Whether out of necessity or convenience, you may ride a subway or a public bus instead of driving your own vehicle. Using public transit frees you from the task of driving, allowing you to rest, reflect, or relax along your route. But using public transit is no guarantee that you will safely arrive at your destination. As with any other mode of transport, you can suffer public transportation injuries in accidents even while using public transportation.
It can be hard to determine liability in a public transportation accident in Virginia. This is because the potentially liable party may be a public employee or entity, and special laws work to limit their responsibility.
If you use public transportation in Virginia, you need to know who pays for injuries in these accidents.
Examples of Public Transportation Injuries and Accidents
Three common types of public transportation include buses, subways or railcars, and ferries. Employees of a municipal agency operate each of these modes of transportation. That agency, or the governing municipality, is responsible for hiring, training, and disciplining these employees.
Despite this similarity, public transportation accidents can happen under a variety of circumstances. For example, they may occur when:
A Bus or Rail Car Hits You
Perhaps you are on foot and waiting at a bus or subway stop for a ride. Or suppose that you are in your own vehicle, and a railcar hits you while crossing tracks with a broken signal. In either case, a bus or a rail car that strikes you can leave you with severe, even life-threatening injuries.
A Subway Derails
Trams and railcars traveling too fast risk derailing in transit. Similarly, if the authority that is responsible for maintaining the tracks fails to do so, a defective piece of rail can cause a train car to jump the track and derail.
No matter the cause, a derailment poses a danger to you, whether you are on the subway or stopped or standing nearby. These can be painful, debilitating injuries, like broken bones, spine and back injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. In some cases, a derailment can be fatal.
A Ferry Runs Aground or Sinks
Ferries typically travel well-known routes between their destinations, just like a bus or a tram. But weather and water conditions can make even the most familiar route new and dangerous.
Tide changes, stormy weather conditions, or underwater hazards can cause a ferry to become stuck or even sink. Even if the initial crash does not hurt you, you may suffer injury in the resulting evacuation or rescue effort.
It is clear, then, that just because you elect to take public transportation does not mean you are immune from harm. And you can still suffer injuries from public transportation even if you are not using it yourself.
Liability for Public Transportation Injuries Is Complicated
Suppose that you suffer injuries while riding public transportation. Or perhaps your injuries are the result of nearby public transportation, like a derailed train.
In either case, determining who pays for your public transportation injuries requires an investigation into the cause of the crash. That cause may be either a public employee or entity or a private individual.
A private individual can cause public transportation injuries through careless or reckless acts.
Drivers who are not paying attention to their surroundings can crash into buses, causing injury to the people on the bus. Similarly, a motorist who carelessly crosses a rail line in front of a train can cause a crash and derailment. You can potentially pursue compensation in either scenario.
To obtain compensation for your public transportation injuries, your personal injury lawyer first needs to show that the person’s conduct was unreasonable under the circumstances. Your lawyer then must prove that this careless conduct was the cause of your injuries.
Public Employees and Agencies
When a public employee or a municipal agency is the cause of your public transportation injuries, recovering compensation is more challenging. This is because most states have tort claims statutes that govern how public entities and employees are sued.
These laws limit your ability to bring a lawsuit against a municipality or any of its employees. If you fail to follow the procedures outlined in the applicable tort claims act, a court may dismiss your case without considering the extent of your public transportation injuries.
In addition, it will not matter how strong the evidence in your case might be. Most tort claims acts require you to follow certain steps to bring a claim.
First, you must formally notify the applicable municipality or agency of your intent to sue. You do this by filing a notice of your claim and intent to sue. This notice must be filed within a few months of the accident.
Next, the public agency or municipality has a window of time within which to pay your claim or attempt to reach a settlement with you. Only after that period of time passes without resolution can you then file a lawsuit in court.
Municipalities and public agencies also have other exemptions from and limits to their civil liability. You can find navigating these exemptions confusing, which is why you should hire an attorney who is well-versed in your state’s tort claims laws.
Help from The Joel Bieber Firm Is Just a Call Away
You deserve to safely use public transportation. At The Joel Bieber Firm, we know what it takes to succeed in a claim or suit for public transportation injuries. Whether against an individual or public entity, we can fight hard to protect your rights.