There are many different types of public transportation which increases the number of personal injuries that occur. Public transportation refers to modes of transportation that are owned and operated by the city or other government agency for the use of the general public. Common forms of transportation include:
- Public buses
- Public ferries
- Subways and trolleys
Federal law defines a “bus” as a vehicle capable of carrying ten or more passengers. The laws for government owned buses are different from the laws that involve privately owned transportation such as boats or helicopters.
Do the Drivers of Public Transportation Have a Duty to Me?
Public transportation drivers have a number of responsibilities and a failure to uphold those responsibilities may result in injuries. Alternatively, some responsibilities may be more important than others, so the drivers must exercise proper judgment to ensure safety at all times. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- Aiding elderly and/or disabled passengers
- Maintaining vehicle and equipment properly
- Keeping the vehicle clean
- Keeping their regular schedules
- Releasing passengers safely and close to their destinations
- Driving the vehicles in a safe manner
These responsibilities establish an obligation to any number of persons. Although drivers are obligated to take care of their passengers, drivers are also obligated to protect pedestrians, even if the pedestrians are not passengers.
Do I Have to Be an Actual Passenger?
No. Injuries can happen to pedestrians that are not actually passengers in a public transportation vehicle. For example, a bus may hit you in an intersection through no fault of your own. If the bus is found to be driving recklessly or negligently, you may still bring a personal injury lawsuit against the person who owns the vehicle.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death suit is a lawsuit brought by a family member of the deceased victim against the person or company who caused the death. In the case of a wrongful death caused by a public transportation accident, the victim's family would bring suit against the city or other government agency.
Can I Sue the Driver?
Yes, although suing the employer is typically the smartest option because the employer will have more money than the driver, thereby ensuring a larger reward after the case is over. However, if the court finds that the driver was acting outside the scope of his or her employment, such as taking an unscheduled break or coming to work while intoxicated, than the employer cannot be liable. In those cases, suing the driver would have to be a priority assuming that the driver has insurance to draw upon.
Is the Driver Responsible for Criminal Activity on the Vehicle?
The driver is only responsible for criminal activity if the driver could foresee a crime or if the driver could directly prevent the crime from happening or continuing. For example, a sudden assault and battery on a driver while the bus is in motion may not be foreseeable or directly preventable. On the other hand, while a rape in the back of the bus may not be foreseeable, it is directly preventable by the driver and thus the driver may have an obligation to stop the crime.
Can I Sue the Government?
Generally speaking, you can sue the government for wrongful death if the city or other government agency was negligent. Up until recently, government entities enjoyed immunity from lawsuits, so it was impossible to sue them. Now it is possible to sue government entities for negligently caused injuries or damages.
However, cities, states and the federal government all have their own specific rules for bringing a lawsuit against them. To bring a claim against the government, you must give notice to the government before you can sue for personal injury. The government that has a specific time period where they can settle with you.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Pursue My Wrongful Death Claim?
If your loved one died in a public transportation accident, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer immediately to learn more about preserving your rights and remedies. An experienced personal injury lawyer can explain the value of your case and help you navigate the complicated legal process.