The state of Florida has an extensive network of public transportation options. They vary city by city, and each have their own infrastructure and travel options, but all are held under the same state laws of safety when it comes to transporting civilians. Buses, trolleys, trains, shuttles, and more are all considered “common carriers,” and as such, they must follow tightly regulated rules and laws at all times. So whether you suffer injuries as a passenger aboard the vehicle, or if you are a driver struck by the vehicle, you may have options for seeking damages. But successfully carrying out these cases after-the-fact can be complicated. If you’ve suffered a personal injury related to public transportation, make sure you understand why it’s important to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney in Florida.
Public Transportation and the Common Carrier Law
Any public or private agency that owns and operates public transit vehicles is considered a common carrier. This title applies to taxis, trains, school buses, public buses, and even cruise ships. If they are vehicles in the business of transporting people to and from different locations, our state government regulates them. This can mean that if the driver of the vehicle is found to be negligent, they can be held liable for any injuries arising from their negligence. But it also means that if the driver is found to have been sound in mind and action, the common carrier driver cannot be held accountable for any injuries arising from the accident.
After a public transportation accident occurs, many injured passengers are often surprised to find that their personal injury protection (PIP) coverage does not apply in these circumstances. PIP coverage makes it so that insured drivers can turn to their own insurance providers for guaranteed coverage of injuries and other damages, so long as the costs fall within the plan’s specified parameters. But in the case of common carrier law, PIP coverage is not an option for injured passengers or third-party drivers involved in the accident. Instead of using your PIP coverage for injury compensation, you will need to file a claim or a lawsuit against the negligent party.
The Responsibilities of Public Transportation
When it comes to many common modes of public transportation—like public buses or school buses—accident situations can get complicated. Buses are big, often making accidents involving them more severe. Damages and injuries involved in a single accident can be massive because buses carry more people. And cars that are struck by these larger vehicles can suffer much more extensive damage and passenger injury. For these reasons, drivers of common carriers are held to strict responsibilities when performing their jobs. In fact, owners and operators of these vehicles legally have greater responsibility for the safety of their passengers than private car owners.
For example, transit bus companies must legally:
- Maintain buses regularly by performing monthly documented inspections, general cleaning, and thorough inspection of fluids, tires, and engines before and after completing each route.
- Allow passengers to board and deboard in safe, pre-designated pick up and drop off locations.
- Warn passengers of any potential dangers on the road ahead when able.
- Notify and advise passengers of how to ride safely; for example, by using handrails, sitting when space allows, and only stand or walk when exiting the vehicle.
- Observe all traffic rules and carefully avoid collision with other vehicles, pedestrians, or landmarks.
- Ensure that drivers only work for a specified number of hours so that they are physically and mentally fit to drive passengers safely.
Taking these factors and others into consideration, research has gone on to name the leading causes of accidents involving buses as:
- Driving while fatigued.
- Driving while under the influence of narcotics, stimulants, or intoxicants.
- Drivers who have received little or insufficient training on the mechanics of their job.
- Lack of safety equipment aboard the vehicle.
- Overloaded vehicles.
- Technical problems that result from poor vehicle maintenance.
- Hazards on the road.
- Negligence or violation of driving laws.
If an accident involving a public transportation vehicle occurs and any of the above laws are alleged to have been the cause of the accident, you may have a personal injury lawsuit to file.
The Complexities of Public Transportation Accidents
Filing a lawsuit for injuries suffered during a public transportation accident is much more complicated than filing a regular personal injury claim. That’s because there are many more factors at play. You have to consider insurance claims, the extent of damages, and public transit laws. In a “normal” car accident, it’s much easier to investigate the cause and determine the responsible party. In the case of something like a bus accident, you must establish who is responsible for passenger safety, who is responsible for the safe functioning of the bus, and who should compensate you.
The complications continue because there are several possible scenarios when it comes to filing these types of accident claims:
- If the driver of a different, private vehicle is responsible for the accident, you can seek compensation through a third-party claim against that driver’s insurance provider. In doing so, you can request coverage for things like medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- If a privately owned bus is liable for the accident that injured you, you can file a claim with the bus company, the bus company’s insurer, or both.
- If the bus driver themselves if found liable for the accident, the process becomes even more complicated. This is especially true if the driver is employed by a government entity, which is the case for most school and public buses. Suing the government can be a complex and stressful process.
No matter where blame can be placed, these are all complicated situations that call for expert legal guidance to navigate them. Your case needs compelling evidence that reveals the cause of the accident. It also needs thorough information about the bus driver, the company that owns the bus, and the testimony of other passengers to make a strong case. You also need a comprehensive understanding of exactly what damages you need to seek coverage for.
The Whisler Law Firm can not only guide you on which route to take when it comes to filing your claim, but we can also help you gather everything you need to establish your case. Every accident is unique, and the solution needs to be customized to fit your needs. Call our office at 833-529-5677 or request a free consultation so we can take care of your legal needs and help you get back to focusing on your injury recovery.