Travelers are encouraged to use public transportation to get to work, tour cities, or for just about any other commuting need. When travelers use mass transit, they help reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions. These modes of transportation are a win for everyone unless an accident occurs.
Like any other vehicle on the road, public trains and buses can experience accidents. Yet, because these vehicles are so large and powerful, the resulting injuries are likely to be severe. A passenger car is no match for a bus or a train. Getting compensation for an accident involving a public transportation vehicle can be complicated, so it is best for victims to secure representation from a California car accident lawyer from Triumph Law.
Common Carriers Owe a Higher Duty of Care
Public transportation vehicles such as buses or light rail trains are categorized as “common carriers.” Common carriers are vehicles that transport passengers for reward–to make money. While all vehicle drivers owe others on the road a duty of care, common carriers owe an even higher duty.
Explaining Duty of Care
A duty of care is a legal obligation to preserve others’ safety. Drivers must follow traffic laws, practice safe driving behaviors, and avoid unsafe driving behaviors as part of their duty of care to those who share the roads with them. When drivers do not honor these responsibilities, by texting and driving, for example, they have “breached” their duty.
California’s Duty of Care Laws for Common Carriers
California’s Civil Code establishes specific duties for common carriers. According to Civil Code 2100, common carriers must:
- “Use the utmost care and diligence,” when transporting passengers
- Provide everything required to accomplish that purpose
- Demonstrate a reasonable degree of skill in carrying out that purpose
As per Code 2101, the vehicle must be safe and “safe and fit” for its intended use. Public transportation vehicles are massive and capable of serious damage upon collision. While their heightened duties are in place to protect passengers, they are also necessary to safeguard passenger car drivers from the devastating results of a crash.
Examples of a Common Carrier’s Heightened Duties
Public transportation administrators and vehicle operators and administrators must ensure the safety of those inside and outside their vehicles. To uphold these responsibilities and comply with California law, common carriers must:
- Have safe vehicle entry and exit procedures
- Ensure vehicles are safe and properly maintained
- Vet and train employees
If your car accident resulted from a bus making a dangerous or abrupt stop during a drop-off or a careless acceleration after a pickup, you may have grounds for a claim. The same applies if the public administrators failed to carry out required vehicle maintenance, or did not conduct thorough employee background checks or training. Reach out to a California car accident attorney from Triumph Law to work to get the compensation you deserve.
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What to Do After an Accident with a Public Transportation Vehicle
After any motor-vehicle accident, it is in a victim’s best interest to connect with an attorney as soon as possible. For accidents involving public transportation vehicles, that early connection is especially important. If you plan to pursue compensation for the damages you have sustained, time is of the essence.
With prompt access to your situation, your attorney has time to investigate your accident, identify its cause and the at-fault party, and collect evidence against that negligent party in support of your claim. Solid evidence is essential to the success of your case, but it is not the only crucial element. For your case to be heard, it must be filed within a legal deadline called a statute of limitations.
California’s Statute of Limitations
If you were involved in an accident with a privately owned motor vehicle, and the driver of that vehicle caused your accident, you would have two years from the date of that accident to file your claim. However, if your accident is with a government-run public transportation vehicle, such as a Metro Bus, that window of opportunity is much smaller. A Metro Bus is part of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (LACMTA), and claims against government entities in California must be filed within six months of the accident.
Special Procedures for Claims Against the Government
Filing against the government not only involves a shorter statute of limitations but other special procedures. Rather than a “typical” personal injury claim, victims must file what is called an administrative claim. The government has 45 days to respond.
If the entity denies the claim, victims have six months to file a lawsuit from the date the denial was mailed or delivered to them in person. If the government does not issue a denial, victims have two years to file a lawsuit. However, filing sooner rather than too close to the two-year mark is more likely to bring a favorable outcome.
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Your First “Next Step”
Clearly, filing any claim, but especially one against a government entity, is complicated. This makes partnering with an experienced attorney soon after your accident the wisest, first “next step.” Once you establish this partnership, your attorney will handle everything that follows.
Your attorney will examine the details of your accident to find who is at fault. While the government office responsible for the vehicle and its operator may be an at-fault party, it may not be the only one, or may not hold any fault. So, who does?
Another driver may have caused the accident by breaching their duty of care, or a different government entity may be liable. If a defective traffic light or poor road conditions caused the accident, the office overseeing those areas may bear fault.
Vehicle manufacturers, inspectors, or mechanics may also be to blame. We rely on manufacturers to produce working vehicles and parts and depend on inspectors and mechanics to recognize and repair damaged vehicles. Whatever the circumstances of your accident, your attorney will identify and hold the right party accountable.
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When Public Transportation Lets You Down, We Help You Rise Up
Under California law, safety must come first for public transportation vehicles. When public transportation fails to uphold that priority and you are hurt, connect with Triumph Law with a call or a message. A California car accident lawyer from our team will help you stand up to the at-fault party at fault and hold them accountable for paying you just compensation for your losses.