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Bus Accidents

Public Bus Accident vs Private Bus Accident: What’s The Difference

When you have been injured in a serious bus crash, it is important to know the difference between a public bus accident and a private bus accident. The difference may affect who is responsible for your damages and compensation, how much liability they may have and the rules you must follow to hold them accountable.

Public bus accidents

Public bus accidents involve buses that are owned and operated by the government, excluding school buses.

The governmental entities that may own and operate public buses could include: (1) municipalities; (2) regional transportation authorities as part of a public transportation network; or (3) the state through its ownership of public university shuttles and buses and/or non-urbanized public transit buses. 

If a bus is owned by the government, it has protections that a private bus company does not have. For instance, under Michigan’s governmental immunity law, if the public bus involved in a collision is part of a public transit system for a state university, then it can be sued but the bus driver cannot unless his or her conduct in causing the bus accident amounted to gross negligence. It is important to remember that different jurisdictions have different standards when it comes to dealing with, and overcoming, a state’s governmental immunity.

There are specific filing deadlines that apply to public bus accident claims involving. They are as follows:

  • If your public bus accident involves a Michigan regional transportation authority such as DDOT, SMART, CATA, etc., you must comply with the BUS NOTICE PROVISION by serving WRITTEN notice of your public bus accident claim on the transportation authority within 60 days of the crash that caused your injuries in order to preserve your right to sue for pain and suffering compensation, “excess” No-Fault medical and wage loss benefits and possibly other economic damages. (MCL 124.419) If your claim notice is not properly served upon the transportation authority, then you will lose your right to sue and the bus company/regional transportation authority will not have to defend itself against your claim.
  • If your public bus accident lawsuit involves a bus that is owned by the State of Michigan – such as a transit bus owned by a state university (which are departments of the state government) or a non-urbanized public (state) transit agency – you have 6 months after the crash to file with the Court of Claims your personal injury claim against the state or your notice of intent to file a personal injury claim against the state. (MCL 600.6431(1-3)) If you fail to file your claim or notice within that time period, your claim will be forever barred.

Another notable difference between public and private bus companies is that the government or municipality that owns the public bus will most likely be self-insured. This means that there is no policy limit because the municipality does not have a traditional commercial motor vehicle insurance policy that the average driver would have. Simply put, the jury or fact finder is free to assess damages that will not be capped by a policy and the entity cutting the check will not be an insurance company, but rather the government or municipality.

Private bus accidents

The private commercial bus is one of the most visible for many Americans, particularly those who do not live in cities with public transportation systems. Private carriers include those used for long distance travel like Greyhound, and smaller charter buses, tour buses or paid shuttles.

In a private bus accident (i.e. a Greyhound bus) then the driver and Greyhound can be sued for their negligence. By contrast, as discussed above, the driver of a government-owned, public bus can only be sued if gross negligence was involved. Thus, the government-owned bus driver has more protections against claims.

In a private bus accident, the corporation (depending on size) may not be self-insured, and therefore there may be a bus insurance policy limit. This means that there will be a cap on what can be recovered for damages through insurance, and the entity writing the check is the insurance company.

Who may be responsible for damages in your public bus accident or your private bus accident?

Depending on the specific facts and circumstances surrounding your case and whether it involved a public bus accident or private bus accident, there are different parties that may be responsible for your damages and compensation. They include:

  • The bus driver: Bus drivers have a duty to their passengers and other people on the road to drive safely. If the driver is negligent and does not keep the passengers safe, he or she can be held liable
  • The bus company: The company or governmental entity that owns the bus can be responsible for the accident because it is the company’s duty to make sure its employees are properly trained, that its buses are in good working order, and that its customers have safe experiences. If the entity that owned the bus failed to do anything that it was responsible for, then it can be held liable.
  • The bus maintenance company or the bus/part manufacturer: If the bus’s owner uses a maintenance service and that service was negligent in its maintenance or inspection, it can be held responsible. Similarly, if there was a defect in a part on the bus that caused the accident, the part manufacturer can be held liable.
  • The government: If the bus involved in the crash was owned by the local or state government or regional transportation authority, and the accident was caused by its negligence, then the government can be held responsible.
  • Negligent driver of another vehicle: The bus accident may have been caused by a secondary vehicle on the road that was operated in a negligent way. The negligent driver may have been texting or speeding and can be responsible for his or her actions that caused the crash.

Need help? Call the attorneys at Michigan Auto Law

If you have been injured in a public bus accident or a private bus accident and would like to speak with an experienced attorney, call us free anytime 24/7 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced accident attorney by emailing