Train, Bus and Public Transportation Accident Settlements

Public transportation accidents, including bus and train accidents, can cause serious injuries and major property damage. These accidents involve large vehicles and large numbers of people, and there are fewer safety restraints such as seatbelts and airbags. Therefore, an accident can cause serious trauma to passengers. Public transportation accidents also involve more complex legal settlements than regular car accidents.

This article describes some of important aspects of public transit lawsuits and settlements, including specific information about bus accidents and train accidents. If you have been hurt in a bus or train accident, it is recommended to talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as you can.

Public Transportation and Duty to the Public

Both state and federal laws hold bus and train entities both public and private to a high standard of care for passengers. Strict enforcement of the law as it pertains to bus and train operators is intended to ensure that passengers are kept safe. The duty of care by bus and train companies include:

  • Ensure that entries and exits in trains and buses are safe, such as having good lighting and being free of obstructions.
  • Providing security as needed to ensure that passengers make it safely to their destination.
  • Hiring well trained and qualified drivers and operators that obey all laws that relate to the safe operation of buses and trains
  • Performing all regular maintenance and repair work to ensure that the train or bus is safe. Train operators also are required to perform regular track maintenance.
  • Monitoring any flaws in train or bus or track design and fixing them as needed.

Bus Accident Injuries

Bus accidents often cause serious injuries that are worse than car accidents. A typical commercial bus is 20 tons in weight and does not have seatbelts. Passengers often can be thrown violently around the cabin. Or, when a bus slams into a car, the much larger vehicle causes devastating injuries to the auto passengers.

Many bus accidents are due to a reckless bus driver who may have been speeding, texting on a cell phone, or even fell asleep. Common bus accident injuries include:

  • Physical

    : Broken bones, spinal cord injuries, head trauma, and cuts and bruises are common in commercial bus accidents. Multiple surgeries and long recovery periods may be necessary.

  • Emotional

    : Emotional injuries cannot be seen, but they can have just as much of an impact on your life as physical ones. Serious bus accidents can cause major emotional trauma. Imagine being trapped in a bus after a crash with bleeding and bruised and possibly dead passengers. People often panic as they exit the bus, and this causes even more emotional pain and suffering.

These types of injuries also can apply to any public transit accident, including train accidents.

Bus Accident Settlement

Entities that own buses, whether they are public or private, normally have higher levels of insurance that provide more comprehensive coverage than standard motor vehicle insurance. Your personal injury attorney will grasp the many laws and requirements in play to ensure that you get the best settlement possible.

The bus company’s policy may provide coverage for each passenger on an individual basis. Or, there may be one pool of money that covers damages for all passengers. This could be a problem if many passengers had serious injuries. A pooled policy may reduce the amount that you can recover. However, it may be possible for a skilled personal injury attorney to work around policy limits; this can happen if the insurance carrier acted in bad faith or made mistakes in the policy documents.

Train Accident Settlement

There are more than 2,500 train accidents each year. Common train accidents include train derailments, crashes into other trains or cars, and pedestrian accidents. Train accidents can be due to negligence in a variety of ways:

  • Train conductor error. The operator may be traveling at too high a speed or fail to apply brakes when pulling into a terminal.
  • Railway negligence. Neglect of routine maintenance on trains or tracks leads to serious accidents every year.
  • Mechanical failure. Brake or track failures are common on trains and railroads.
  • Railroad crossing equipment failure. Lights and signals at railroad crossings can fail, which may lead to a car on the tracks.

As with bus passengers, train passengers can suffer serious injuries in an accident. They also do not have seatbelts in most cases. A train accident, such as striking another train or a derailment, can lead to devastating personal injuries. If the operator or rail owner fails to meet a high standard of care as required under law, it is possible that you could be entitled to damages, such as medical expenses, lost income and mental/physical pain and suffering.

Bystanders also can be hurt and killed by trains, particularly at unmarked and unprotected railroad crossings. These crossings have no signals or gates that activate when a train approaches. There are at least 140,000 crossings in the US and 25% of them are unmarked. In these cases, the bystander may be entitled to compensation if the railroad was negligent in any way, or if the train operator was negligent in doing his job.

It is important to consult with a train accident lawyer to ensure that you have the best chance to recover compensation for your injuries.

Special Considerations in a Public Transportation Settlement or Lawsuit

Claims against public transportation entities involve special legal considerations that make them unique in the personal injury legal field. Therefore, an experienced personal injury attorney should be consulted early in the case. This increases the possibility of an acceptable personal injury settlement for your accident injuries.

  • Government entity

    : Bus and train accidents usually involve vehicles that are owned by the state or local government. For example, the Washington DC Metro is owned by the city government. If you are in an accident on Metro that breaks your arm, the operator of the train and the city government may have protections in terms of personal injury claims in the case of an accident. It typically is very important for your personal injury attorney to identify which entity owns the train or bus involved in your accident claim. This will ensure that you bring the claim or lawsuit against the proper entity. In some cases, it may turn out in a bus accident that the vehicle was privately owned. This means that standard personal injury claim procedures are in play. Your attorney will establish early on whether the owner of the vehicle involved was public or private.

  • Sovereign immunity

    : This refers to the immunity that the government has against a lawsuit. However, in many cases, the government will allow a lawsuit by authorizing a consent to suit or waiver. Instead of denying your right to pursue a claim or lawsuit, the government owner of the bus or train may allow the legal action to proceed. This will depend upon you staying in compliance with the tougher procedural requirements that are associated with a personal injury lawsuit against the state or local government. Note that cities, municipalities and school districts cannot claim sovereign immunity. But this is a contentious issue, and some state laws may still have stricter procedural requirements in place for people filing a claim or lawsuit in a bus or train accident.

  • Statute of limitations

    : A bus or train accident involves numerous deadlines to take legal action. Generally, a statute of limitations law requires you to begin a bus accident or train accident lawsuit within a certain timeframe. If you fail to do so, you may lose your ability to file a lawsuit. Many states have a two-year statute of limitations to file personal injury claims. With a government entity, however, the limit is typically much shorter. It could be a year or only a few months. In Georgia, for instance, it is mandatory to send what is called an ‘ante litem’ notice to the government entity within six months of an injury if you plan to make a claim. The notice must have all the information to make a review of the claim, such as when it happened, injuries sustained, alleged liability claim etc. It is important to talk to a personal injury attorney immediately after a bus or train accident to determine if you have a potential claim and to get the legal paperwork going on time.

  • Caps on damages

    : There could be a damages cap in place so that your final compensation does not go above a certain amount. States often limit the amounts of ‘non-economic damages’ against public entities. These damages would include for pain and suffering, loss of consortium and other injuries that are more subjective in nature. States also may limit or prohibit punitive damage claims against the government entity that owns the train or bus.

Summary of Public Transportation Settlements

Filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit against a public entity is a very complex legal action. It is more difficult to establish liability against a municipal or state entity. It also is imperative to act quickly because of the shorter time constraints to file a lawsuit against a public entity. If you think you have a valid bus or train accident claim, you should consult with an experienced bus or train accident lawyer as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can You Sue Public Transportation?

The use of public transportation is growing across the US. Thus, the odds of buses and trains being involved in accidents with injuries is also increasing. If you are hurt while riding on public transportation, you may wonder if you can sue.

You can, but public transit accidents differ somewhat legally from regular motor vehicle accidents with private citizens.

Common Carrier:

Any business that works to transport goods or people from one place to another is thought of as a ‘common carrier’ under the law. This includes trains, buses and light rail.

Common carriers are responsible to get their passengers from one place to another, so they are held to an elevated standard of care. You will need to show that the bus or train worker or the transportation company itself acted in a negligent manner. This could actually be easier to prove that the operator did not meet the higher standard of care that is relevant to public transit accidents.

Transit Authority and Tort Liability:

Many local and state governments have what are called tort claim acts that have established rules for filing personal injury claims against government entities. One rule is the injury person must file a notice of claim in a short period of time after the accident. This can be as little as a year, so act quickly.

Also, local rules may limit the damages you can recover from a public transportation company.

How do I claim after a bus accident?

If you suffer injuries in a bus accident, you can file a personal injury claim to compensate you for your injuries and pain and suffering. In fact, there are few situations where you cannot seek damages with a personal injury claim when injured on a bus.

Under state laws, bus companies and operators must carry much more and more comprehensive insurance than drivers of regular cars. This insurance is for not just the driver and the bus, but also for all passengers.

This means your personal injury attorney can usually go after higher damages in a bus accident. That is good news for you: Bus crash victims often have worse injuries because of the size of the vehicle, the number of people inside, and the relative lack of safety equipment.

But there is plenty of nuance to how a bus insurance policy will pay you damages in an accident. Some insurance policies cover each passenger up to an exact dollar limit. Others have a pool of money for all the passengers involved, and every passenger must file a separate claim to be paid from this pool. This might make it harder if you have severe injuries to get enough compensation; the pool may not have enough money to cover serious damages.

It is wise to consult an experienced bus accident attorney right after your accident. Trying to get fair compensation from a bus company and its insurance company on your own is a serious challenge. An attorney will afford you better results.

I was injured on a city bus. What are my rights?

If you are hurt on a city bus, whether it was upon entrance or exit, or was due to an accident, you have a right to be compensated for your injuries in a personal injury claim.

City buses are defined as ‘common carriers.’ This means they are in the business of transporting people from one location to another. Bus drivers are held to a higher standard of care than regular drivers, and it is relatively easy to find them at fault in a bus accident. However, all city bus companies have large insurance companies and expensive lawyers to defend them. So, it can make the questions of fault and just compensation more difficult.

In a city bus accident, each injured victim will have a different claim case because of various factors pertaining to their specific injuries, where they were seated and other factors.

If you have injuries after a city bus accident, investigators from the transit company will probably want to interview you. It is recommended to retain an experienced bus accident attorney before you say a word to an investigator representing the company that injured you.

To summarize, you have the right to compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering and property damages in a city bus accident. But your chances of getting a fair settlement rise dramatically with a good attorney fighting for you.

Is public transportation safe in comparison to driving?

The verdict is in: If we truly care about safety, we should stop driving our cars and take public transportation. That is the recommendation of a study released by the American Public Transit Association, which was reported in 2016.

According to the report, the Department of Transportation states there were 35,000 car crash fatalities in 2015, which was an increase of 7% from the year before. That means there were about 100 car crash deaths each day. Per billion passenger miles traveled, public transportation, such as bus and urban rail, have 1/30 as many fatalities as car travel.

The APTA concluded in its report that transit trips are at least 10 times safer per mile than car trips. Regarding the general risk of crash, the report states that a person can cut his chance of being in a fatal accident by 90% by taking public transportation.

The report also noted that communities oriented toward public transportation are five times safer than communities that are more auto oriented. Better public transportation leads to more compact housing development, which reduces the number of auto miles traveled and results in safer speeds in these areas.

What’s the average compensation for a bus accident?

Every bus accident case is different, with assorted injuries, facts and circumstances. Thus, arriving at a ballpark figure for compensation in a bus accident can be misleading. But there are several vital factors to consider to arrive at a potential value of a bus accident claim.

  • Injury severity: Bus accident injuries often are severe, given the size of the vehicle, the number of passengers in a small space, and the lack of safety equipment. If you have serious injuries, such as a serious brain injury, spinal cord damage or internal organ damage, these could bring you a higher settlement amount.
  • Need for life or disabled care: Some bus accident victims are so seriously injured they cannot care from themselves. The average cost of life car can easily be $50,000 to $100,000 per year. Life time costs for disability and rehab can be millions of dollars.
  • Loss of salary: You may be due compensation for lost wages from severe injuries. You could be entitled to both past and future wage loss.
  • Pain and suffering: This can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to your settlement amount if you have very serious injuries, but much less if your injuries are relatively minor, such as whiplash or broken bones.

To get a rough idea of what your settlement could be, your attorney will want to see your medical bills and lost wage proof. Those will be added up, and then he or she will determine the estimated severity of your pain and suffering. Your total economic damages are usually multiplied by a number from 1.5 to 5 to determine a rough settlement amount. If your injuries are more minor (rely on the expertise of your personal injury attorney here), he may use a 2 or 3 multiplier. You can use our car accident settlement calculator for a rough estimate as well.

But if your injuries are very serious and require months or even years of care and rehab, 4 or 5 might be used. So, it is possible to have a settlement amount from the low five figures into the millions of dollars, depending upon the severity of your injuries and other losses.

I got whiplash in a city bus accident, should I call a lawyer?

Whiplash injuries in city bus accidents are common. Pain and injury may not be noticed until a few days after the accident. Some whiplash injuries will heal with physical therapy. But there are occasions where a city bus whiplash injury could be very painful and put you out of work for weeks or months, and with thousands of dollars in medical bills. If that is the case, you may want to seek representation by a personal injury attorney.

Generally, anyone who is injured in any type of accident has the right to sue to individual or entity that caused the injury. Whiplash injuries are often treated with skepticism by insurance companies because the actual injury cannot really be seen on standard diagnostic imaging devices. If you have suffered whiplash in a city bus accident, you should first be examined right away by a doctor. He or she can diagnose your condition and provide a treatment regimen.

Second, you should talk to a personal injury attorney about your whiplash injury settlement. He or she can provide an idea if your injury could result in compensation. Be sure to bring your latest medical records that include the diagnosis and treatment plan by your doctor. Also bring proof of the time you have missed work due to your whiplash.

What are some common injuries in public transportation accidents?

If you were hurt in a bus accident, it is likely you suffered at least a minor and possibly a serious injury. If the bus accident involved a high-speed crash, the odds of serious injury are high. Here are the common injuries in these accidents:

  • Whiplash: This injury happens when the bus makes sudden contact with another vehicle or object, or slams on the brakes. Your body continues forward, and your neck moves in a snapping motion, leading to injury of the delicate ligaments and tendons in the neck. Some whiplash injuries heal over time on their own, but others may require serious medical intervention.
  • Spinal cord injury: In a higher speed bus accident, it is possible you could suffer an injury to one of your vertebrae or spinal discs, which could injure the spinal cord. You may suffer partial or total paralysis. These are grave injuries and you will require very expensive medical care for months, years and even for life.
  • Head injuries: Your head may hit the bus seat, window, floor, a passenger or the roof in a rollover crash. Some head injuries such as mild concussions can heal in a few weeks. But a serious concussion can be a very serious problem that presents major symptoms for months or years. Still worse is a traumatic brain injury that can cause lifelong impairment.
  • Other less serious injuries in bus crashes are lacerations, bruises, broken bones and psychological trauma. Still, these injuries still could make a personal injury lawsuit worthwhile, as you could be entitled to substantial compensation, including lost wages.

What are some examples of city bus accident settlements?

City bus accident settlements can range from amounts as low as $5000 or $10,000 up to the millions of dollars. How much yours will be depends entirely on the severity of your injuries, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Below are some city bus accident settlements that are online. Note that the higher settlement cases are the ones that get the most press; your settlement could be much less. Contact a bus accident attorney to get a better idea of what your settlement might be.

  • $2.5 million bus accident settlement for coma and brain damage: the plaintiff was a 13-year-old on a school bus on a highway when the vehicle of the defendant smashed head on into the school bus. Plaintiff was thrown through the bus window and suffered a serious head injury. He was in a coma for 10 days, was hospitalized for seven months.
  • $6 million settlement for passenger injured on city bus: A New York bus crashed with another vehicle at an intersection. The man suffered shoulder, knee and spinal injuries, requiring several major surgeries. The New York City Transit Authority was sued in this case.
  • Mom, daughter hurt in school bus wreck settle for $600,000: A mother and her daughter were rear ended by a school bus in Staten Island NY several years ago. The mother had two shoulder surgeries and surgery for a pre-existing neck problem that was made worse in the crash. The daughter had two knee surgeries.