Public transportation is used by many people to commute to and from work, for grocery shopping, running errands, playing tourist, or even as an alternative to driving in major cities where parking is difficult or expensive. People who plan on drinking may eschew driving to avoid a DUI charge. In any case, accidents do occur on public transportation. If you were injured in a public transportation accident and want to pursue compensation for your injuries, contact an attorney to assist you and to protect your legal rights.
Types of Public Transportation
There are various modes of public transportation on which accidents do happen:
- Shuttle services
- Train services
Injuries may also occur in the public transit areas, such as parking lots, waiting areas or stations. For instance, slip and fall accidents or assaults on passengers.
The Responsible Parties
Public transportation is the responsibility of the city or county government that controls and services the vehicles, tracks, infrastructure and areas where passengers congregate. Public employees who are acting within the scope of their employment may also be parties to any lawsuit and are under the control and responsibility of the governmental entity who hired and trained them. For example, if an assault occurs in the station or while riding a train or shuttle, the governmental entity is responsible only if the criminal act was reasonably foreseeable, such as where previous criminal acts have occurred and the agency was aware of them but no action was done to remedy the problem.
In some cases, a private contractor might have been involved in your injury such as having provided poor maintenance or service to an area where you may have slipped and fallen or been assaulted, or in a vehicle whose brakes failed, a step collapsed or a door unexpectedly closed on you. An error in judgment, reckless or negligent conduct or some design or manufacturing flaw may have resulted in a collision or other mishap that led to your injury. In any case, both the private contractor and public entity may remain liable.
Duty of a Commercial Carrier
A commercial carrier has a higher duty of care to the public than a regular motorist and must act with the utmost care, diligence and skill in transporting persons and keeping them safe. For example, any conduct that violates a regulation or which is slightly negligent can render the carrier liable if it directly led to your injury.
Filing a Claim in a Public Transportation Accident
Any claim made against a public entity such as city, county or state, or any department or agency that is part of that entity such as a police department or transit company must be filed in accordance with that state’s tort claim act.
In California, you must file a notice of claim with Caltrans or the public agency that is responsible for the vehicle or public area where you were injured within 6 months of the accident date. There are some provisions for filing a late claim such as mistake, surprise, excusable neglect or inadvertence, provided it is filed no more than one year after the accident, but acting promptly will protect your rights. Your notice of claim must contain the following:
- Your name and address where notices to you may be sent.
- A description of the accident, date and location. Provide sufficient facts.
- A description of your injuries.
- Your medical expenses.
- Name of the government employee responsible, if known.
- If your claim is under $10,000, give the amount you are claiming. If it is more, indicate if it is a
- limited civil case, or under $25,000.
Caltrans or the public entity has 45 days to respond to your claim. If no response is received, it is deemed denied and you have 2 years to file a lawsuit in civil court. Should the agency send you a denial in writing, you have only 6 months to file your lawsuit.
At this time you should also retain an experienced personal injury attorney who has handled injury claims against public entities. Such claims present unique and complex issues regarding proper notice of your claim, liability and damages. Handling your own claim can lead to it being unreasonably denied and you scrambling for legal assistance while your right to compensation is in jeopardy.