What Should I Do If I've Been Injured on or by Public Transportation?

by Carina Jenkins
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Riding public transportation can save you money and shrink your carbon footprint, but you're also putting your safety in the hands of the driver.

Being involved in a public transportation accident can result in personal injury that keeps you from working and creates high medical bills. Filing a public transport injury claim may be an option if the situation meets certain requirements.

What Steps Should You Take in the Aftermath of an Accident?

If you are involved in an accident involving public transportation, listen closely for an announcement from the driver or conductor. When possible, they often give instructions over the vehicle's PA system. Stay calm and follow those instructions. If you don't have guidance from anyone, evaluate your injuries quickly to decide if you should move. If you're able to move safely, see if the main door will open or check for an emergency exit door or window to get out of the vehicle.

You'll likely see an emergency response to the accident, especially if there are lots of injuries. Get checked out by paramedics if you don't need to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. Even if you feel okay after the accident, it's a good idea to follow up with your healthcare provider after the accident to ensure there aren't hidden injuries.

If you’re the only person injured in an accident — which can happen due to slipping or being caught in a door — you may need to alert the driver or another employee. Ask for help and request medical care if needed.

In any accident, you should collect any possible evidence if you're physically able to do so. This might include taking photos of the scene, getting contact information from witnesses and getting a copy of the police report. Keep copies of all your medical records and bills related to the injury as additional evidence that you can use in negotiating a settlement.

What Is the "Common Carrier" Law and How Does It Apply?

The common carrier law means that the company operating the transportation system has to provide a higher degree of care to the passengers that use the service. This means the transportation provider has to go above and beyond the average person to make sure their passengers are safe.

However, even though they're held to a higher standard of care for passengers, there still has to be negligence involved for you to pursue legal action against the company. An injury that happens due to a situation outside the driver's control might not qualify. For example, if the bus driver swerves to avoid something in the road, which causes you to get hurt, you may not have a claim because the driver wasn't negligent. If the driver isn't paying attention or is on their phone and hits a parked car, resulting in injuries, you’re more likely to have a case.

What Are the Requirements of a Public Transport Personal Injury Claim?

A public transport injury claim requires that there is negligence or a breach of the company's duty to keep you safe. This could be failing to clear ice from the bus windows, talking on a cell phone while driving or other types of negligence. You also need to prove that you received injuries that were caused by that negligence. For example, if you were injured in a bus accident because the driver was talking on the phone and wasn't paying attention to the road, you likely have a claim.

You also have to make your claim within the statute of limitations. When you get injured on public transportation that's operated by a state or federal agency, special rules often apply. This typically shortens the statute of limitations significantly compared to typical injury situations. Every state is different, so it's best to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible so you don't miss your window for filing a public transport injury claim.

Who Pays for Public Transportation Injuries?

If the transportation company isn't considered liable for the injuries, you're responsible for covering your injuries. If the company is liable due to being negligent, they should cover the costs associated with your injury. You might need to negotiate to get a fair settlement.

Do You Need an Attorney for a Public Transport Injury Claim?

While you don't have to hire a personal injury attorney, you may get a larger settlement if you do. Public transport injury claims can also be more complicated than typical personal injury claims, so it can help to have an experienced attorney advising you. The transportation agency or their insurance company will likely try to offer you a settlement directly. They want to protect themselves, so that settlement will often be on the low end. A personal injury attorney can help you determine a fair settlement, and they can negotiate with the transportation company or their insurance company to get a higher amount. If you decide to take the case to court, your attorney already knows the case background and can represent you in the courtroom.

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