Many people rely on mass transit such as trains, buses, and airplanes to arrive at their destinations. Pennsylvania offers several public transportation options such as the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO), the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Company (SEPTA) and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak). While most mass transit passengers arrive at their destinations safely, thousands of accidents still occur each year in Philadelphia alone.
Mass transit companies such as PATCO, SEPTA, and Amtrak have a duty of extraordinary care to their passengers. When providers of public transportation negligently cause injury to passengers, they may be liable under common carrier law for those passengers’ injuries. Liability in mass transit injury cases differ from liability in other types of personal injury cases in two main ways: the applicable standard of care and who is liable.
Most forms of mass transit travel at high speeds and lack some of the safety features that are found in private vehicles. These factors, combined with the large number of people on board, increase the risk that mass transit accidents will cause catastrophic, widespread injuries. In personal injury cases, the injured party must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused their injuries. In mass transit injury cases, the injured party must still prove that the defendant’s negligence caused their injuries, but providers of public transportation in Pennsylvania are held to a higher standard of care than the average person under common carrier law.
Common carrier law dictates that businesses or individuals that provide public transportation owe passengers the highest duty of care and must ensure safe means of transportation for their passengers. Anyone serving as a common carrier in Pennsylvania must follow strict safety and maintenance regulations. The higher standard of care for common carriers means that it may be easier to prove liability in a mass transit injury case than other types of personal injury claims.
Mass transit injury cases also differ from other types of personal injury cases in terms of who is liable for the victim’s injuries. Whereas in personal injury claims, the injured party typically sues the person who caused their injuries, in mass transit injury claims the injured party typically sues the company that employed the individual who caused their injuries. Public transportation companies are owned by government entities and therefore state tort claims acts will apply. State tort claims acts protect governmental entities from liability in accordance with the doctrine of sovereign immunity, however that immunity is waived in certain types of tort cases, such as mass transit accidents.
The procedure for filing a claim against a government entity is different than that for filing a claim against an individual. Whereas a person injured in Pennsylvania must file a personal injury claim within two years from the date of the accident or injury, a person injured in a mass transit accident on a government-owned vehicle must comply with a shorter statute of limitations. Within six months of the accident, mass transit accident victims must notify the government agency that owns the vehicle in writing of the circumstances of the accident.
Our Philadelphia train accident lawyers at Williams Cedar are experienced in representing victims of mass transit accidents. We understand the complexities of Philadelphia common carrier law and have represented thousands of clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide. Contact us online or call us at 215-557-0099 for a free consultation.