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Mass Transit Accidents: Fewer, But Riskier?

Steve Wagner

Millions of Americans utilize various forms of mass transportation each year. In Indianapolis, improving options for residents has been a focus over the past several years, a trend that looks to continue with plans for the new Red Line Bus Rapid Transit well underway. IndyGo reported a banner year for 2014, with over ten million rides taken on its fixed routes. Given increasing utilization of this single provider of mass transportation and in light of plans for even greater access, it is important to consider the safety of using mass transit, whether it be a bus, train, or other mode of transportation.

In general, mass transportation vehicles are involved in far fewer accidents than are individual cars. IndyGo, in particular, has a stellar safety record. In 2014, the organization was recognized by the Transportation Security Administration as one of the highest performers in the country for transit system safety, having received a nearly unheard of score of 97%.

That said, there are still approximately 20,000 injuries and several hundred deaths each year related to mass transit accidents. Injuries can range from bumps and bruises to soft tissue damage, broken bones, whiplash, contusions, head or internal injuries, or even death. There are risk factors that partially explain why both riders and other drivers may be more likely to be seriously injured when buses or other large mass transport vehicles are involved in an accident:

  • Risk of tip-over or rollover is higher for buses
  • Lack of safety features such as seat belts or airbags

Drivers of passenger cars hit by buses or trains are more likely to be seriously injured, due to the size of the vehicles and possible force of a collision. In New York, two women were awarded $7.5 million from the New York City Transit Authority after their vehicle was hit by a bus, severely injuring them both. The transit authority denied wrongdoing but was eventually found to be negligent.

“Common Carrier” Law and Public Transportation

Though injury cases stemming from public transportation, much like personal injury cases, is based on negligence theories, companies in some states may be subject to “common carrier law.” Common carriers generally include public buses, trains, trolleys, and taxis. In states with a common carrier law, the common carrier is required to provide a higher degree of care for its passengers (as compared to one passenger car driver for another). It is also important to note that the process and statute of limitations for making a claim in the case of a public transportation injury are often very specific, and small mistakes may cost a plaintiff their right to damages.

If you have been injured in a mass transit or public transportation accident, it is important to seek counsel early in the process in order to avoid critical mistakes. We urge you to contact the vehicular accident lawyers at Wagner Reese immediately. Call us now for a FREE consultation: (888) 204-8440.


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