California is well-known for having some of the worst roads in the nation, with the Federal Highway Commission reporting that 46.2% of all roads in the state are in poor condition. Poorly maintained roads are not only challenging to drive on, but they are also directly associated with worse traffic, diminished safety, and higher vehicle ownership costs due to increased repair costs, tire wear, and gas consumption. With thousands of vehicles travelling along its 400,000 miles of roadways every day, many residents have chosen to forego driving in favor of public transportation—allowing them to save money, reduce traffic congestion and decrease overall travel time. Public transit is an efficient, affordable, eco-friendly option, and it is particularly valuable in areas with confusing or heavy urban traffic.
Californians utilize public transportation to commute to work, attend school, go shopping, or visit popular national parks. It is estimated that nearly 400 million urban passenger trips are made in the state each year. In Los Angeles alone, over 31 million passengers use public transit services each week. Buses, train rail services, and other forms of public transit are designed to offer freedom of mobility, particularly for low-income residents who cannot afford a personal vehicle. As housing costs continue to soar, people are moving further away from their workplaces to relocate in areas with a lower cost of living, and they require a reliable mode of transportation to support their livelihood. Along with providing an easy, cost-effective alternative to driving, public transit creates jobs, stimulates local economies, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Researchers have found that public transportation is safer than any other mode of travel, with less than one tenth of the fatality rate found in passenger vehicles. However, accidents involving buses, trains, and other public transit vehicles do happen, and the results can be catastrophic. If you have sustained injuries in a public transportation accident, review the following information to learn how you can recover compensation for your damages, then contact McLachlan Law today. Our expert team of personal injury attorneys can provide you with top-tier legal representation to investigate the accident, identify the responsible parties, determine the extent of your injuries, and help you recover the compensation you deserve.
What Type of Attorney Handles Accidents?
For the best chance of recovering compensation for your accident-related injuries, you should contact a personal injury attorney who specializes in public transportation accidents. Car accident cases are handled by personal injury attorneys, but a public transportation accident includes a number of complex factors that make these cases much more difficult to navigate than a typical car accident case. Unlike car accidents, in which a private individual is at fault, public transit accidents often involve public entities or government agencies. Additionally, there is often a shorter statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in these cases, meaning it is absolutely essential you retain the services of an attorney immediately after the accident. Bus accident lawyers can explain your rights, guide you through the legal procedures, and ensure you accurately and promptly file your claim to obtain an optimal outcome in your case.
How Do Accident Attorneys Work?
When you are injured while using public transportation, the provider can be held legally liable for your injuries, and an experienced attorney understands how to identify the responsible individuals or entities and guide you through the claims process. Similar to other types of personal injury claims, filing a public transportation accident injury claim requires extensive knowledge of the law. It is also essential to have negotiation skills to communicate with insurance companies, and litigation skills to argue your case in court if they refuse to accept your claim or offer a fair settlement award to cover your damages.
Although all motorists are expected to adhere to a duty of care while traveling the state’s roadways, California holds common carriers that are in the business of transporting the general public to a much higher standard than regular motorists. This general duty of care for common carriers encompasses the following specific duties:
- The duty to utilize safe vehicles and equipment that meets current safety standards.
- The duty to properly maintain these vehicles so they continue to be safe, including performing regular inspections, completing routine maintenance, and making repairs to known defects that hinder the safe, effective operation of the vehicle.
- The duty to hire qualified employees to drive the vehicle.
- The duty to provide proper training and supervision of employees.
- The duty to discipline or terminate employees who behave irresponsibly.
- The duty to provide usual, reasonable accommodations for passengers.
- The duty to give passengers a reasonable degree of care, attention, diligence, and respect.
- The duty to exercise a reasonable degree of skill while operating the vehicle.
- The duty to provide a safe location for passengers to enter and exit the vehicle.
- The duty to take reasonable steps to offer passengers protection from harm, including harm by other passengers.
These duties do not begin and end when passengers enter or exit the vehicle. Instead, common carriers owe this duty of care to passengers at all times, beginning before they step foot on the bus, commuter rail, or other mode of transit. When a common carrier accepts a person as a passenger and that passenger places themselves in the care of the carrier, the carrier must take every reasonable step to ensure their safety. They must deliver the passenger to their intended location and leave them in a safe place. If a common carrier violates this duty of care and one of the passengers is injured due to this violation, they can be held liable for these injuries.
What are the Most Common Causes of Public Transportation Accidents?
Even though common carriers are held to such a high standard, accidents can and do occur. The most common causes of these accidents are listed below:
- Insufficient driver training
- Distracted driving
- Driver fatigue
- Driver negligence
- Inadequate disciplinary measures levied against reckless drivers
- Improperly maintained equipment or infrastructure
Should I Hire an Attorney After an Accident?
Retaining the services of an experienced accident attorney is necessary for identifying the liable parties, demonstrating negligence, and calculating your damages. The individuals and entities that can be held responsible for a public transit accident depend on the type of accident and the cause. A bus accident attorney can identify the defendants who are legally liable for your injuries, including:
- Drivers or operators
- Driver supervisors
- Vehicle owners
- Vehicle manufacturers or part manufacturers
- Vehicle maintenance companies
- City, county, or state government agencies
In some cases, multiple defendants may share the responsibility for the accident. Even if you partially contributed to the accident, California’s comparative fault law allows you to recover damages, but the amount of the damages will be reduced according to your share of fault. However, to recover compensation, your attorney must prove negligence on the part of the driver, transportation service, and any other entities involved in operating and maintaining the vehicle. Proving negligence requires the following four elements:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care to behave in a manner that would be expected from a reasonably cautious person under the same circumstances.
- The defendant violated this duty of care.
- This violation resulted in your injuries.
- You incurred specific damages due to the injuries you sustained.
What Damages Can I Recover in an Accident Claim?
If your attorney can prove that the carrier company was negligent and this negligence caused your injury, you may be entitled to recover the following damages:
- Medical expenses – ambulance costs, emergency department care, hospital bills, surgeries, medications, physical therapy, and any other expenses required for the short term, long-term, and ongoing treatment of your injuries
- Lost income and earning potential – the salary, wages, and other benefits you lost due to missing work because of your injury and subsequent recovery period, as well as loss of future earnings or earning potential if you are unable to return to work
- Property damage – the cost of repairing or replacing personal property that was damaged or destroyed in the accident, including your vehicle, if you were occupying another car when the accident occurred rather than riding in the public transit vehicle
- Pain and suffering – physical pain, mental and emotional anguish, permanent scarring, disability, disfigurement, or loss of companionship (if your spouse was the victim of a fatal accident).
- Punitive damages – damages designed to punish the defendant for intentional, willfully dangerous, or grossly negligent behavior
What Questions Should I Ask an Attorney for an Accident?
To select the right personal injury attorney for your case, you will need to conduct extensive research into qualified car accident lawyers in your area and interview them individually to determine if they can meet your needs. They should be willing to dedicate time to speak with you, review your case, answer your questions, and resolve your concerns. You should feel comfortable sharing the details of the case with them and they should demonstrate an enthusiasm for helping you recover the compensation you deserve. They should be honest about the potential outcome of your case, clearly explain how they would handle your case, and leave you feeling confident in their ability to manage your case and secure the optimal outcome.
When you interview potential accident attorneys, ask the following questions:
- What should I do after an accident?
- Do you specialize in public transportation accident injury claims?
- How much experience do you have with cases similar to mine?
- What was the outcome of these cases?
- Do I have a valid personal injury claim?
- What information should I provide to support my claim?
- How much time do I have to file my claim?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
- How much is my case worth?
- What damages can I recover?
- How is settling the case different from litigating the case?
- Should I consider settling?
- How should I respond to settlement offers from the defendant’s insurance company?
- Do you have experience litigating similar cases before a judge or jury?
- If so, how successful were you in obtaining a fair compensation amount?
- How much time are you able to devote to my case?
- Will you personally work on my case or utilize paralegals, junior partners, or other staff members to prepare my case?
- How involved do you expect me to be in the claims process?
- What can I do to increase the chances of a successful outcome?
- How long do you estimate it will take to resolve my case
- How do you charge for your services?
- What fees will I be responsible for paying?
Obtain Justice and Fair Compensation
If you were injured in a public transportation accident, you are likely facing extensive injuries, mounting medical bills, lost income, and a great deal of stress regarding how you can support your family while recovering from your injuries. An accident attorney can navigate the legal processes involved in filing your claim, so you can focus on healing and recovery. At McLachlan Law, our team has over 25 years of experience handling personal injury cases that involve public transit accidents and we represent clients in Hawthorne, as well as areas throughout Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, and Manhattan Beach.
The law around public transportation accidents is complicated, and it can be particularly difficult to establish liability in these cases when multiple entities are involved in operating these vehicles. Our injury lawyers have the legal knowledge, skills, and expertise you need to identify the responsible parties and pursue legal action against them. We can guide you through every step of the insurance claims process, negotiate a settlement to cover your damages, or litigate your case in court if they fail to offer a fair compensation award.
Schedule a consultation with McLachlan Law today. We are widely recognized in Southern California for our long record of successful cases and offer the highest caliber of representation to help our clients navigate their accident claim and obtain the best outcome in their case. With our help, you do not have to face this difficult situation on your own. The sooner you retain our services, the sooner we can secure compensation for you and help you successfully navigate the long road to recovery.