If you’re hurt in a bus accident due to the driver’s negligence, you may be entitled to get significant compensation.
Mr. F’s case is an example. On a wintry January day, he stepped down from the rear exit of a bus in Kamloops. His ankle snapped as he slipped and fell on an icy spot. It turned out that the bus driver had stopped somewhat back from the bus stop, where there was no curb or sidewalk (which would have been safer), and he drove off without checking his rear view mirror or noticing that an elderly passenger had fallen down near the back wheels of the bus. In April, 2013, the BC Supreme Court decided there was negligence, and the bus company (the driver’s employer) had to pay 75% of the compensation Mr. F was entitled to for his injuries.
Then there’s the case of Ms. P. She was hurt when her Vancouver bus braked suddenly to avoid hitting two cars stopped in front. She had gotten up to leave the bus at the next stop and was the only passenger standing, holding on to the metal handle on the back of a seat for support. She was propelled forward and fell down near the front by the bus driver, hurting her lower back and right wrist. In its recent judgment, the BC Supreme Court decided the driver as well as the bus companies that owned and operated the bus were fully responsible. Ms. P received $130,000 for her injuries and past and future wage loss.
There are many court cases involving accidents like these and the responsibility of “common carrier” companies that own or operate public transit buses. These cases establish that bus companies have a very high duty to be careful and transport passengers to their destination safely.
Of course, the companies know this and typically put in place programs, policies and training procedures to ensure their drivers offer safe transportation.
The companies (and their insurers) also know they are potential lawsuit targets. So they have come up with strategies to minimize their risks, even where there’s negligence.
They may try and hustle an injured passenger off the bus quickly, before there’s a chance for the hurt (and possibly in-shock) individual to get the identity of the driver or other passenger witnesses, or to note the bus number.
They may also send out an adjuster promptly to interview the accident victim. While sounding sympathetic to the victim, the adjuster is on the side of the bus companies. His or her goal is to get statements that can later be used to argue the injuries were minor, and minimize any compensation that may be due. And the companies (and their insurers) will fight to defend themselves in court, trying to avoid liability and show that there was no negligence, or that the victim is exaggerating their injuries.
If you’re hurt in a bus accident, promptly get proper medical attention and consult with your lawyer as soon as possible as to what to do. Be aware that you may only have a short window of time to take the necessary steps to start a law suit and protect your rights. Your lawyer can best advise you.
Janice Mucalov, LL.B. for Gertsoyg & Company. This column provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Please call Gertsoyg & Company at (604) 602-3066 for a free legal consultation concerning your particular case.