Accidents on Public Transportation

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 What is Public Transportation?

Public transportation comes in many forms. Because there are so many types of public transportation, the number of personal injuries that occur is increased. 

Public transportation includes any modes of transportation that are owned or operated by a city or other government agency that is for the use of the general public. Common examples include:

  • Public buses;
  • Public ferries;
  • Subways; and
  • Trolleys.

A bus is defined under federal law as a vehicle that is capable of carrying ten or more passengers. The laws that govern busses owned by the government are different from the laws that involve privately owned transportation such as helicopters and boats.

Public transportation can include mass transit. Mass transit includes vehicles or vehicle lines that transport a large number of individuals at one time, typically for commuting purposes. These may include:

  • Trains;
  • Subways;
  • Monorails or other similar lines;
  • Ferries; or
  • In certain instances, bus lines.

Mass transit is typically associated with public transportation rather than private use, such as, for example, a party bus. 

Do the Drivers of Public Transportation Have a Duty?

Yes, drivers of public transportation have a number of duties and responsibilities. Failing to uphold these responsibilities may result in injuries to passengers or pedestrians. 

Some of these responsibilities may be more important than others, so a driver must be careful to exercise proper and reasonable judgment to ensure safety at all times. Driver responsibilities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Aiding any elderly or disabled passengers;
  • Maintaining vehicles properly;
  • Maintaining equipment properly;
  • Keeping vehicles clean;
  • Keeping a regular schedule;
  • Releasing passengers safely;
  • Releasing passenters close to their destinations; and
  • Driving the vehicle in a safe manner.

The responsibilities of a driver establish obligations to a number of individuals. Although a driver is obligated to take care of their passengers, they are also obligated to protect pedestrians, even if those pedestrians are not their passengers.

What are Public Transportation Injuries?

It is fairly common for injuries to occur on public transportation, such as busses. An injury sustained on public transportation is similar to other car accidents in which a vehicle is insured for injuries which it may cause. 

Therefore, in order to recover for injuries, most individuals must sue under the legal theory of negligence. In other words, they must claim the driver failed to exercise reasonable care. 

What is Negligence?

Negligence is a legal concept that refers to an individual’s failure to use reasonable care that results in damage or injury to another individual. The standard for reasonable care is defined as that an ordinary, reasonable, and prudent individual would do in the same circumstances.

How Do You Prove Negligence?

Negligence is proven by showing your elements, including:

  • A duty of care;
  • A breach of the duty of care;
  • Causation; and
  • Damages.

A plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty of care that was owed to them. In a public transportation setting, this includes the duties noted above.

A plaintiff must show that the defendant breached the duty of care that was owed to them. This is typically done by examining whether or not the defendant was able to foresee possible risks that could have impacted the plaintiff’s safety or health.

The third element of negligence is causation. The plaintiff must show that the defendant’s breach of their duty of care was the actual and immediate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The defendant’s liability may be reduced if other factors led to the victim’s injuries or if the plaintiff failed to mitigate their injuries.

Lastly, the plaintiff must show actual damages occurred. In other words, they must be shown that the plaintiff suffered an injury. For example, if the plaintiff is a pedestrian who is struck by a public transportation bus, they must show they were injured and provide medical records or bills to show what was required to treat their injuries.

It is important to note that the defendant may have various defenses available to them in order to reduce or preclude a plaintiff’s negligence claim. Such defenses may include contributory negligence or comparative negligence. These defenses may be available when the plaintiff is also responsible or contributed to their own injuries because of their own negligence.

Do I Have to Be an Actual Passenger?

No, you do not have to be an actual passenger. An injury can happen to a pedestrian that is not a passenger in the public transportation vehicle.

For example, a public transportation bus may hit an individual in an intersection through no fault of the pedestrian. If the bus driver is found to have driven recklessly or negligently, an individual may bring a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the vehicle.

What Steps Should I Take if I am Injured While Riding Public Transportation?

An individual can take certain steps to improve their chances of recovering for their injuries. Just as with any accident involving a motor vehicle, an individual should gather the following information:

  • The names and badge numbers of any drivers that were involved in the accident;
  • The names and contact information of any witnesses that saw the accident; and
  • Retain any hospital records from treatment.

Can I Sue the Driver?

Yes, it may be possible to sue the driver, but it may be more advantageous to sue their employer. This is because the driver’s employer will, in most cases, have more money than the driver, which will ensure a larger award for an individual’s injuries. 

It is important to note that if the court finds that the driver was acting outside the scope of their employment at the time of the accident, the employer may not be liable. Examples may include taking an unscheduled break or reporting to work while intoxicated. In these cases, an individual would have to sue the driver and recover from their insurance coverage.

Can I Sue the Government?

In general, an individual can sue the government for wrongful death if the city or other government agency was negligent. Until recent years, many government entities had immunity from lawsuits, so it was not possible for an individual to sue them. Currently, it may be possible for an individual to sue a government entity for injuries or damages caused by negligence.

It is important to note that cities, states, and the federal government each have their own specific requirements for bringing a lawsuit against them. In order to bring a claim against the government, an individual must provide notice prior to suing for personal injury. A government entity likely has a specific time period in which they can settle with an individual.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Was in an Accident While Riding Public Transportation?

Yes, it is essential to have the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney if you were injured while riding public transportation. An attorney will review your case, determine if negligence occurred, and represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary.

It is important to remember that public transportation has the assistance of city attorneys. These attorneys will vigorously defend the agency that caused an individual’s injury and will attempt to prevent recovery. Having an attorney on your side is your best chance for recovery and compensation for your injuries.

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