What if I Suffered an Injury While Onboard a Chicago Public Transportation Vehicle?
When you use public transportation, you are entrusting the driver with your well-being. There is an expected level of safety for public transportation services and, for the most part, public transportation drivers take extra precautionary steps to ensure passengers’ safety. But, this does not mean that public transportation is completely immune to incidents, and accidents still do occur.
With the lack of standard safety features in public transportation vehicles that are commonly offered inside of most automobiles, such as passenger seatbelts and airbags, along with the larger physical size of public transport vehicles and the multitude of passengers involved, public transportation accidents can be incredibly devastating.
According to preliminary results released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “In 2017, 4,889 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, a 9-percent increase from 2016. There was a 40% increase in the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses between 2009 and 2017.”
An experienced Chicago public transportation accident lawyer from TorHoerman Law may be able to help if you or a loved one were in an accident involving public transportation. Their knowledge of the legal industry can help you navigate a lawsuit, manage the process and keep it on track, and guide you to resolution.
Types of Public Transportation
Within Illinois, there are almost 60 members in the Illinois Public Transportation Association, ranging from rural areas to the biggest metropolitan area, Chicago. Public transportation is available all throughout the state, which is beneficial to many, but accidents can occur. Passengers should be aware of the risks and their legal options if involved in a public transportation accident.
In Chicago, public transportation is easily accessible – either by train, bus, taxi cabs, subways, ferries, airplanes, or even school buses. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), PACE buses or METRA are all examples of different kinds of public transportation you can access while in the City.
- Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) – The CTA is the second largest public transportation network in the United States, serving the City of Chicago and 40 surrounding communities by train or bus.
- Pace – This is a subsidiary of the CTA, but it solely consists of bus services that connect Chicago area suburbs. It is available for the residents of the 284 municipalities in Cook, Will, DuPage, Kane, Lake, and McHenry counties.
- Metra – The Metra is a high-speed commuter train that connects suburbs with the downtown area, a perfect solution for those who live outside the City, but need a simplified means of transportation that avoids traffic congestion.
- Taxis – While a dwindling public transportation option due to the rise in popularity of rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft, taxis can be found in populated downtown areas and the airport.
- Water Taxi – This means of public transportation connects Chicago’s top tourist attractions and is a popular transportation method for those visiting Chicago.
- School Bus – A common transportation method for children, school buses are not without their fair share of accidents. The CTA says it “averaged about 19 bus accidents each month in 2011.”
When there is an accident, it can involve just one person or unfortunately, more commonly, hundreds of people. Typically, public transportation accidents have devastating consequences and catastrophic injuries such as bone fractures, spinal damage, or head trauma.
An individual injured as a result of an accident should immediately seek the assistance of a Chicago public transportation accident lawyer to file a claim. There are strict laws regulating the time period the individual has to file a claim, referred to as the statute of limitations. In order to receive compensation for damages, such as medical bills, loss of wages during recovery, or emotional distress, the lawsuit must be properly investigated, filed, negotiated, and either settled prior to trial or decided upon by a jury in a trial.
Common Chicago Public Transportation Accidents
Critical errors can cause accidents and those actions can cause severe damage and injury, potentially even death, to passengers on public transportation. Causes of accidents involving public transportation vehicles can include, but not limited to:
- Chicago bus collisions with other vehicles or individuals
- Train car derailment on the Metra or CTA
- Slip and fall accidents while on public transportation
- Operator fatigue and error
- Failing to follow proper directions and precautions
- Alcohol or drug use
- Faulty repairs
- Equipment failure
Bus and train accidents are, unfortunately, the most common types of public transportation accidents, but there are other types of mass-transit options that can also result in accidents.
What Should I Do After a Chicago Public Transportation Accident?
If you are involved in a public transportation accident, the first thing you should do is contact the authorities and medical professionals. If you cannot do so, make sure someone else on the scene is in contact with both authorities and medical professionals. Even if you do not initially notice any personal injuries, allow medical professionals to check and clear you. When the authorities arrive, you should give a written statement of the events, given you are in the position to do so.
Next, you will need to collect evidence and follow the proper steps to handle the accident. If there are many parties involved in the accident, only worry about collecting contact and insurance information from any drivers involved in the accident and any bystander witnesses. Do not forget to collect information from any authorities or medical professionals that you interact with. You will want information on the public transportation service so that you can contact them later for their insurance information.
It is imperative that you seek proper medical attention as soon as possible following the accident, even if you do not believe you suffered any major injuries. In these types of cases, most districts limit the allotted time a person can seek medical attention and still be compensated for medical costs. Even if there are no initial signs of injury, future injuries may result from the accident. Injuries that are not automatically recognizable are often very serious and can be life-threatening. If you do not seek medical attention within the allotted period of time, your case can be dismissed on the grounds that you did not properly mitigate your injuries, leaving you to deal with the extensive costs of medical care. Ask your healthcare provider to complete a full array of testing, including brain and spine tests.
Who is Responsible for My Injuries?
In a public transportation accident, determining the liable party(s) can be a complicated process. Below are the most common party(s) involved.
- The driver of the public transportation vehicle
- Public transportation company
- Manufacturer of the vehicle
- Repair Facility
- Other Motorist(s)
Understanding liability can be confusing. If a bus has a defective part, liability could fall on the bus manufacturer for using a defective part and failing to notify the bus company. If a CTA train derails, liability could fall on the driver for failing to follow proper precautions or directions or it could fall on the company for failing to maintain a part of the track. If you are injured in a bus accident caused by another motorist, the motorist could be held responsible for your injuries.
As you can see, liability in a public transportation accident is a gray area. Determination of liability is best researched and designated by your legal team.
Chicago Public Transportation Accident Coverage
Public transportation services will almost always have insurance coverage that will compensate for passengers’ damages. Compared to most automobile insurance plans, public transportation insurance has a much higher damages cap to compensate for the higher costs involved in accidents of a larger magnitude. You can still receive full compensation even if another party, other than the public transport driver, is at fault. The other driver’s insurance likely does not have a large enough cap to significantly cover the large costs involved in the accident, but the public transportation service’s underinsured driver coverage will cover the difference.
Sometimes the insurance provider will handle an individual’s case as a separate entity from other individuals involved. In these situations, the insurance provider will most likely completely compensate you for any damages that you suffered. In other cases, the public transportation service will have “pooled coverage,” a lump sum granted to all parties involved in the accident that is distributed to individuals based on the severity of their injuries and losses. It is not uncommon for pooled coverage to undercompensate individuals, sometimes not even covering costs from injuries.
Chicago Public Transportation Accident Lawyer: Seeking Legal Aid
Insurance providers have the obvious incentive to save as much money as possible when dealing with high-cost accidents. They will cut corners and find loopholes, like pooled coverage compensation, to avoid having to pay out the real cost of damages. The legal system surrounding these types of accidents is complex and often confusing, especially when more than one party is at fault.
One important thing to point out about public transportation accidents if the difficulty of the legal system. All of the public transportation entities in Chicago have specific laws and regulations that apply, and in terms of a lawsuit, the statute of limitations may even be shorter than normal.
Hiring a personal injury lawyer will be beneficial for a variety of reasons; relieving you of the stress of dealing with insurance companies, helping you structure a strong case, and ensuring that you receive full compensation for the damages that you suffered. Typically, a public transportation accident lawsuit will follow these steps:
- Investigate the scene of the accident. All investigations are part of a process called discovery.
- Interview witnesses, including those who were also involved in the accident. Their accounts of the accident can greatly benefit your case.
- Investigate the company(s) involved. This one can be tricky because there can be multiple companies involved due to the circumstances of the accident – the operator of the public transportation vehicle, the manufacturer, the company in charge of repairs, the company in charge of driver training, etc.
- Investigate the history of the driver. Did they have a solid driving record or were there unacceptable behaviors?
- Review medical records and the police report filed by responding law enforcement officers in the aftermath of the accident.
- Negotiate with the party(s) involved, including the insurance company. Typically, most personal injury lawsuits settle prior to trial.
- If negotiations fail, your lawyer will prepare and go to trial to help you receive the compensation you deserve.
Is a Lawsuit Claim Against the CTA Complicated?
Claims against the Chicago Transit Authority tend to be more complicated than claims against individuals or private companies because the CTA falls under the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act. The act establishes certain obstacles that make it more difficult to file a lawsuit against the organization.
For example, the standard statute of limitations of two years for most personal injury claims does not apply. Instead, a lawsuit must be filed within one year of the date of injury. Also taken into greater account is the duty of care the CTA has for its passengers. In particular, the question of whether a duty exists and if the injury could have been avoided is strongly considered in a public transportation accident lawsuit.
TorHoerman Law Chicago Public Transportation Accident Lawyer
At TorHoerman Law, you can relax knowing our lawyers and staff will have your best interests at mind. We understand you or a loved one has experienced a traumatic accident, and we want to take the stress of holding the individual(s) responsible for the accident responsible so you can focus on recovering.
Do you have any questions? Our firm offers free, no-obligation consultations and operates on a contingency basis – if we do not win, you do not pay. Contact our firm to speak with an experienced attorney.
For additional information, see the following pages:
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