Who Is Responsible If I Was Injured on Public Transportation?

A near shot of a driver's hands firmly grasping a steering wheel in the afternoon.

From buses to ferries to rail, all transport methods are meant to provide a safe way to get around. However, what happens when there is an accident?

Whether because of the operator’s mistakes or someone else’s negligence, someone could be hurt and will need to seek compensation for their injuries.

Public transportation is intended to be kept in the best conditions and operated correctly at all times, as it is fully funded by tax-payer dollars. Yet, this is not always the case.

In fact, data from Statista shows that there were over 300 public transit fatalities in 2021, and information from the U.S. Federal Transit Administration shows that there were over 16,000 injuries connected to bus accidents alone in 2018.

Whether it is a slip and fall or a collision with another vehicle, accidents leading to injuries while using public transportation can be challenging to navigate, as victims must deal with public agencies and authorities when filing their claim.

Your best chance to receive compensation is with a strong and supportive legal team behind you. 

Call Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced California public transit accident attorneys. All consultations are confidential and have no obligation.

Call (559) 878-4958 or contact us online to schedule your appointment today.

Common Public Transport Accidents

Accidents in public transportation systems can be caused by an array of unique circumstances. More common are issues with poorly maintained roads, malfunctioning equipment, poor weather, negligence or recklessness from the operator, and operating while under the influence. 

Interestingly, according to the United States Department of Transportation, from 2015-2019, there was growth in the number of transit accidents, increasing from 4,726 incidents to more than 7,300 by 2018.

The causes for the spike in increased injuries can range from shoddy maintenance, staff training issues, relaxed rules and regulations, and more.

Best known as the Common Carrier Liability Act, public transportation operators are not just required to meet State regulations but are equally required to follow all federal requirements and procedures.

If, at any point, the transit authority fails to meet its responsibilities while in operation, it can be held responsible for any injuries to its passengers. No matter the situation, the transportation authority is responsible for the safety of its passengers as a common carrier.

Common Injury Causes on Public Transit

Injuries that happen while using public transportation are not only because of collisions with vehicles and other objects.

While collisions cause injuries to their riders, passenger injuries can also happen due to a slip and fall, acts of violence from another passenger, an error made by the operator, and a failure to follow state or federal law.

Operators are not the only parties responsible for abiding by rules and regulations while in operation. Passengers are also required to do so at all times while using the service.

Identifying Different Forms of Public Transit

Depending on where one is located, one may find some forms of public transportation that are otherwise unavailable in other parts of the United States. The most common forms of public transportation in California are:

  • City buses, trolleys, streetcars, and cable cars
  • Some hospital transport vehicles
  • Passenger ferries
  • Trains, streetcars, subways, and light rail lines

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public transportation is any method of transport available to the public that charges a fare and runs on fixed routes with scheduled arrival and departure times.

Different forms of public transportation help those that cannot drive because of disabilities, age, or are otherwise unable to purchase or use their own vehicle.

Given that these means of transportation are publicly funded, they must abide by State and Federal regulations and procedures to ensure passenger safety at all times.

Proving Liability When Injured While Using Public Transport

Working with an experienced public transit injury lawyer is critical to begin a claim and start a thorough investigation. Accident lawyers understand what questions to ask, what evidence to request, and how to respond to agency actions.

In addition, the injured passenger should identify and preserve any evidence pointing to the accident’s root cause.

At times, it might be difficult to determine who directly caused injuries, as it might not be the fault of just one person or agency. The fact that multiple variables exist in any given incident leaves a lot of gray areas that make it difficult to pin down liability to one party.

Public transport claims are considered civil claims that will not be thoroughly investigated by police as they would be if they were criminal cases. Victims should work with their attorneys to ensure all steps are taken to gather the required evidence and solidify their claims.

Public Transportation Injury: Who is Liable?

When someone is hurt while using public transportation, multiple parties can be found responsible for one’s injuries.

  • The driver, captain, or operator
  • The owner (can be the City, State of California, a private company, or the federal government)
  • The manufacturer
  • Other passengers, especially in cases of violence

In many cases, not just one party is responsible for an accident leading to injuries.

For example, a crash was caused by a bus driver that was driving under the influence who swerved when a speeding car was coming down the road. In this case, there is a partial fault between the bus system and the reckless driver.

Now, if the bus crashed because of a pothole that they could not avoid, then whichever public agency owns the road will also be held accountable since the road was not properly maintained.

California’s Statute of Limitations is Shortened for Transportation Authorities

The standard Statute of Limitations for personal injury cases in California is two years, but when a transportation authority or government agency is liable for any injuries, the time frame is shortened to give victims only six months to file any claims

Victims need to know that even when meeting this strict deadline, claims can be denied, and at that moment, a lawsuit would need to be filed within a short period of time.

Working with a qualified personal injury legal team can help make this process easier to understand and give you the best fighting chance to receive compensation for your injuries.

What to Do if Injured While Using Public Transport

It is difficult to make decisions when facing shock and adrenaline due to sustained injuries. However, the first step is to call 911 and seek medical attention.

Even in cases where the injuries are not visible at the time of the accident, parties are encouraged to seek a medical evaluation to confirm whether they sustained any injuries. The injured should also retain any medical files that document their injuries for their claim.

Secondly, victims should call the police and receive a copy of the police report documenting that incident. The police report will not just detail the incident but also have the information of the officer present at the scene, which can further help your case.

If possible, take pictures of the incident.

As the case progresses, expert witnesses, eyewitnesses, photographs and video, and inspection reports may be used to further support your claim.

Filing a Claim Against a Transportation Authority

Before filing a claim, the injured party must be certain they are filing for compensation from the correct government agency. For instance, rail lines can be owned by more than just the local city. 

In California, the rail lines used by the public are Caltrain, ACE, Metrolink, Coaster, BART, or SMART. What complicates matters is that rail lines can be owned by the State or a private company and operated by another agency.

Here are some examples:

  1. Caltrain — Owned by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCJPB).
  2. ACE — Union Pacific Railroad, a private company.

Apart from operating on a publicly owned rail line, the train itself might be owned and operated by another party, which would also be liable in an incident.

Consider, for instance, Amtrak, a commuter train that rides across the country. Amtrak is owned by the federal government but often rides on many publicly-owned rail lines owned by other agencies.

Filing a claim against the State of California can be completed online. State law advises that claims under $10,000 can be filed directly to Caltrans.

This claim covers any deaths or injuries and property damages. However, for cases involving more than $10,000, claimants must file directly through California’s Office of Risk and Insurance Management.

Undoubtedly, cases involving public agencies can become tedious when it comes to ensuring the right agencies are filed with. Having to deal with this while simultaneously handling any injuries can quickly become an overwhelming task.

Hiring and working with a trusted legal team can ensure the best outcome for your case.

You Might Have a Claim if You Were Hurt While Using Public Transportation

Victims injured while using public transportation services can find that they are suffering and in pain to recover from their injuries. Do not wait and miss your chance to file your claim.

Even if the liable party involves a public transportation authority, you still deserve the right to fight for compensation for your injuries. 

At Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law, our lawyers are experts in what they do, with years of combined experience finding compensation for injured parties.

Call us today at (559) 878-4958 or contact us online for a no-obligation and confidential consultation to learn more about how we can help you.