Most metropolitan areas in the United States are fortunate to have several public transportation options. From city buses, to subways, to light rail trains—if you work in the city or are just looking to get around, you can probably find a way to make it happen using public transportation.
As great as these options are, they also present a significant risk. Around 25,000 people are injured in bus accidents every year, and around 300 are killed. Those who’ve been injured (or lost a loved one) in an accident involving public transportation have every right to seek compensation for their losses. The bad news is that due to issues like sovereign immunity, these kinds of accident claims can often be quite complex.
The best thing to do in this situation is to speak to someone who can explain exactly what to expect, as well as how to protect your interests. Find a personal injury lawyer in your area who has experience handling public transportation accident claims and seek out a free consultation. Even if you’re not necessarily looking to hire a lawyer, there’s no harm in listening to their professional advice.
Why Public Transportation Accident Claims Are Unique
Any company which transports a number of people from one place to another in exchange for money is considered a common carrier. Airplanes, public and private buses, taxis, ride-share vehicles, school buses, shuttles, tour buses and light rail trains are all examples of common carriers.
As a way of protecting the passengers that they carry, these companies are held to an exceptionally high standard of care. According to the Texas Supreme Court, companies who carry passengers are under a duty “…to exercise such a high degree of foresight as to possible dangers and such a high degree of prudence in guarding against them, as would be used by a very cautious, prudent, and competent man under the same or similar circumstances.”
Commercial bus drivers are also regulated by additional federal laws. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) dictates how long a commercial driver can be behind the wheel, how long of a break the driver must take before returning to service, and much more. When it comes to any accident involving a bus or commercial vehicle, one of the first things your attorney needs to look at are the driver’s logs.
Last (but not least) is the fact that public transportation accidents often involve more victims. While most public transportation companies have insurance policies with relatively high limits, it’s important to consider how the number of victims may potentially impact your ability to recover compensation.
Issues When It Comes to Liability
It’s sometimes difficult to determine how liability will play out prior to an investigation, which is why it’s vital that you discuss your case with an attorney early on. In an accident case involving only passenger cars and no injuries, you’d simply file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. When it comes to public transportation accidents, there are a lot of hoops to jump through, and your claim may involve more than one defendant. For example:
- The driver of the bus, shuttle, or light rail train.
- The driver of the other vehicle (if applicable).
- The common carrier or transportation company.
- The manufacturer or parts supplier.
- The company tasked with maintaining the fleet.
Many states follow the legal standard of modified comparative fault. This means that multiple parties (including yourself) can be found to share liability. If you were to win your case at trial, but the court places a percentage of fault onto you or a third party, any compensation ultimately awarded will be reduced accordingly.
It’s also important to note that many public transit services are owned and operated by a governmental entity. While these entities may claim sovereign immunity, many states do allow you to pursue compensation—although the procedure for doing so can be quite burdensome. For example, you may be required to officially file notice within a very short period of time (sometimes as short as 45 days from the accident), or you may forfeit your right to even bring a claim at all.
Those who’ve been injured in accidents involving public transportation deserve to be “made whole again” like anyone else. This includes compensation for any related medical expenses, expected future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and more.
The truth is that liability is complex. Every car accident case is unique, and the options available to accident victims often depend upon multiple factors. If you have questions about your claim, we strongly recommend speaking with an attorney before making any decisions.
Source: Montgomery Law