Every day, thousands of people in Texas rely on public transportation. While most people do not get into a DART rail or bus accident, crashes do happen, and the physical and financial ramifications can be scary and overwhelming.
The answer to whether you can sue public transportation to establish accountability is complex. This guide can help shed light on the nuances of public transportation law and uncover potential avenues for justice. Whether you’ve suffered injuries or simply want to understand your rights as a passenger, continue reading to learn more.
Can You Sue Public Transportation Following an Accident?
Yes. In Texas, you can sue public transportation if the driver or the company acted negligently, and that negligence caused your accident or injury.
In Texas, the DART system (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) covers over 700 square miles, with an estimated 20.1 million riders each year on rail and bus systems. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, bus crashes in Texas result in just under a thousand injuries every year.
If you’ve been injured in a bus or rail crash, contact an attorney immediately.
Are Governments Protected from Legal Action in Public Transportation Accidents?
Texas public transportation companies, whether government-owned or private, generally fall under the umbrella of sovereign immunity, a legal doctrine designed to protect government entities from litigation.
However, the state of Texas has established exceptions and limitations to sovereign immunity that permit individuals to bring legal action against public transportation companies under certain conditions. These conditions typically include negligence, willful misconduct, or circumstances where the entity voluntarily waives its immunity. Individuals need to be aware of these specific conditions and circumstances that allow legal recourse in order to navigate the complexities of bringing a case against public transportation entities in Texas.
What Are Common Types of Public Transportation Accidents?
Different types of public transportation accidents result from external, internal, or fault-based factors.
Common types include:
- Bus accidents, including collisions, rollovers, or incidents during boarding or disembarking
- Train collisions, including accidents between trains, incidents at railway crossings, or derailments
- Subway accidents, including accidents within stations, collisions, or derailments
- Tram or trolley accidents involving accidents with streetcars or trolleys on tracks
- Ferry accidents involving incidents on water-based ferries or taxis
- Bike or pedestrian accidents involving pedestrians or cyclists struck by public transportation vehicles
- Slips and falls, including incidents that occur on buses, trains, or transit stations due to slippery surfaces and other hazards
- Mechanical failures such as brake failure, engine malfunction, or other technical issues that lead to accidents
Each type of public transportation accident can occur due to poor weather factors or circumstances beyond the company’s control. However, they may also result from negligence on the part of the company or the driver.
Negligence can include circumstances such as inadequate maintenance, driver error, or failure to ensure passenger safety. The specific details of the accident and the applicable laws determine the viability of a case against a public transportation entity.
How Do I Know If the Bus Company or Bus Drivers Were Negligent?
Determining if a bus company or driver was negligent involves assessing several factors related to the circumstances of the accident.
Below are several examples of what might constitute negligence on the part of a bus driver or the bus company:
- The bus driver falls asleep at the wheel and runs a red light, causing a dangerous accident
- The bus driver changes lanes but fails to see your car right next to it, thereby causing a serious crash
- A new driver was just hired today, was not properly trained, and ends up slamming into your vehicle while making a turn
- A bus is long overdue for routine maintenance and the brakes go out, causing the bus to rear-end another vehicle and injure you
Ultimately, establishing negligence hinges on the following considerations:
- Duty of Care: Bus operators have a responsibility to prioritize passenger safety and adhere to traffic regulations. Whether the company and the driver owed a duty of care to passengers and others on the road in the context of the situation is crucial for your case.
- Standard of Care: A specific standard of care is expected in the public transportation industry. This may include adequate driver training, compliance with safety regulations, and proper maintenance of vehicles.
- Adherence to Traffic Laws: The bus driver is responsible for following traffic laws and regulations. Traffic violations, such as running red lights, may indicate negligence.
- Driver Conduct: The behavior and conduct of the driver leading up to the incident are crucial considerations. Reckless or distracted driving, impairment, and fatigue could indicate negligence.
- Maintenance Records: Negligence can be inferred if the bus was not adequately maintained, whether this led to mechanical failure or passenger safety violations.
- Safety Compliance: The bus company must establish and enforce policies related to safety. Failure to implement or enforce these protocols may contribute to negligence.
- Causation: If the negligence of the company or driver directly led to the accident, there may be grounds for a claim. A causal link must be established between a breach of duty and the harm or injuries.
- Evidence: Witness statements, surveillance footage, and any other documentation of the scene of the incident can help to substantiate claims.
If you suspect negligence, talk with a lawyer who specializes in personal injury or transportation law. An experienced bus accident lawyer at Reyes Browne Law Firm can identify the liable parties in your crash and put you in the best possible position to recover the full compensation that you are legally obligated to receive.
What Are Common Injuries from Public Transportation Accidents?
Depending on the circumstances and the severity of the incident, public transportation accidents can result in a range of injuries, including:
- Whiplash: Sudden jerking movements during accidents or some driver behaviors can cause whiplash and other neck injuries.
- Head Injuries: Impact with surfaces or objects can lead to head injuries, ranging from a mild concussion to more severe traumatic brain injuries.
- Soft Tissue Injuries: Sprains, strains, and contusions affecting muscles, ligaments, and tendons can occur.
- Back or Spinal Injuries: Jolts, collisions, and other sudden movements can affect the back or spine.
- Cuts or Abrasions: Sharp edges, broken glass, and other objects in a vehicle can cause cuts or abrasions.
- Fractures: Passengers may suffer fractures due to impact, particularly in the limbs.
- Internal Injuries: Blunt force trauma can lead to injuries that affect internal organs.
- Burns: Accidents that involve fire, hot surfaces, or explosions may cause burns.
- Sprains and Dislocations: Joint injuries, including sprains and dislocations, can occur due to sudden stops or impacts.
It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if involved in an accident, even if injuries initially seem minor. Some injuries can manifest or worsen over time. Establishing a record of injuries is also important, which can help with subsequent claims.
The impact of a public transportation accident can extend beyond physical injury. It’s not uncommon for passengers to experience emotional distress or anxiety following an accident, which can linger for an extended time afterward. This can include post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event like a collision, derailment, or other transportation accident can profoundly affect your mental well-being.
Emotional injuries may manifest as:
- Sleep disturbances
- Intrusive thoughts
- Persistent anxiety
- Phobias or avoidance behaviors
- Lack of concentration
- Emotional instability
Emotional injuries can take a significant toll, but can vary in severity from person to person. If you experience emotional distress after a public transportation accident, seeking professional counseling or support in the aftermath is important.
Is Suing a Government Entity an Option?
Taking legal action in the aftermath of a public transportation accident requires a clear understanding of the requirements and considerations necessary for a claim. This includes being aware of exceptions and limitations established by the state and understanding the conditions in which you can bring a case against a public transportation entity, including instances of negligence and misconduct.
It’s vital to collect crucial information, such as evidence of negligence or relevant maintenance records. Legal professionals familiar with the complexities of Texas transportation law can provide invaluable guidance should you pursue legal recourse.
Note that many public transportation outlets, such as the DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) rail system, are owned or operated by government entities. You can still sue government entities, but you must act quickly in order to initiate the process. This is one reason not to delay in contacting the Dallas personal injury attorneys at Reyes Browne Law.
If you are suing a private company or private citizen, then the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit is two years. However, since many buses or trains are owned or operated by government entities, you actually have less time to act. You must provide notice of your intent to pursue a bus crash claim within six months of the accident.
What Should Your Notice Include?
According to Section 101.101 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, you must include the following information in your notice:
- The date and time of the crash
- A description of the crash
- The kind of damage or injury for which you are suing
These notification requirements serve as essential procedural steps, and alert relevant parties that you intend to seek compensation. You must notify concerned parties immediately to preserve your rights to pursue a claim following a public transportation accident.
What Factors Determine Compensation in a Public Transportation Accident Claim?
Multiple factors influence the compensation awarded in a public transportation accident claim. Determining the overall settlement involves a meticulous evaluation of each of these factors. This can help ensure that compensation aligns with the full scope of your losses.
1. Severity of Injuries
The severity of the injuries can greatly affect the compensation amount. Severe injuries often lead to higher medical expenses and a prolonged recovery, which can influence the settlement.
2. Medical Expenses
The awarded compensation amount takes into account all medical costs, including hospital bills, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation, and ongoing healthcare needs. Comprehensive and accurate documentation of these expenses is essential.
3. Loss of Income
You may be entitled to compensation for any lost income due to the inability to work during the recovery period. This includes wages lost during a hospital stay or rehabilitation center or any period of disability caused by the accident.
4. Property Damage
Damage to personal property that occurred during the accident are often factored into the total settlement. This includes vehicles or belongings.
5. Emotional Distress
Emotional injuries and distress, including anxiety, depression, or PTSD, can contribute to the settlement of your claim. The settlement may consider this intangible, yet significant, toll of the accident on your mental well-being.
6. Degree of Negligence
Evidence of negligence on the part of the public transportation entity plays a significant role. If negligence is established, it can impact compensation and, in some cases, punitive damages.
7. Legal Guidance
Experienced attorneys can ensure that all pertinent factors are considered and help you pursue a fair and just compensation amount that reflects the full extent of your losses.
How Much Money Will You Get If You’re Hit By a Bus?
Depending on the specifics of your case, settlements for bus accidents can fluctuate from a few thousand dollars to several million dollars. The exact amount will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. There is no fixed sum.
In Dallas, bus crash settlements often range from the low thousands to six figures. In some unique cases, compensation outcomes exceed this range. The legal team at Reyes Browne achieved a bus accident settlement of $4,163,597.50 for an elderly victim with critical injuries, demonstrating the potential for substantial financial recoveries in these cases. This includes $49,877.95 in expenses and $2,083,292.67 in attorney fees.
Your Damages May Be Capped
Here in Texas, there is a limit to the damages you can receive when you sue a government entity for an accident involving public transportation. Pursuant to Section 101.023 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the most the government can be liable for in terms of damages following a bus accident is $250,000 per person or $500,000 for the entire crash.
In other words, if you were the only person injured in the accident, then you may be eligible for up to $250,000 in damages. However, if there were several people injured in that same crash, then the most the government would be liable for is $500,000 combined for everyone involved.
Despite these limitations, there may be other sources of compensation available to you after your accident. Consulting with an experienced attorney as soon as possible after the accident is the best way to make sure you don’t leave money on the table.
How Can I Claim Compensation After a Public Transportation Accident?
After a public transportation accident, there are several key steps to claim compensation. Here is what you need to know:
- Seek Medical Care: Put your health first by seeking medical attention for any injuries sustained during the accident. A prompt medical evaluation not only helps to ensure your well-being short and long-term, but it also creates a record of injuries. This is essential for your claim.
- Document the Incident: Gather evidence at the scene by photographing the incident and jotting down any witness information and statements that could be valuable for your case. Take photos of damage to vehicles, road conditions, and any injuries.
- Report the Accident: Contact the appropriate authorities, such as law enforcement or the public transit agency. It’s important to obtain a copy of the accident report, which can be crucial documentation.
- Notify the Insurance Company: Contact the at-fault party and their insurance company. It’s important to provide the at-fault parties with the information they will need to document your potential claim.
- Consult with Legal Professionals: Seek guidance from a personal injury attorney, specifically one with experience in public transportation accidents. They can assess the viability of your claim, help navigate legal complexities, and advocate on your behalf.
Assess Your Potential Recovery with Our Case Calculator
If you’re navigating personal injury following an accident, our free, user-friendly online case calculator can provide you with a preliminary assessment of your case. By inputting key details related to your situation, you can gain valuable insight into a potential settlement. After submitting your details, our dedicated team will reach out to guide you through the next steps toward justice.
How Can a Public Transportation Accident Attorney Help Your Case?
Working with a skilled public transportation accident attorney can significantly enhance and expedite your case in several ways:
- Expertise in Transportation Law: These attorneys possess specialized knowledge in transportation law and can help you navigate an accident case with confidence.
- Investigation and Evidence: Experienced attorneys conduct a comprehensive investigation into the incident to gather evidence, obtain relevant records, and interview witnesses.
- Communication with Relevant Parties: An attorney can manage communication with insurance companies, expert witnesses, and any at-fault representation or related parties.
- Determining Liability and Damages: A seasoned attorney can assess negligence and evaluate the full extent of the damages and expenses to ensure a comprehensive claim.
- Advocacy: These attorneys act as your advocates, with access to resources that can strengthen your case. They provide guidance to ensure you understand the legal process and help you prepare a strong case ahead of legal proceedings.
Ultimately, this representation serves as your comprehensive legal ally. At Reyes Browne Law, our attorneys leverage their expertise to navigate the intricacies of your case, advocate for your rights, and work toward securing the compensation you deserve.
Take Immediate Action After a Public Transportation Accident
Public transportation accident claims can be complex. In the aftermath of an accident, time is of the essence and it’s important to act swiftly. Taking immediate action is crucial to ensure timely reporting and accelerate the claims process. It can also help increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
Almost $1 Billion Recovered for Personal Injury Clients
By hiring the right personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your DART rail or bus accident, you can ensure that you will be pursuing legal action against the correct entity and that all deadlines are met. At Reyes Browne Law, we will fight to maximize the financial compensation that you are eligible to receive.
Our attorneys have been standing up for the rights of injured victims for more than 30 years, recovering nearly $1 Billion in settlements and jury awards on behalf of our clients.
If you have been injured in a public transportation accident in Dallas, call Reyes Browne Law anytime to book your zero-cost case review. No fees will be assessed unless you win your case.