The morning of October 1 saw traffic slowing noticeably on Highway 281 near Bitters Road, due to an accident involving a VIA bus, a pickup, and an automobile. While the accident was characterized as ‘major,’ what immediately occurred was not disclosed by law enforcement. Still, the relative scarcity of bus accidents still means that the event is worth marking because when bus accidents do occur, they can be devastating. Yet so few people understand how best to seek compensation for any injuries they sustain.
Buses Are Not Cars
Buses, especially those owned or operated by government agencies, occupy their own special place in Texas law. Certain requirements, such as insurance coverage (generally, those buses that carry 15 passengers or fewer have to carry less insurance than those who carry more) and duty of care toward their passengers, hinge upon how many a bus can carry and in what context. For example, the regulations covering chartered buses, such as those for casinos or churches, are very different than those surrounding city buses or school buses owned by cities and counties. Understanding the difference matters in an accident situation.
In Texas, as in most other states, buses of both types may be classified as common carriers, which are entities that carry people or goods for a fee. Common carriers are held to a higher degree of care than the average driver, meaning that it may take less to show that a bus driver was negligent than it might for an ordinary driver of an automobile. If it can be shown that the bus driver was liable, an injured passenger on a VIA bus may have a good chance to collect compensation if other hurdles can be overcome.
Texas Tort Claims Issues
Even if you have a good case and can show that the bus driver was almost certainly liable for your injuries, that is not sufficient to prevail in a case against VIA or any other government-owned entity. Governmental agencies or offshoots are protected by a law called the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA), which permits citizens to sue the state government, but only in limited situations, and only for certain amounts (usually between $100,000 and $500,000 per person, depending on the specific facts of the given case). You must be able to prove that your case meets one of the exceptions under the TTCA that allows it to go forward.
There is a ‘motor vehicle’ exception in the TTCA that would seem to cover bus accidents, though it has been previously debated. A recent case out of the Texas Court of Appeals highlights that the standard of care required is also not a bar to the being employed – VIA v Reynolds (2018) dealt with the question of whether the TTCA’s exception to immunity from suit applies only to cases involving ordinary care, or whether that higher standard of care of a common carrier works as well, and the court held that the exemption does apply. In other words, common carriers such as VIA may possibly be sued under the TTCA’s exemption, if the other criteria are met.
Call a Knowledgeable Attorney Today
While as of this writing, no passengers on the Hwy 281 bus have been confirmed to be injured or deceased, the next bus accident may not wind up the same way. If you have been hurt in a bus crash, you need a knowledgeable and compassionate attorney on your side. The skilled New Braunfels personal injury lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm can try to help answer your questions. Call us today to schedule an initial appointment.