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Who is liable after the crash of a city bus?

Most of the motor vehicle-related personal injury lawsuits that go through King County courts have two parties: the injured plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff argues that the defendant caused the accident through negligence, and therefore should be held liable for the plaintiff's damages.

The issue of liability is more complicated in cases involving commercial or government-owned vehicles such as buses or trucks. In these cases, the bus or truck driver may be held liable if they caused the accident through their own negligence, but there may be other liable parties as well.

For instance, if the plaintiff was injured in a car accident caused by a negligent truck driver, the driver may be held liable, but, in many cases, the driver's employer may be held liable as well. This is due to a very old legal principle in which employers can be held liable for damages caused by the negligent acts of their employees. State, local and federal laws and regulations for the trucking industry may also play into these cases, making them legally complex.

This expanded number of liable parties can be important because accidents involving these large, heavy vehicles are so destructive that they often cause serious injury to the occupants of smaller vehicles. The resulting medical costs and other damages can be extreme, and often the drivers do not have the resources to compensate the injured. However, their employers carry insurance and can typically shoulder these costs more easily.

Still more complex are cases involving trucks and buses owned by government agencies. Plaintiffs must face special limitations and go through certain procedures when filing a lawsuit against the government. Buses also face special regulations of their own, adding to the complexity of the legal picture in these cases.

Because the stakes are so high in these cases, and because the legal issues are so complicated, it's important for the injured and their families to seek out help from an experienced lawyer.

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