Millions of Americans use public transportation in the United States every day. When you board a plane, a train or a bus, you don't necessarily consider the risk of an injury, but accidents are more common than you may think. For example, the fatality rate per billion passenger-miles for buses is 65 percent higher than aviation. However, if you suffer an accident on public transportation, you may not find it as easy to claim compensation as you would expect. Here are four reasons why.
The statute of limitations
The statute of limitations is a legal term that refers to the period of time you have in which you can file a claim for your injuries. It's not unusual for the statute to give you five years to take action after your injuries occur.
For public transportation injuries, the statute of limitation is often shorter. The period is shorter because you are often suing a government or municipal entity. For example, in New York, you only have ninety days to file a claim against one of these authorities. Although you can sometimes ask for an extension to this period, if you suffer an injury on public transportation, you need to act quickly.
The Tort Claims Act
The Tort Claims Act first came into law in 1946. This legislation allows private parties to sue the government in a federal court for acts committed or permitted by government employees. For example, if a public bus driver drove dangerously and caused an accident, you could sue him or her under the Tort Claims Act.
However, the Tort Claims Act relies on a specific set of papers and documents before a court will hear the case. If you don't provide these documents in the right format, completed within prescribed periods, you could jeopardize your claim. For example, you must complete Standard Form 95 to file a claim for personal injury. If you omit any of the fields, you could delay your case.
Limited or no evidence of negligence
Transportation carriers must take all necessary precautions to make sure passengers are safe. Responsibilities include staff training, maintenance, repairs and employee conduct. If something goes wrong in one or more of these areas, the results are often disastrous.
To successfully file a claim for personal injury, you may need to prove that somebody was negligent. However, in many cases, you may find it hard to prove this. For example, if you slip and fall on a bus because the floor was slippery, you may find that fact difficult to prove after the event.
Personal injury attorneys recommend that you and/or your loved ones collect as much evidence as possible. Photographs, witness statements, police reports and your own written notes can all help strengthen your case. While a lawyer can help you after the event, gathering evidence straight after the accident often guarantees a better outcome.
Failure to mitigate your damages
Even if somebody causes an injury on public transportation, you still have a legal duty to do what you can to mitigate the damages. For example, if you slip and fall over on a bus, you should seek medical attention to make sure you recover from your injuries as quickly as possible. As such, if a court finds out that you didn't do this, you may receive less compensation. The court could even deny your claim.
If you suffer an injury on public transportation, make sure you see a doctor as quickly as possible. Explain exactly what happened, so that your doctor's report closely matches any evidence you later give in court. Crucially, follow your doctor's instructions to the letter. If he or she says you should take time off work, don't ignore the advice.
You can normally file a personal injury lawsuit against a public transportation company, but the process is different to other types of legal action. Speak to a trained attorney from a firm like Whiting, Hagg, Hagg, Dorsey & Hagg for more information and advice.