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Public Transportation Personal Injury Cases

Hello Jessica. Welcome to another installment of Claim Your Justice Facebook Live. It’s Tuesday, there’s snow on the ground. Today the topic we’re going to discuss is public transportation accidents.

What happens when someone is involved in an accident while on a bus or a train and they’re injured? Remember, you can always reach Claim Your Justice at 888-885-3484. You can also reach us online at claimyourjustice.com.

I brought up the snow because it just seems when it’s snowing and colder, fewer people are walking and they end up hopping on the bus, or taking the train, therefore leading to a higher frequency of accidents happening on public transportation. Trains are more packed with people, buses are more crowded with passengers.

Accidents happen all the time in that setting. I’m happy to be joined today again by Jessica Wong Barrera. She is going to help facilitate this, she will ask questions on the topic, and I will provide answers. If you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to us.

Q: What is the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases and Illinois?

A: Interestingly enough a lot of people seem to know this. That’s the piece of law that everyone seems to know. You have two years to file a lawsuit. So the general statute of limitations that apply to most cases is two years from the date of the accident. It’s two years from the date of the medical malpractice, and two years from the date of the slip and fall.

You look at that date, you add two years to it, and you better file a lawsuit by that day if you’re injured because if you don’t, you’re prohibited from filing a future lawsuit. Now there is an exception that applies if you’re injured while a minor. So under the age of 18. We can talk about that with any clients, in particular if they have a specific question about that issue.

Q: What is different about the statute of limitations when dealing with an accident on a bus or train?

A: The transportation entities, the CTA, Metra, pace, and RTA (Regional Transportation Authority), have a unique statute of limitations that applies to accidents that they’re responsible for and that is one year. So it’s 50% less time that you have to file a lawsuit.

We all know how fast one year goes by whether we’re watching our kid get one year older, or watching our legal assistant get to one year of working for us, it goes by very fast. If there is an accident that happens and you’re injured, remember, it’s not two years because you’re like I’m in a car accident. A car hit us. Nope. You’re on a bus, you’re trying to hook the bus into a liability. It’s one year.

Q: Tell us a little bit about what the common carrier doctrine is concerning the standard of care when evaluating personal injury claims against the CTA, pace bus, or metra.

A: We’ve talked in the past about breach of duty. When you’re driving a friend around in your car, you have a duty to operate your car safely. That’s your duty. That’s your standard of care. When you go through a stop sign at a busy intersection you have now breached your duty to operate that car safely. When it comes to buses and trains, they are known as common carriers.

The basic easy way to remember is that you paid for their service. The law imposes upon them a higher duty, which is called a common carrier. The common carrier standard of care says they owe you a higher standard of care than the passenger example that I gave you before. Because they owe you that higher standard of care, it requires them to make sure that they are operating their vehicle in such a manner that is ensuring your safety while you are a passenger on that vehicle.

A friend driving around with you as their passenger is not necessarily ensuring your safety, but with a common carrier, because they undertook the transportation of you for a fare, they have a higher standard. Meaning it’s easier generally to hook liability onto a bus or train operator when an accident happened because of this higher standard of care.

Q: Besides the fact that the passenger is paying for the ride, is there another reason for the higher standard of care?

A: Yes, when you’re driving, and you’re in control of your car, you’re ensuring your safety. So you make sure you stop at a stop sign and don’t go through a red light, you don’t do 90 and a 35 mph zone, and so on.

You, as the driver in that example, are in charge of your safety. When you’re on a bus, you’re trusting the bus driver to make sure that he or she operates that bus safely. That’s the whole premise behind the common carrier.

Q: Is there anything else we should know about the passenger, common carrier relationship?

A: Yes, there are cases of this type of issue frequently, but basically, it’s not just while you’re on the bus or train. There is a duty that when you get on the bus, the bus driver has to maintain the proper standard of care. If they’re going to stop in a crosswalk and load the bus, if there’s a giant pothole that they know is there, or some other foreign object, and the bus stops right there expecting you as a prospective passenger to walk over that defect in the ground, you can claim that they didn’t practice the highest level of safety of care for you.

Also, when exiting the bus, there’s lots of traffic in the city, and sometimes the buses don’t stop in the exact position that they want to stop. You may exit the bus and trip and fall right into a light pole or something. Because of those extra pieces, it’s not just while you’re on the bus, but also while getting off the bus or getting on the bus.

The standard is until the person is completely outside of the control of the driver, the responsibility still exists. There have been cases where somebody gets on the bus and they’re highly intoxicated. The bus driver is at the end of the route, they let the person off the bus, and something terrible happens to that drunk person as they get off the bus, the bus leaves the drunk person, and the drunk person walks across the street right into oncoming traffic.

Well, they may try to bring a case against the CTA to say hey, you breached your standard of care because you didn’t maintain the standard of care until he got into a safe environment. Well, the intoxication issue is another wrinkle in these types of cases. If the bus driver knew that the person was intoxicated, and the bus driver knew that there was a chance when the passenger got off the bus, some further harm can come to them. There could potentially be a liability against the bus driver and the CTA for that type of accident.

Q: What does the CTA or similar entities regularly assert in these cases?

A: We talked about premise liability cases. Say someone is shopping at a store, they walk out of the store and they trip and fall over a painted speed bump that’s there to control traffic in front of the store. The injured person now is going to sue the store. The store is going to say sorry, that was an open and obvious condition and therefore we’re not responsible.

Well, that same open and obvious condition can be asserted and is frequently asserted by bus drivers, and the CTA, for the example I gave, someone gets off the bus, they’re exiting the bus and they could certainly avoid stepping into this pothole but they step right into it. It’s open and obvious.

Another example is we hear in the news about passengers on trains getting mugged, or just getting attacked. You want to sue the operator with the claim that they didn’t make sure you were safe. The operator of the train or bus will come back and say; “we are not responsible for the criminal acts of third parties.”

That’s very common in a bus and it’s also a frequent defense in hotel cases we’ve talked about before where someone breaks into a hotel room and assaults a guest in the hotel, they’re going to sue the hotel and the hotel is going say; “We’re not responsible for criminal acts of the third party.” God forbid anything like that happens, call Claim Your Justice, we can help you with that.

Great, remember, if you have any questions about your injury case, if you want to pursue a personal injury case, or if you have a family member or friend who needs personal injury counsel, refer them to Claim Your Justice. Our goal is to help Claim Your Justice. Thanks for tuning in. Call us at 888-885-3484.

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