If you've been injured in an accident involving a hotel shuttle bus, here's what you need to know.
For a lot folks who travel frequently, hotel shuttles are a great way to get from the airport to the hotel. At the same time, some even offer to drop people off at attractions or restaurants located within a certain radius of the hotel. This provides a great alternative to taxis, for those who don't wish to drive in an unfamiliar city.
Hotel shuttles range in configuration form simple vans to full-sized buses. One thing they all have in common is that they generally travel between the most heavily congested areas of a city, the business district and the airport. Often overlooked in this hotel perk is what happens when an accident occurs. While many people expect that such accidents are handled along the same lines as a car accident, the law is quite different for bus accidents.
Due to the resources of most hotels that offer shuttle services and the rather large insurance policies that are required by those who transport passengers, bus cases can get pretty complex, pretty quickly. Without the help of an experienced bus accident attorney it may prove difficult, if not impossible for an injured passenger to recover the full value of their damage claim.
Questions answered on this page:
- What makes a hotel shuttle bus accident different from a car accident?
- How much insurance are hotel shuttle buses required to carry?
- What are safety issues unique to hotel shuttle buses?
- How can an experienced bus accident attorney help you maximize your recovering?
Hotel shuttle bus accidents: What you need to know.
One of the dirty little secrets of hotel shuttle buses is that they are required to carry the same commercial insurance policies as any other bus company. That means if the bus seats 16 or more people it is required to have at least $5 million in insurance, whereas if it seats 15 or fewer people then the policy only has to be for $1.5 million.
While this might sound like a lot of insurance, when you consider the number of people potentially involved in a bus accident and the ways that hotel shuttle buses can contribute to more severe injuries than other kinds of accident, that money can disappear quickly. For instance, a fair number of hotel shuttle buses lack basic safety equipment like seat belts. While it may just be a trip from the airport, most towns are connected to their airports by interstate highways where the hotel shuttle buses reach speeds of 55 MPH or more. Riding in a vehicle at those speeds, without proper restraints is a recipe for serious injury, or even death.
Another problem with hotel shuttle services is that hotels and guests view them as a perk, not an essential part of the company's core business. As such, compensation for many hotel shuttle drivers is below what one would expect from other commercial drivers. Additionally, screening processes are also more lax compared to other segments of the commercial busing industry, which transport passengers as their primary means of income.
Low pay and poor screening increase the likelihood that some hotel shuttle buses are driven by unqualified drivers. The reason driver qualifications exist in the first place is to ensure passenger safety, by keeping people who should not be behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle from driving. While everyone appreciates the convenience of a complimentary ride to and from the airport, as well as not having to pay for a taxi, this convenience sometimes comes with a terrible price.
The challenges of pursuing a hotel shuttle bus accident
Not knowing that hotel shuttle buses are insured just like any other commercial bus, a lot of people over the years have signed away their injury claims for comps from the hotel and other goodies. It's a great deal for the hotel to get out of a potentially huge injury claim for a bathrobe and a comped room, but it can be a catastrophic deal for the injured guest.
Even worse is that while $1.5 million for smaller buses and $5 million for larger shuttles sounds like a lot of money, given the number of people that buses transport, the severity of bus accident injuries, and the determination of insurance companies to fight for every dime, there exists a perfect storm for victims to receive little or no compensation following a particularly bad bus accident.
Also working against hotel shuttle bus accident victims is that many of these buses are operated by large, multi-national conglomerates, with deep pockets, who can afford the very best legal representation. Given the scale of their fleets, increases in insurance premiums can take a significant chunk out of their bottom line.
With these kinds of odds arrayed against you, the only solution is to seek the help of an experienced bus accident attorney.
What to expect when pursuing a hotel shuttle bus accident case.
While every bus accident case is unique, they can be roughly divided into two different groups; Those where there is enough insurance money to pay for all of the damages to all of the victims and those where there is not. Each type presents its own particular legal challenges.
When there is enough money to pay all of the victims, one could be excused for thinking such cases are simpler. The complication is that just because there is enough money to pay all of the victims, it does not mean the insurance company is inclined to just hand it over. Unless you can prove your injuries and other damages, and show an insurance company that you can prove everything to a jury, they have no incentive to settle your case for anything close to what it's actually worth.
How do you prove the value of your case? While you may try showing bills to the insurance company, if they do not have accompanying affidavits authenticating them, the only thing you're really showing the insurance company is that you don't know how to properly submit evidence should your case go to trial. This is not to belittle anyone, unless you're a lawyer, getting evidence admitted into a courtroom is not a particularly useful life skill.
However, an experienced bus accident attorney, who knows how to get evidence into a courtroom and has a willingness to go before a jury, provides leverage against the insurance company. This leverage can be used help maximize your claim and get you a fair settlement, or a just jury verdict.
If you find yourself in a situation where there are claims for more damages than what the hotel shuttle bus insurance policy is worth, the legal situation is drastically different. What ensues is essentially a race for the money, where all of the leverage rests with the insurance company. In these situations, the insurance carrier knows that there is no way that they won't have to honor the full value of the policy. The question becomes who gets what.
Let's suppose that their are 3 people seriously injured in this bus accident and $1.5 million in insurance money. One person suffers a severe brain injury that results in $3 million in damages. A second has broken leg, which requires multiple surgeries and her damages total $250,000. The last person is less severely injured but spends an evening in the hospital and undergoes a battery of tests totaling $10,000.
Obviously, there isn't enough money to go around. The question is then, who gets what? While everyone could theoretically take each claim to court, that process takes time. The risk someone pursuing that avenue takes is that the other parties settle with the insurance company before their case goes to trial. There have been numerous situations where inexperienced attorneys have sued on behalf of their clients, won the case, and received a jury award, only to find out after the fact that the insurance company had already given to full value of the policy to other injured victims, leaving their client with nothing.
There are so many different ways to resolve our hypothetical case, all legally and morally valid. Some would say pay everyone proportional to their injuries. The problem with that is that the person with the brain injuries has such a disproportionate amount of damages, that the other two victims would get next to nothing. Some people would say to make the two people who are less severely injured whole and give the rest to the person with the brain injury, since there is no way they can obtain full recompense anyway. Whatever you propose, there is no answer that leaves everyone satisfied.
One thing that is certain is that without an experienced bus accident attorney, you will be at the back of the line to be paid as far as the insurance company is concerned. While it may seem unfair, attorneys are the only ones with the leverage and means to actually make the insurance company pay. It is in the insurance company's best interest to listen to what the attorneys have to say. In many cases like this hypothetical, the framework for who gets what is often decided in consultation among the lawyers of the various injured people. If you do not have a lawyer, you do not really have a seat at the table. This doesn't mean your injuries are not as real, or your claim is not as valid, it's just how the world works sometimes.
Additionally, the investigation resources of an experienced accident attorney mean that they are sometimes able to uncover liable third parties and insurance money that victims would not otherwise have known exists. Regardless of the particulars of your hotel shuttle bus accident, there are very few scenarios where you are better off going it alone as opposed to having an experienced bus accident attorney.
How Grossman Law Offices can help you with your hotel bus accident case
For over 25 years, the attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have been helping accident victims recover the maximum amount of money allowable by law. In that time, our attorneys have won literally hundreds of accidents involving commercial vehicles, like hotel shuttle buses.
When you hire Grossman Law Offices, you're not just hiring a lawyer, but our team of investigators, expert witnesses, and technical specialists who help get to the bottom of what happened in your accident and hold the insurance companies accountable. Best of all, you never pay us a penny unless with win your case.
If you have questions about your hotel shuttle bus accident, call us at (855) 326-0000. The call is toll-free and we answer our phones 24 hours a day.