Generally, if you harmed by someone else’s wrongful conduct then you can bring a negligence lawsuit against that person for your damages. That action requires the following elements:
The person owed you a legal duty.
The person breached that legal duty.
The breach caused you injury.
The injury produced legally recognizable damages.
See Dinkins v. Ebbersten , 234 Ill. App. 3d 978, 983 (4th Dist. 1992); Williams v. Conner, 228 Ill. App. 3d 350, 364 (5th Dist., 1992); Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions Civil 10.01; Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions Civil 10.03; Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions Civil 21.02.
However, bus companies-both public and private- are a different breed of defendants. They are defined as common carriers because they transport people for profit. With this designation comes greater responsibility. Whereas normal defendants only owe others a duty to act reasonable in the circumstances, common carriers owe their passengers and their passengers’ property a duty of the highest care that is practically possible during the transportation. See Sheffer v. Springfield Airport Authority, 261 Ill. App. 3d 151, 154 (4th Dist. 1994); Gaines v. Chicago Transit Authority, 346 Ill. App.3d 346 (1st Dist. 2004). This duty of the higest care was spelled out in Lutz vs. Chicago Transit Authority:
“A common carrier of passengers is required to do all that human care, vigilance and foresight can reasonably do to carry a passenger safely, consistent with the mode of conveyance adopted and the practical operation of its business… It cannot be held liable, however, for negligence unless there is a causal connection between its negligence and the passenger’s injury. For there to be a causal connection, the negligence of the carrier need not be the only cause, nor the last or nearest cause of the passenger’s injury. It is sufficient if it concurs with some other cause acting at the same time, which in combination with it causes the injury.” 36 Ill App 2d 79, 83 (1962); See also Sandy v. Lake Street El. R. R. Co., 235 Ill. 194 (1908); Alton Light and Traction Co. v. Oliver, 217 Ill. 15, 75 (1905).
From this it is clear that courts demand the same negligence requirements from common carriers but also that they protect passengers from any harm that is foreseeable even if it was sparked by another negligent party. This is bad news for bus companies but good news for you because it means they are responsible for a wide range of accidents. Furthermore, the law presumes that a bus company was negligent if a passenger was injured. Dean v. Young, 263 Ill App 3d 964, 967 (1994). This presumption can only be overcome by illustrating that 1) it was an unforeseeable situation or 2) the accident arose from a force outside of its control. Latendresse v. Marra, 49 Ill App 3d 266, 269 (1977). This legal framework gives a lot of flexibility in making your case in a bus accident lawsuit.