen.
Of course, accidents involving buses can have a large number of possible causes, some but not all of them arising from driver error. It certainly has been known for drivers to cause crashes by inattention or aggressive driving, or by failure to take adequate rest beforehand, resulting in drowsiness. However, a crash could also be caused by another vehicle, by adverse road conditions, or even by a stray animal. If your bus is involved in a crash, it is unlikely that you will know immediately what caused it — that will be identified later in the investigation. What you need to do is to gather as much information as you can from your own observation.
The problem is that in the immediate aftermath of an accident, you will almost certainly be in severe shock, and your priority will be trying to extricate yourself from the wreck, and help those around you. What is important is that, even if you do not feel as if you are seriously injured, you should not refuse medical help when the first responders arrive at the scene. Your shock reaction may be masking an injury that will become evident later, but apart from this, attention from the responders will provide important evidence of how you were affected by the accident.
Your shock reaction will also make it hard for you to think clearly, but in order to maximize your chances of obtaining a bus accident settlement, you need to try to collect and record as much information as you can. If you can move around, try to write down the driver’s nameplate, and the license plate and number of the bus, and try to get photographs of the scene, including the area where you were seated. In the period immediately following the crash, open a file to keep track of all your expenses, including hospital and physical therapy bills, lost or damaged property, and loss of earnings.
Although this may not be the first thing on your mind, it is crucial that you contact an attorney as soon as you possibly can. This is particularly important if your bus was operated by a public or government entity, such as the San Francisco Municipal Railway (SF Muni), or the Los Angeles Metro. The reason is that although the California Statute of Limitations is two years — meaning you normally have two years to pursue your claim — where a government entity is involved you have only six months from the date of the accident. If the insurers from the bus company contact you, do not talk to them without going through your lawyer — they will try to pressure you into settling for far less than the amount you are entitled to.
Above all, remember that when you get on a bus as a passenger, that bus company, whether private or public, as a common carrier, has a legal duty of care towards you. If you suffer injury or loss because of its failure to exercise that duty of care, you have a full entitlement to compensation. However, the law in this area is complex, so in order to obtain the bus accident settlement you deserve, make sure you contact a specialist lawyer without delay.
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