Navigating Liability After an Injury On Public Transit

November 24, 2023 Personal injury

Despite California’s reputation as a car-culture state, it’s also a mecca for massive public transit systems such as Los Angeles County’s Metro Transportation Authority, and San Francisco’s Municipal Railway as well as thousands of shuttles, coaches, streetcars, and rail services. While public transit greatly benefits citizens and makes a more eco-conscious option for those living in metro areas, buses, trains, and shuttles are as likely to experience accidents as private vehicles, often with serious injuries and fatalities as a result. Besides traffic accidents, public transit passengers may also suffer injuries getting on and off the transit vehicle or while waiting at bus stops.

The aftermath of a bus or rail accident is confusing and chaotic, especially when passengers experience painful injuries. It’s also difficult to know where to turn if you’ve been injured while accessing a bus or train. Sadly, the distress doesn’t stop after the accident but sometimes continues as injury victims navigate California’s fault-based insurance system.

Who is liable after an injury in California’s public transit system?

Understanding Negligence and Liability

California’s comparative negligence insurance system requires injury victims to prove liability on the part of the person or entity at fault in order to recover compensation for damages such as their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This typically requires an investigation to determine how the accident or injury occurred and what negligent action or omission caused the accident. Proving liability requires demonstrating the following:

  • That the at-fault party owed a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent injury to others
  • They breached this duty of care through an act of negligence
  • The negligent breach of duty directly caused the injury
  • The injury victim suffered significant damages due to the injury

Busing companies and other public transit agencies must take reasonable measures to prevent causing injuries, failing to do so leaves them liable for the victim’s damages. In addition, mass transit vehicles are considered “common carriers.” Common carriers have a higher duty of care that includes providing safe exiting and entering points, well-maintained vehicles, a safe environment, and an injury-free journey with safe arrival.

Possible Negligent Parties After a Public Transit Accident

Determining liability after a bus or train accident can be challenging. For example, the bus driver isn’t necessarily liable for damages, even if he or she caused the accident. The bus company may be the liable party if the driver was a direct employee or if they had inadequate training processes or negligent hiring practices that contributed to the accident. Liable parties in a public transit accident could include any of the following:

  • The driver/operator
  • The transit company
  • A negligent maintenance company
  • The manufacturer of a defective part
  • Another driver

Likewise, if a passenger sustains an injury while boarding or disembarking from public transit or at any point before, during, and after the journey while on public transit property, the transit company or a negligent maintenance company or equipment/component manufacturer could be the party liable for damages.

California’s Statute of Limitations for Public Transit Claims

If you’re injured on a bus, train, shuttle, or other public transit system in California, it’s imperative to file a claim quickly. A personal injury attorney in Encino can help you navigate this confusing legal process. While the state’s statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years from the date of the injury, injury victims must file within six months of an injury when filing against government entities like city transit systems.

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