By Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor
There are many different scenarios in which passengers on a bus, car drivers in collision with a bus or other road users may be eligible to make bus accident claims for compensation when they have sustained an injury in an accident for which they were not at fault on, or with, a bus.
This article provides a general overview of what steps you should take after you have been injured in a bus accident to support a claim for bus accident compensation, but is no substitute for seeking independent bus accident claims advice which is relevant to your personal situation from a personal injury solicitor.
Injuries to Passengers in Bus Accidents
It is relatively rare for passengers to be anything other than totally innocent parties in bus accidents, and claims for injuries to passengers in bus accidents will either be made against the bus company – if the driver of the bus has been responsible for an injury due to careless driving – or another road user, if the driver of another vehicle has caused a bus accident due to his or her own lack of care.
If there is an advantage to being injured as a passenger in a bus accident it is that there will usually be a number of witnesses who were also injured in the same accident, and who will be able to support your bus accident claim for compensation. Indeed, as a departure from the normal procedures of collecting contact details of those who have been responsible for causing you an injury, it is often beneficial when making claims for injuries to passengers in bus accidents to have also exchanged contact details with fellow passengers who have been injured.
Injuries to Car Drivers in Bus Accidents
Car drivers should handle the procedures following an accident with a bus in the same way as they would a traffic accident with any other vehicle on the road. However, in addition to exchanging contact and insurance details, car drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and any other road user who has sustained an injury in an accident with a bus should also make an independent record of the date and time of the accident, together with the name of the bus company, the route number, and the vehicle registration.
Under no circumstances should you have placed yourself at further risk of injury in order to take photographs of the accident scene, exchange personal information or collect the contact details of witnesses to your accident. In cases of serious injury, this should have been left to the Gardai; while, even when less significant injuries have been sustained, your first priority should have been to seek medical attention for yourself and any passengers travelling with you.
Prioritising Medical Treatment after Bus Accidents
While it would seem ideal to collect evidence of negligence in support of a claim for bus accident compensation immediately after the accident had occurred, the opposite could in fact be true. If you have exacerbated your injuries by your own lack of care, how much compensation for an injury in a bus accident you are entitled to may be reduced to reflect your own contributory negligence.
No amount of compensation for an injury in a bus accident will make up for a lifelong physical incapacity which could have been prevented had you waited for the Gardai and an ambulance to arrive. Even if you sustained a comparatively minor injury for which an ambulance was not summoned, a hospital examination or visit to your family GP will have ensured that any injuries you sustained were professionally diagnosed and treated, and – importantly – recorded in your medical records.
Claiming Compensation for an Injury in a Bus Accident
Bus accident claims are made against the bus company responsible for running the route and not against the bus driver personally – even when the Gardai bring criminal charges against the bus driver. An application for assessment (Form A) is submitted to the Injuries Board Ireland, together with your doctor´s medical assessment (Form B) and any receipts for expenses you have incurred or proof of loss of earnings.
The Injuries Board will write to the bus company, asking them for consent to proceed with the assessment of your injuries and, once that consent is received, may request that you have a further medical examination to gauge the extent of your injury and how well it is healing. If you are claiming compensation for psychological trauma because of the nature of the bus accident, you may also have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
How Much is a Claim for Bus Accident Compensation Worth?
Each claim for bus accident compensation is assessed on its individual merits according to the nature, severity and extent of the injuries you have received. Compensation for your injuries is assigned according to the values published in the Book of Quantum, and then adjusted to account for your age, general state of health prior to the bus accident and – in some cases – your sex.
However, even when two passengers in a bus accident experience the same injuries, how much each claim for bus accident compensation is worth can vary significantly because of the way in which the injuries respectively affect their quality of life. This element of bus accident claims for compensation is referred to as “loss of amenity” and relates to any day-to-day activities you may be unable to perform, any leisure pastimes you are unable to participate in or any social events you are unable to attend because of your injury.
Bus Accident Claims and Court Action
Should the negligent party in your bus accident claim not consent for the Injuries Board to assess your application, or the Injuries Board assessment is less than you expected – or more than the negligent party´s insurance company is willing to pay – you will have to resolve your bus accident claim for compensation through court action or by direct negotiation with the insurance company.
In order to initiate court action, the Injuries Board will issue you with an “Authorisation” once they have been formally advised that consent has been withheld or their assessment rejected. One of the reasons why solicitors advise their clients to submit an application for assessment to the Injuries Board even when direct negotiations are taking place is that, should negotiations fail, you will need this piece of paper to obtain a satisfactory conclusion to your bus accident claim for compensation.
Bus Accident Claims and Insurance Companies
It is not recommended that you attempt to negotiate a settlement of compensation for an injury in a bus accident directly with an insurance company without professional legal help. Quite often after a bus accident – especially when a number of passengers have been injured – the bus company´s insurers or those of the negligent driver responsible for causing the accident may make a direct approach with an offer of compensation for an injury in a bus accident which, at the time, might seem appealing but which should always be referred to a solicitor.
Insurance companies have an agenda to cut their costs and increase their profits. They will try to get the injured victims of a bus accident – for which their policyholder was to blame – to accept a lower amount of compensation for an injury in a bus accident in return for a quick settlement whenever possible. Although morally wrong, this practice is not illegal and, should you accept an offer of bus accident compensation which proves to be inadequate for your medical costs or to support your family, you cannot go back for more.
Bus Accident Claims Advice from a Credible Source
After sustaining an injury in a bus accident, there will be many people willing to provide you with bus accident claims advice. Despite the well-meaning intentions of friends, colleagues and family members, it is always in your best interests to seek bus accident claims advice from an experienced solicitor as soon as practically possible after receiving professional medical attention for your injuries.
In addition to assisting you with the collection of police reports, witness statements and negotiations with insurance companies, a solicitor will also be able to assist you with your application for assessment to the Injuries Board Ireland to ensure every element of your claim for an injury in a bus accident is accounted for, and to evaluate the Injuries Board´s assessment to advise you whether it should be accepted or you should pursue compensation for an injury in a bus accident through negotiation or court action.
Most solicitors will offer free initial bus accident claims advice to assess whether you have a claim which is worth your while to pursue and, in many cases, you will be able to recover any costs which are incurred in the pursuit of legal action as part of the settlement of your claim for bus accident compensation.
- Bus companies have a legal duty of car towards their passengers, and you can make claims for injuries to passengers in bus accidents if you are injured while a passenger on a bus.
- The negligent party may not necessarily be the bus driver, and when other road users have caused an accident, bus accident claims are made against them.
- Bus injury claims for compensation can also be supported by other passengers on the bus who can act as witnesses on your behalf.
- Your health and that of other passengers takes priority over bus accident claims and you should seek medical treatment immediately.
- The value of compensation for an injury in a bus accident is determined by the severity of your injuries and any special expenses you have incurred due to your injuries.
- Bus accident claims should never be settled directly with the negligent party´s insurance company and you should always seek bus accident claims advice from a credible source.
It is important to note that each case is unique. If you have recently been involved in a bus accident in which you have sustained an injury and feel that you have a potential personal injury claim, you are advised to discuss all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.
Copyright © 2009-2015 Eoin Campbell
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose professional experience is in the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.