Who is Liable for Injuries on Public Transportation?
Who is Liable for Injuries on Public Transportation?

Many people rely on public transportation to get around. For some, it is the way they get to work or school on a daily basis. Other people might only use public transportation sporadically. Overall, Americans took 10.4 billion public transport rides in 2016. Those trips include rides on buses, trains, subways, cable cars and light rails.

Generally, public transportation is very safe. In fact, the American Public Transportation Association found that taking public transport can reduce a person’s chance of being in an accident by more than 90%. However, that doesn’t mean accidents involving public transportation never happen. Buses, trains and other modes of public transport are still operated and maintained by human drivers who make mistakes. There can also be issues, such as mechanical failures, that contribute to accidents.

So, what happens if you are injured while taking public transportation? Who is liable, and how can you recover compensation?

Liability and the Duty of Care

First off, liability depends upon fault. California is an at-fault state, so liability for damages will fall to the at-fault party. It is important to note that public carriers, such as buses and trains, are held to a higher standard of care than other drivers. These transporters are required to exercise the highest level of care to ensure their passengers’ safety. Thus, even a minor act of negligence on the part of a public transportation provider may be enough to establish their liability.

Some examples of public transportation negligence that might result in injury include:

  • Sudden, abrupt stops
  • Speeding and/or disregarding traffic laws
  • Letting passengers off at an unsafe location
  • Crashing into another vehicle or object
  • Broken equipment, like seats and handrails
  • Unsafe entrances and exits
  • Vehicle malfunctions caused by inadequate maintenance

If the driver of the vehicle is the one who was negligent, you might have a claim against the at-fault driver, as well as the transport company or government agency responsible for the vehicle. If your injury was the result of poor maintenance or failure to inspect the vehicle, the entity responsible for these tasks may be liable for your damages.

A Note on Claims Against Public Entities

One important thing to note is that if you believe you have a claim against a publicly-owned transportation company, your claim will be subject to the requirements for any liability case against a government agency. That means that the statute of limitations for filing a claim will most likely be six months from the date of the accident. There may be exceptions to this, but it’s important to begin working with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your claim is filed on time.

Additionally, public entities generally have some immunities that do not pertain to private transportation companies—another reason you should seek assistance from a personal injury attorney for this type of case.

Finally, it is also worth noting that you cannot receive punitive damages in a case against a public entity in California. You will only be able to make a claim for compensatory damages.

What to Do After a Public Transportation Accident

If you have been injured while taking public transportation, here are some steps to take to help build your case:

  1. Take photos and/or videos to record the incident. Be sure to get photos of any damage to the vehicles involved, as well as photos of your injuries.
  2. Get the information of everyone involved in the accident, as well as the information about the public transportation vehicle (bus number, driver name, etc.).
  3. Speak with any witnesses to the accident, and make sure you get their contact information.
  4. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible. If first responders come to the scene, it is a good idea to allow them to evaluate you. If they recommend you go to the hospital right away, you should follow their advice. If immediate treatment is not necessary, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to be evaluated as soon as possible.
  5. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Claims involving public transportation tend to be complex, so it is important to seek the help of a personal injury attorney who can help you navigate the claim process.

“If you have been injured while taking public transportation, consult with a personal injury attorney right away to learn about your options,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured in an auto accident and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, El Centro, and Yucca Valley, and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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