Can I claim compensation if was injured on a bus when I wasn't seated?

If you were injured on a bus when you were standing up, or not properly seated, you can still claim compensation. Here's what you need to know.

Man standing on bus holding grab bar

Safety standards

Bus drivers are held to strict standards of safety. Ask any bus driver, however, and they will tell you that balancing the need for safety with the pressure of a strict timetable can be challenging.

If a driver is running behind schedule, it may be tempting to pull away from the bus stop before all the passengers are seated. Keeping track of everyone on a bus is difficult and some buses have standing sections.

In the majority of cases, driving off while passengers are finding a seat does not result in injury. Able-bodied passengers are usually able to hold onto the handrails and safely make their way down the aisle.

Elderly and less-able-bodied passengers, however, are at greater risk of injury if a bus pulls away suddenly. This can result in injuries such as whiplash from the sudden acceleration, and lacerations, broken bones, and ligament damage from falls or impact with the seats or other passengers.

Anyone injured whilst travelling on public transport may be eligible to make a claim for financial compensation.

Read more:

Making a bus injury compensation claim

Is the bus driver negligent for driving off before a passenger is seated?

It depends. While there is no specific requirement for bus drivers to remain stationary until passengers are seated, drivers have a duty of care to ensure the safety of their passengers.

This duty of care is set out in The Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990, which state that:

"A driver and a conductor shall take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of passengers who are on, or who are entering or leaving, the vehicle."

When determining whether a driver has been negligent, a key issue is understanding whether 'reasonable precautions' were taken by the driver. This is likely to depend on evidence including bus security camera footage, witness statements, and other evidence.

Interpreting the bus driver's duties

Fletcher v United Counties Omnibus Co. Ltd (1997) is a leading case that goes some way to explaining the duty of bus drivers when pulling away from a bus stop.

In this case, the 22-year-old Mrs Fletcher boarded a bus and began making her way to a vacant seat at the back. As she was moving down the aisle, the bus pulled away in an orderly fashion. However, the driver had to make an emergency stop shortly afterwards, causing Mrs Fletcher to fall and injure her spine.

The Court of Appeal rejected Mrs Fletcher's claim. In the court's opinion, drivers could not be expected to wait for all passengers to take their seats before driving off, as no bus service would be able to meet its timetable under these conditions.

Providing appropriate safety supports and driving away gently and at reasonable speed was considered to be adequate to ensure the safety of passengers in the majority of cases.

Special care for vulnerable passengers

While Mrs Fletcher's solicitor failed to demonstrate negligence on the part of the bus company, the court did make observations about other situations where there might be a higher duty of care on the driver.

In the court's opinion, the following categories of passenger were at a higher risk of injury and, as such, warrant special care:

  • Elderly passengers
  • Disabled passengers and those with mobility issues
  • Those carrying a lot of luggage
  • Young children
  • Passengers carrying babies or children.

This list is not exhaustive. If a passenger looks vulnerable, for example, they are carrying a walking stick or pushing a pram, then the driver should wait until the passenger has had the chance to sit down before pulling away.

Can I make a claim if I fall before getting into my seat?

It is likely that you have a claim if:

  • You are in the category of protected individuals; and
  • Injury is caused as a result of a driver pulling away before you could sit down.

Bus drivers are entitled to judge who is vulnerable by their appearance.

Those who have a hidden infirmity, such as a prosthetic limb, are advised to tell the bus driver and request that the bus remains in place until they are seated. Notifying the driver should minimise the risk of an injury occurring and would lays the foundation for an injury claim if the driver ignores the request and an accident occurs.

Even if you are not recognised by the Court as warranting special consideration by the driver, or the driver is unaware of the reason why you may be at greater risk, you may still be able to make claim.

Public transport accidents

Public transport injury claims are usually categorised as road traffic accident (RTA) claims. Click on the icons below to learn more:

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