Bus accidents are vastly different from other crashes on the roads. Buses are much larger than other vehicles, and the injuries they cause when they are in an accident are some of the most severe. Many types of buses are also operated by government entities. People rely on city buses to get to and from their destinations, and school buses run throughout cities and towns to take children to school. Unfortunately, these buses are not immune to becoming involved in accidents, too.
When a city, school, or other bus operated by the government is involved in a crash, the process of obtaining the compensation you deserve is far more complex. The Arizona Tort Claims Act outlines very specific rules for filing a claim against a government entity. If you have been hurt, it is important to speak to a Phoenix bus accident lawyer who can help you through the process of filing a claim against the government.
Sovereign Immunity and Public Bus Accidents
Every state in the country recognizes the legal concept of sovereign immunity. The concept is an old one that dates back to medieval England. At the time, sovereign immunity stated that civilians were prohibited from suing the king because it was presumed that the king could do no wrong. Today, sovereign immunity is still in place, although the majority of states allow certain exceptions that allow accident victims to claim compensation for their injuries.
When You Can and Cannot Sue the Government in Arizona
Certain states also follow the common carrier doctrine. This doctrine stipulates that bus drivers, and drivers of other vehicles that carry passengers for hire, must exercise the highest degree of care.
However, the Arizona Supreme Court has rejected this doctrine, meaning that bus drivers only have to exercise the same reasonable care as other drivers. As such, accident victims can file a claim against a bus driver or other government entity if the agency or person could have been held liable for negligence if they had been acting privately.
Still, there are exceptions to the law, and there are times when the government cannot be sued. The list of exceptions is fairly long and includes situations such as failing to arrest and detain someone and failures during property inspections. The list of exceptions also outlines certain types of car accident injuries. As such, if you were hurt by a public bus while in your vehicle and sustained one of these types of injuries, it may be even more challenging to claim the compensation you are entitled to. It is important to speak to a Phoenix bus accident lawyer who can advise on whether you have a valid claim.
State law specifies that while public agencies and employees who hire contractors are covered under immunity laws, contractors are not. As such, if a contractor is negligent and causes harm, they can be held liable, even if there is no valid claim against the state agency.
For example, a government agency may hire a contractor to perform maintenance on their buses. If the contractor is negligent and does not perform the maintenance properly, that could result in an accident. Anyone who is injured in that accident can then file a claim against the contractor.
Filing a Claim Against Government Entities in Arizona
Claims against the government in Arizona must be filed with the agency that is responsible for injuries within 180 days of the date of the accident. All claims must include certain information, and that is as follows:
- A description of how the accident occurred
- How the injuries were sustained
- The amount of damages the accident victim is claiming, and
- Evidence to support the amount of damages, including medical bills that can show the severity and nature of the injuries.
The online forms provided by the state have spaces for this information. When working with a Phoenix bus accident lawyer, they will know where to find these forms and will ensure they are filed completely and properly.
It is essential that claims against the government are filed within 180 days. If your claim is not filed within this time, the state will not approve it, and you cannot file a lawsuit in court. However, the law does allow an exception for minor children and other individuals who have been deemed ‘incompetent' by a court. When a person is deemed incompetent, they have 180 days after their 18th birthday or 180 days after they have been declared competent.
After a claim has been filed, the state has 60 days to respond to it. If a response is not sent within 60 days, the claim is considered denied. In this scenario, as well as when a response of denial is sent, the accident victim can file their claim in the state's courts.
Damages Available in Bus Accident Claims
The damages available in bus accident claims are intended to make accident victims whole again. Damages are divided into economic and non-economic categories.
Economic damages are those that have an actual dollar value, while non-economic damages do not. For example, medical expenses are a common type of economic damages and pain and suffering damages are classified as non-economic. In addition to these two, other common damages include:
- Property damages
- Lost income
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Any other out-of-pocket expenses or non-monetary losses
Arizona does not place a cap on the damages available in a bus accident claim, even when a government agency or employee is responsible. However, punitive damages are not available in these cases. Punitive damages are not meant to wholly restore accident victims, but instead, they are intended to punish the defendant. Even in other personal injury cases, punitive damages are very rarely rewarded.
Our Bus Accident Lawyer in Phoenix Can Help with Your Claim
Injury claims that are filed against the government are some of the most complex. At Impact Legal, our Phoenix bus accident lawyer can guide you through the process so you have the best chance of obtaining the full and fair compensation that is justly yours. Call us now at 602-835-5491 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and learn more about your legal options.