Millions of people in the United States use public transportation daily to get to work, school, or go shopping. Buses, subways, and trains make life easier, are more economical than driving, and are environmentally friendly. Accidents are bound to occur at some time, just as when driving a motor vehicle. As a passenger of public transit, if you sustain injuries from an accident, what are your rights? Read on to find out about the three main differences between regular personal injury cases, and the laws that pertain to public transporting companies.
Common Carrier Factors
All forms of public transportation are considered common carriers, and responsible for passenger safety. Operators of common carriers such as buses, trains, subways, and taxis are held to a greater standard of care than other drivers. Many states require common carriers to provide a high degree, or “the highest degree of care” while transporting passengers. However, just as in personal injury cases, injured parties must still prove negligence on the part of the public transportation operator or the transit authority to win the case.
Public transportation accidents are traumatic, and it is frequently difficult to fully grasp the accident’s cause at the moment of impact. Passengers have no seat belts, and are not protected from sudden stops or collisions. Optimistically, police at the accident scene will make notes of all factors at the scene, including those factors that may indicate the operator or public transit system is at fault. Common examples of public operator negligence contributing to an accident include:
- Driver fatigue
- Driver inexperience
- Driver distraction
Driver distraction includes eating, talking to passengers, or using a hand-held device to talk, or text, while transporting passengers. Other negligence issues that may contribute to the occurrence of an accident include buses that are not properly maintained, or overloading bus capacity. These negligence issues can result in horrendous accidents.
Claim Filing Deadlines
Special state laws apply to public transportation companies. One law requires any injured party to file a “Notice of Claim” within a specific period of time after the accident, and before a lawsuit is filed. Deadlines vary from state to state, but frequently include:
- A deadline, of no more than six months, to submit a Notice of Claim, in writing, to the public transportation company.
- A reduced time deadline to file a lawsuit.
Injured parties who fail to file the Notice of Claim within the specified time period, or fully satisfy other legal procedures and requirements, can lose their right to recover damages for their injuries.
Public transportation companies are government entities with special laws. In most states, there are limits, or caps, on the amount of damages that an injured party can receive. The amount of compensation varies from state to state, but the limits can be as low as $100,000, or even less.
You absolutely have rights if you have sustained injuries while using public transportation. But winning the case is tricky, and best done with the help of an experienced personal injury attorney like those at Yearwood & Company.
This article is from Karleia Steiner, who works as a freelance blogger and consultant. You can follow her on Google+.