City Bus Accidents - Can You Sue the Driver for Car Damages?
Updated: Dec 2, 2020
The short answer is yes. You may also sue the city.
The Governmental Tort Claims Act (GTCA) will govern your lawsuit
There are limits as to how much you can recover
Before you file in court, you must first give the city notice
If you give the city notice, and the city denies your claim, you may sue in court.
I will explain this process in more detail, below.
If a city bus driver causes injury, any lawsuit you file is subject to the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act. (GTCA). The GTCA governs all lawsuits against the state and its political subdivisions for loss resulting from wrongs committed by employees of the state or its political subdivisions. Because a municipality is a political subdivision of the state, the GTCA applies in any lawsuit for wrongs committed by a bus driver in the employ of a municipality.
The GTCA has set the following limits on the amount you can recover:
$25,000 for any claim, or to any claimant, who has more than one claim for loss of property arising out of a single act, accident, or occurrence
$125,000 for any claim for any loss that is not a loss of property
$175,000 for any claim for any loss that is not a loss of property, if the suit is filed against the state, or against any city or county with a population of at least 300,000 (Currently, only Oklahoma City and Tulsa have a population of over 300,000, and only Oklahoma and Tulsa counties have a population of over 300,000.)
$1,000,000, for any number of claims arising out of a single occurrence or incident.
How to File a Claim Against the City
Before you file a lawsuit against a city, you must first send the city written notice of your claim. You must send this notice within one year after the date of loss. (If you were incapacitated from the injury and unable to give notice due to incapacity, your time to give notice does not include the time you were incapacitated. However, even if you are incapacitated, your deadline cannot be extended by more than ninety days.)
In your notice, you must state:
The date, time, place, and circumstances of the claim
The state agencies or other government agencies involved
The amount of money you are asking for
Your name, address, and telephone number
The name, address, and phone number of any agent or attorney authorized to settle the claim
Any information needed to meet the reporting requirements of the Medicare Secondary Payer Mandatory Reporting Provisions in the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007
It's a good idea to send this notice via certified mail, so that you can have proof that the city received it. Also, it’s helpful to have a lawyer help you draft this notice.
After the city receives the notice the city has ninety days to approve or deny your claim. You and the city may agree, in writing, to extend the city’s deadline. If the city does not approve your claim in its entirety within ninety days, your claim is deemed denied.
If the city denies your claim (or if your claim is deemed denied because of the city’s failure to approve the claim within ninety days) you must file a lawsuit, in court, within 180 days after the date of denial. You and the city may agree, in writing, to extend the deadline for filing suit, but you cannot agree to extend the deadline to a date later than two years after the date of loss.
When you file suit, you must file in the county where the city is located, or the county where the cause of action arose. The Oklahoma Rules of Civil Procedure will govern your lawsuit. These rules govern most lawsuits in Oklahoma. So, for the most part, a lawsuit against the city will proceed in a manner similar to most other lawsuits. To see what a lawsuit is like, read my earlier blog post, What does a civil attorney do?
Although a lawsuit under the GTCA is similar to other civil lawsuits, there are a few differences. Among the more significant differences are:
If you agree to a settlement with the city and the settlement is for more than $25,000, and the city’s insurance will not pay for all of the settlement, then a judge must approve the settlement before the settlement is effective.
The city will have the right to recover from the bus driver (or any other employee) if the city can show that the employee’s conduct, which gave rise to the claim, was outside the scope of his employment. The city may also recover from the employee, if the employee fails to cooperate in good faith with the city’s defense.
So, yes, you may file a lawsuit, against the driver and the city, if a city bus driver injures you or your property. The GTCA provides that, with a few exceptions, the rules governing your lawsuit will be similar to most other lawsuits. One exception, that makes filing a lawsuit against a city different from filing other suits, is that you will have to give notice to the city before filing the suit.
You should be warned, though: filing a civil suit against a city is very complicated. You should not try to do it yourself. If you believe that you have a claim against a city, speak to a qualified attorney.