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Taking the bus (school, municipal, or inter-city) is generally one of the safer forms of transit. Recent reports from Statistics Canada reveal that the annual number of bus passenger fatalities are exceedingly low compared to other forms of transportation or even non-existent in some years. Yet the sheer size of the vehicles can lead to a greater risk of injury or death for other road users involved in bus accidents - particularly pedestrians or cyclists. Moreover, even if bus passengers are likely to avoid fatal injuries in these accidents, a collision, sudden stop or swerve can cause serious injury to them.
In most cases, a person injured in a bus accident is eligible to draw on the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (“SABS”) to cover costs associated with their recovery. If the injured person is not at fault or only partially at fault for the accident, they may also be able to file a tort case against the at-fault party for compensation and damages. However, the Ontario government has enacted legislation (discussed below) that prevents bus passengers from being able to receive SABs under certain conditions. Anyone seriously injured in a bus accident should contact a knowledgeable, skilled and experienced bus accident lawyer to ensure they are informed of their rights.
Types of bus accidents and injuries.
Bus accident injuries can occur as a part of a collision (with another vehicle, road user or stationary object), a rollover, erratic driving or swerving, slip and falls, or through incidents (including physical altercations or other abuse) with passengers or the driver.
Common causes of bus accidents include:
- driver inattention or distraction.
- driver fatigue.
- speeding and/or dangerous driving.
- sudden stops or swerves to avoid hazards.
- influence of alcohol or drugs.
- poor road conditions.
- vehicle disrepair/malfunction.
- hazards on the bus (slippery floors, uneven flooring, falling objects, doors closing prematurely).
- physical contact (intentional or unintentional with other passengers).
- verbal abuse or harassment by passengers or the driver.
Depending on the nature of accident, a person may sustain a variety of injuries, including:
- a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
- spinal cord injury.
- nerve damage.
- musculo-sketal injuries (strains, sprains, cuts, bruising, scars, and broken bones).
- post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Bus and bus safety statistics.
- children travelling by school bus are 72 times less likely to suffer injury than those travelling by car and 45 times less likely to be injured than children who walk or bike to school.
- of the 25 school aged fatalities involving a school bus between 1999 and 2019, 76 percent involved children outside the bus (in or near the loading zone) and about four out of five of these deaths were caused by the bus itself.
- school bus accidents account for less than 0.1 per cent of all vehicle deaths involving school children in Canada.
- more than 800,000 students in Ontario are transported by more than 18,000 drivers using 20,000 school buses and school purpose vehicles. They travel a total 1.8 million kilometres each day, enough to circle the globe 40 times.
- the average public transit commute time in Toronto and Ottawa is 52 minutes and 84 minutes a day, respectively. Fifty-three (53) per cent of Toronto transit users commute more than two hours a day.
- from 2016 to 2020, Transport Canada recorded five school bus occupant collision-related fatalities, a single urban transit bus occupant death from collision, and 23 inter-city bus occupant fatalities from collisions. Sixteen (16) of those 23 deaths were from the tragic 2018 accident in Saskatchewan involving the Humboldt Broncos junior ice hockey team.
- Ontario records about three-quarters of serious inter-city bus collisions in Canada.
What to do if you are injured.
Whether a bus passenger or other road user, if you are involved in a bus accident and are seriously hurt (or have potentially suffered an injury that has not yet become evident), your first duty is to ensure you access the proper medical attention from first responders or through a timely visit to a medical provider. It is not only important to receive immediate treatment if necessary, but also to begin a medical record as soon as reasonably possible.
If you or someone else with you are able to undertake certain actions at the scene of the accident - once it is safe to do so - you should:
- try to take photos or video of the accident scene and any visible injuries you have.
- obtain and record information about the bus (number, licence plate), any driver involved, and potential witnesses.
- write down or record your recollection of what happened and take note of anything that may be important in a future case (weather conditions, road hazards, driver behaviour).
- only speak to police about the facts of what happened to you and do not say anything to anyone else which may be taken as an admission you were at fault or otherwise negligent.
- contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as reasonably possible to ensure you understand your rights.
Even if you were unable to do these things due to injury or did not know you could/should, a personal injury lawyer can often help recover this type of evidence if necessary.
Compensation and damages.
Anyone involved in a collision involving a bus or other motor vehicle in Ontario is eligible to receive Statutory Accident Benefits (“SABS”). Depending on the severity of your injury and losses, SABS can include income replacement or non-earner benefits, caregiver expenses, medical and rehabilitation benefits, attendant care, death and funeral benefits, housekeeping expenses, childcare costs, and replacement of some damaged personal items.
Unfortunately, the provincial government made changes to the Insurance Act designed to eliminate SABS for public transit riders who are injured if the accident does not involve a collision with an object or other vehicle. Section 268(1.1) of the Insurance Act prevents applications for SABS against either the transit authority’s insurance policy or a rider’s own vehicle insurance. Compensation for bus accident injuries where there is no collision is therefore limited to tort claims for damages. Section 267.5(6.1) of the Insurance Act does help these victims advance tort claims against municipalities, local boards and public transit drivers.
Rules for making tort claims (negligent actions or inaction causing or contributing to damage) also differ depending on who is responsible for the bus and the age and capacity of an accident victim to advance a claim. For example, while there is a general deadline to file a claim within two years of the accident (or within two years of being reasonably aware of your injury), notice of claims against a municipality or Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation must be submitted in writing to the appropriate office within just 10 days of the accident, unless a person’s injury reasonably prevents them from being able to file within that period. If a person under the age of 18 is injured, the time limits to make a claim do not begin until the child turns 18 or a litigation guardian for the child is appointed.
Contacting a personal injury lawyer.
By reaching out to a bus accident injury lawyer as soon as possible, you can ensure that your rights, or the rights of your loved one, are protected. When you contact Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers for a no cost, no obligation initial consultation, a member of our team will listen carefully to your story, ask questions to help identify important factors to consider, and will take the time to explain your options in a way that’s understandable and respectful of the situation you are facing.
If we believe we can help you access compensation and you opt to work with us, we can assist with your SABS filing, contest a SABS denial or unreasonable delay in benefits, and begin building a tort claim for damages if someone’s negligence has caused you harm. Our knowledgeable, skilled and experienced personal injury lawyers have a solid track record of getting results for our clients.
The Gluckstein Advantage.
By choosing to work with Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, you can rest assured that your case is being handled by one of Canada’s top ranked personal injury firms. Renowned for our thought leadership in this field, our firm’s lawyers have been lauded for their skill in managing even the most complex matters. With the benefit of our extensive network of medical experts, we build strong cases designed to encourage fair settlements for you or your loved ones and we are always prepared to take the matter to court if you are being offered the funds you need and deserve for your injuries.
At Gluckstein Lawyers, we believe a person’s financial resources should never be a barrier to accessing justice. Therefore, we cover all expenses related to your case and we will only accept payment for our services if we are successful in negotiating an acceptable settlement or winning an award for damages from the court.
We treat our clients as we would treat our own family. By striving to provide full-circle care, you will see that we always treat you as a person rather than as a case file. Our client liaisons will be available throughout the legal process to answer your questions, keep you informed, and simply to check in to see how you are doing during this difficult time in your life. We will do our best to connect you to helpful resources and community support, and even after your case concludes we are always willing to keep in contact to see how you are doing as you live your best life.
With little to lose and so much to gain, take the first step in your quest for justice by contacting the trusted team at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers. Together we can work to access the compensation you need and deserve for your injuries.
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