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Public vs Private Florida Bus Accidents


Many Floridians use buses for transportation regularly. Public buses are usually managed by municipal agencies, but private coaches, such as tour buses, are managed by companies and often qualify as commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). While thankfully, bus accidents are rare in Florida, it is important to be aware of the differences between public and private buses, particularly if you are ever injured in a bus accident. The path to obtaining compensation after a bus accident will be very different, depending on who owns and operates the crashed bus.

Public Buses: Limited Liability

Public buses in Florida are most often owned by transportation departments or agencies belonging to a city, county, or state. This means that they qualify as government agencies, rather than as private actors, and very often, government agencies are either partially or totally immune from suit, under a legal theory known as sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is an ancient legal concept, dating back to English common law, that holds that except in rare instances, the ‘sovereign’ (the monarch, or the government as a whole) cannot be sued because allowing such lawsuits would leave the government without time to govern.

Florida law recognizes sovereign immunity, and has waived it on behalf of state agencies up to a point. It accepts potential liability for personal injury-related cases (which is what a public bus accident case would be) if a state employee: (1) committed a “negligent or wrongful act;” (2) while acting within the scope of their employment, and (3) the act would be negligent even if they were a private person. All of these factors must be present, or an injured person may not sue a governmental entity because sovereign immunity will apply.

Private Buses: Standard Procedure

Unlike with public buses, private buses are operated by private corporations, and can generally be sued in the same manner as any other person or entity. Many private buses qualify as commercial motor vehicles under Florida law – they are not owned or operated by government entities, they use “special” or motor fuel on public highways, and have a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more. If a bus does not qualify under Florida law, though, it is likely it will qualify under federal law, which has a lower weight limit (10,001 pounds).

Private buses are generally required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which means that if your injuries from a bus accident are not particularly severe, you would attempt to seek compensation from the bus company by filing a claim with either their PIP insurer or yours (depending on the specific facts of your case). If your injuries are more of a long-term nature, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the bus driver, the company, or any other entity you believe may have played a role.

Contact A Tampa Commercial Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney

While bus accidents are rare, it is always a good idea to be aware of your rights and responsibilities in any situation on Florida roads. A Tampa commercial motor vehicle accident attorney can help to answer any questions you may have about a bus accident or its aftermath. The Rinaldo Law Group will work hard to help you with your case. Call our office today for a free consultation.

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