Public Transportation Accidents
Public transportation is becoming increasingly relevant to Southwest Florida’s growing population. Not only is the population in the state expected to grow to 25 million by 2025, the over-65 crowd is expected to grow to nearly 6 million – an increase of 92 percent from 2004 Census records.
This group will come to represent 1 in every 4 residents in Florida, and that is going to mean a heightened need for public mobility services.
Beyond that, the Florida Transportation Plan estimate the number of visitors and tourists to the state is going to expand by nearly 25 percent over the next 10 years. While expanded rail systems are one solution, funding has been limited and many cities are finding expanding the fleet of public buses and routes has helped to meet growing demands.
In Lee County alone, LeeTran system has 50 full-size buses and 11 trolleys operating 18 routes. Additionally, there are 47 paratransit vans that service the elderly and disabled.
In Collier, Collier Area Transit (or CAT) system operates 11 public bus routes.
The American Public Transportation Association estimates 34 million trips are taken on public transportation every day in the U.S.
These modes of transportation are comparatively cheap and increasingly efficient. However, they are not without danger. Because of the sheer size of many public transit vehicles, injuries sustained by passengers, pedestrians and others in the event of a collision are often severe. The experienced bus accident lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, have been representing those injured in bus accidents in Southwest Florida for more than 45 years.
Serious injuries commonly resulting from bus accidents include:
- Head injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Facial trauma
- Dental injuries
- Broken bones
- Neck injuries
- Lacerations and cuts
- Sprained and torn ligaments
- Severed limbs
Approximately one-third of all public transit vehicles deaths and two-thirds of all injuries are related to bus travel (as opposed to heavy rail and commuter rail travel).
In Florida, public transportation injury law is based on a theory of negligence subject to the common carrier law. Common carriers generally include public buses, trains, trollies, paratransit vehicles and sometimes taxis. Common carriers owe passengers a high degree of care – higher than the typical duty to exercise reasonable care that most people have in the course of other operations.
Owners and operators of public transit vehicles are required at minimum to obey all traffic laws and exercise due caution. Employers need to ensure their drivers practice good road habits, are adequately licensed and are properly trained. Routine drug and alcohol screenings may also be part of departmental policy. Common carriers are required at all times to provide vehicles that are properly inspected and maintained and in good working condition. This includes features like tires, brakes and steering systems. Operators must additionally make sure passengers have safe modes of ingress and egress. Anytime there is a potential danger known to carrier, passengers must be warned of it.
Some of the most common causes of public transportation accidents include:
- Faulty equipment
- Drivers operating at excessive speed
- Distracted drivers
- Driver fatigue
- Driver impairment through drugs and/or alcohol
- Drivers who fail to use due caution in dangerous weather or road conditions
- Inadequate maintenance or cleaning of wait areas, stairways or walkways
Just as in any other injury case, passengers who are hurt by the actions (or inactions) of Florida public transportation systems or operators must prove negligence. That is, defendant owed a duty of care, that duty of care was breached, the breach of care proximately caused injury, the injury resulted in losses to the plaintiff.
But another important consideration in public transportation accidents is the fact that plaintiffs are suing a government agency. Procedural guidelines for such cases and even certain standards of proof are distinct compared to cases against private transport firms.
For example, the statute of limitations (the window of time you have to file a lawsuit) is shorter and the procedure for filing is more complex. While Florida’s standard statute of limitations for personal injury cases is four years, claims against a city, county or state government have to be made within three years. Additionally, under the state tort claims act, there are special forms and notice requirements that must be submitted to certain entities within a short time frame – even before the lawsuit can be filed. Failure to adhere to these requirements will result in a dismissal of your case, regardless of its merits.
There are also unfortunately limits on damages (or caps) on claims against the government. The good news is Florida increased the cap effective October 2011 to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per claim (up from $100,000 and $200,000, respectively). The bad news is that may end up being woefully inadequate for the kinds of severe injuries suffered. That’s why our experienced legal team is dedicated to examining all potential avenues of liability and recovery in these cases.
Most public transportation accident injury lawsuits involve more than one liable person or entity. If you are hurt as a result of a public transportation accident, you may have the right to recover damages. The attorney you trust with your claim should be familiar with the intricacies of the process, and have the proven success to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation