Public transportation is supposed to offer high levels of safety and very careful driving so that passengers arrive safely at their destination without injury, but unfortunately there are exceptions to the rule. From fatal school bus crashes to shocking train derailments, public transportation is not immune to tragedy. As such, the law provides those injured in such accidents the opportunity to file personal injury claims so that they can recover damages.
Public transportation includes buses, trains, subways, cable cars, trolleys, taxis, airplanes, rapid transit, and even ferries. In short, public transportation includes any type of service that transports groups of passengers, is available to the general public, and follows schedules and strict routes. One of the subdivisions of public transportation is common carriers, which includes public buses, taxis, trolleys, and trains (and, in some cases, school buses). These common carriers are regulated by a government body and are either owned by a private company in many instances or a state or municipality. In addition, common carriers are expected to exercise a high degree of caution when it comes to the safety of the passengers.
Examples of Public Transportation Accidents
Not all public transportation accidents are horrific bus crashes or train derailments where many people are injured and some may be killed. Although proving negligence in such cases is usually easier. In some cases, people can suffer injury when a vehicle abruptly stops (known as “jerk and jolt” injuries). Jerk and jolt cases are more difficult to prove negligence because abrupt stops may be necessary. There can also be minor crashes with other vehicles or failure of doors to close properly. Broken steps, loose railings, or slippery floors can lead to falls. Unsecured electrical lines or holes in the concrete at stops can also cause people to trip.
Personal Injury Claims
If you are injured on public transportation, you will need to file a personal injury claim to receive compensation. In the vast majority of cases, the personal injury claim will be based on the negligence of the transportation provider. This can be difficult to prove, however. Take, as an example, a jerk and jolt injury: You would have to demonstrate that the stop was unexpected (not typical along the bus route) and unnecessary (e.g., no one pulled out in front of the bus and the driver was not distracted).
How Public Transportation Accident Claims Are Different
There are several ways that public transportation personal injury claims differ from other types of personal injury claims. Since negligence can be difficult to prove, eyewitness accounts and video footage are very important. For example, perhaps you were flung to the floor when the bus you were in swerved to avoid hitting a car or other vehicle. The insurance company may insist that the driver was swerving to prevent a serious accident, but you may be able to access security footage that shows the driver was distracted by their cell phone when the accident happened. More serious accidents such as train derailments will involve lengthy, detailed investigations on the part of the insurance company that can take years to fully resolve.
Pennsylvania law mandates strict deadlines when it comes to public transportation accident claims; a six-month notice is required before filing a lawsuit against a municipality, and there is a two-year statute of limitations. That statute of limitations means that you must file a claim within two years of when the accident occurred or your claim will automatically be denied. If your claim is denied, you have six months to notify the governmental agency which you plan to file a lawsuit against.
Also, it can be challenging to make sure that the claim is made against the correct entity, especially when there is not a private company involved. For example, if your child is injured while on a school bus, the claim is made against the bus’s insurance; but, if your insurance claim is denied, then your lawsuit will be filed against the governmental entity responsible for the school bus.
If you were involved in a public transportation accident where a third party is at fault (e.g., a vehicle ran a red light and struck a taxi you were riding in), then you may be able to file a third-party claim with that driver’s insurance.
The course of action you should take if you have been in an accident on public transportation will, of course, vary according to what happened to you. However, there are some general guidelines you should follow if at all possible. It is very important to get contact information from people who witnessed what happened. If possible, you will want to take several photos of the accident scene and make sure to get multiple angles. If you were injured, take photos of the injuries, including the development of bruises. Obtain a copy of the police report related to the accident. And you really should seek the services of a skilled personal injury lawyer to help you navigate the complicated deadlines, rules, and laws involved with filing a personal injury claim after an accident on public transportation.
Contact Donaghue & Labrum
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving public transportation, you would be very wise to seek legal help to navigate what can become a complex and lengthy process. Contact the skilled personal injury lawyers at Donaghue & Labrum to find out what your options are. With decades of experience in personal injury practice, we will fight to get you the compensation that the law says you deserve.