New York State’s public transportation systems are among the largest and most complex in the world, serving a population of 15.3 million people in New York City alone. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) contains the nation’s largest bus fleet and more subway and commuter rail cars than all other U.S. transit systems combined. The network provides over 2.6 billion trips each year, accounting for approximately one-third of the nation’s mass transit users.
Due to the vast network transporting millions of people per day, accidents are bound to happen. According to an examination of MTA records, the New York Post noted that just MTA buses were involved in more than 20,000 over a three-year period. Whether through equipment malfunction, a driver’s negligence, or slip and fall incidents on platforms, these accidents can be debilitating.
Injured passengers are often left wondering, “Is it even possible for me to receive compensation from an accident involving public transportation?” The short answer is yes. Rosenblum Law attorneys specialize in helping injured parties receive the compensation they deserve after such an accident.
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Statute of Limitations
It’s important for injured passengers to seek help right away as New York law requires that notice of claims for personal injuries be filed within 90 days of the accident. In some instances, the injured passenger must also file a notice of claim and attend a hearing before beginning a lawsuit.
Carriers can be held responsible for failure to follow specific regulations designed to keep passengers safe. Additionally, they are expected to exercise the kind of reasonable, careful behavior one would generally expect, such as following best industry practices regarding the safe operation of a bus, train, or ferry. However, their liability is limited in that companies and drivers are not responsible for injuries that happen because of circumstances outside of their control.
Due to the volume of public transportation suits and the administrative backlogs in the court system, personal injury lawsuits against public entities may move slower than cases against private persons. In addition to the 90-day statute of limitations, this is another reason why injured parties should contact an experienced lawyer right away to help navigate the path for suits against public authorities and entities.
You will want to make sure that you provide your lawyer with as much information as possible to help them build a case. There are steps you should take immediately after any accident to ensure that you capture evidence that might be needed during settlement negotiations or a trial.
Compensation for People Injured by Public Transportation
Preparing to bring a lawsuit against a government entity can be a daunting task. You may be concerned there are not any recovery options available based on the unique facts of your accident. An attorney will help you determine who to sue, how to present the case, and the next steps you need to take to receive the best possible compensation for your injuries. There are three common categories resulting in a compensation opportunity for an injured party: a passenger or pedestrian hit by public transportation; slip and fall injuries on a platform; and collisions between a vehicle and public transportation.
Recovery for passengers partially at fault – In Chainani v. Chainani, a student was hit by a school bus upon exiting at her appointed stop across the street from her home. Her parents brought an action against both the bus company, the driver, and the school board for negligence. The court held the bus company and the driver were liable because they violated a statute which required the driver to instruct passengers to cross in front of the bus and to keep the bus halted until passengers reached the opposite side of the street. In order to determine compensation in personal injury cases, New York uses a pure comparative negligence fault model. This means each party is responsible only for his or her percentage of fault. Here, although the jury found that the injured student was partially at fault (25%), she was still able to recover financially because the driver and bus company were 45% responsible.
Slip and fall injuries – In Harrison v. New York City Transportation Authority, a jury awarded an injured passenger $500,000 after Ms. Harrison slipped and fell on a patch of ice at the edge of a subway station platform in the Bronx, fracturing her left ankle. Her injuries resulted in two orthopedic surgeries. The court found the transit authority was aware of the icy condition due to a recent snowfall, freezing temperatures, and a recurring canopy drip during inclement weather. Because the problems had persisted for a long period of time, the court reasoned that the transit authority should have discovered and addressed them during the authority’s routine maintenance activities. (Later this case was remanded on a technicality due to faulty jury instructions, but it still demonstrates that a public transportation entity can be held liable for accidents occurring on their property.)
Responsible party immediately identified – In some cases, a court will grant an injured party summary judgement. This means the judge recognizes there are no significant facts in dispute because the circumstances clearly point to one responsible party. For example, in Valcarcel v. N.Y.C. Transit Authority, Mr. Valcarcel was stopped at a red light, when his car was rear-ended by a bus owned by the New York City Transit Authority. The rear-end collision here was a foreseeable consequence of the bus driver’s failure to maintain a safe distance from Mr. Valcarcel’s vehicle in Monday morning traffic in Manhattan’s financial district. The court recognized that bus drivers have a duty to maintain safe distances between their vehicles and those in front of them, and this rule imposes on them a duty to be aware of traffic conditions, including heavy traffic and stoppages.
Causes of Accidents Involving Public Transportation
There are multiple causes for common carrier accidents and determining fault can sometimes be challenging. Due to the complex nature of public transportation accidents, it’s important for injured passengers to seek help right away in order to determine the next steps for the best possible outcome.
Subway injuries may occur if a subway stops suddenly, without warning or when a subway car derails. Additionally, injuries can occur from equipment malfunctions or poor maintenance. Another common place of injury is on subway platforms where passengers may slip and fall upon entering or exiting the subway. Other times, passengers are injured from a malfunctioning door, causing clothing or a person’s body part to be trapped, ultimately leading to dragging injuries.
Bus accidents can occur when a bus hits another vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian. Bus passengers may also be injured due to a driver’s negligence or an equipment malfunction.
Trains can derail or collide with other vehicles, train cars, or stationary objects. Similar to subway stations, slip and fall accidents can take place on train platforms while passengers are entering or exiting the train. Slip and falls can also take place within the train due to poor floor conditions and sudden stops without warning.
Case Study: $3.9 Million
What makes this case unique: Competing arguments on whether the victim had experienced “impending doom”; a big-shot attorney who was “too large” for the case.
Frequently Asked Questions
New York uses a pure comparative negligence fault model. This means each party is responsible only for his or her percentage of fault. Even if you are 99% at fault, you have the opportunity to recover compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. However, the court will reduce the amount of damages awarded in proportion to your degree of fault. If the case goes to a jury trial, the jurors will determine the percentage each party was at fault.
You may recover money for both past and future expenses. Past expenses are calculated from the time of the accident up to the time of the trial. You are asking the jury to award you compensation for what you have already endured – this could be pain and suffering from medical procedures, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs. Future costs look ahead if the victim has not fully recovered. In these cases, the jury will be asked to award the injured person for future damages in the foreseeable future.
Oftentimes, multiple parties may be at fault. A third-party, driver, or a government entity owning the common carrier may be fully or partially responsibly. Normally, if you have a claim against a government entity, you will need to start by filing a notice of claim. In New York, you only have thirty days to do so. Additionally, you’ll need to file your documentation within a relatively short period of time which is why it’s important to contact an attorney right away to walk you through the process.
Yes. Our experienced attorneys have won many personal injury cases with optimal results. To win your personal injury lawsuit, you have to prove the carrier’s negligence was the proximate cause of your injuries. Evidence to support your case could include photographs taken at the time of the accident, eyewitness statements, police reports, weather reports, and your own personal notes about the incident.
Who Should I Contact if I’ve Been Injured in a Public Transportation Accident?
If you or someone you love has been injured in a public transportation accident, contact the attorneys at Rosenblum Law so that we can help determine if you are entitled to compensation. Our experienced attorneys have won many cases with positive results. Email or call 888-815-3649 today for a free consultation about your case.