All over the United States, people rely on public transportation to get them from one point to another. The Regional Transport District in Colorado puts ridership at more than 97.6 million during 2018. The odds of being in an accident while using public transportation are low. Driving a car is riskier. That doesn’t mean an accident will never happen. If you are injured using public transportation, what do you do?
Colorado’s Common Carrier Laws and Proving Liability
A common carrier is defined as a carrier that is available to the public without discrimination. It’s considered a public service. You pay a fare and ride from one point to another for that fare. Injuries obtained on public transportation fall under common carrier laws.
Common carrier laws require the bus, train, subway, or another common carrier to be at fault. If the accident was another party’s fault, you cannot hold them liable or file a lawsuit against them. They must have made a mistake or disregarded safety rules.
For example, a pedestrian sued NJ Transit after a bus driver drove through a crosswalk and hit the pedestrian. The driver tested positive for cocaine after the accident. The driver claimed he had used cocaine days earlier and wasn’t impaired when driving. There was still the question of the driver using cocaine at all while licensed to drive a public bus. NJ Transit argued they were not responsible for the driver’s willful misconduct and shouldn’t be held liable. Courts felt differently.
Liability on the part of the common carrier must be proven for there to be a valid case. If the bus is driving down the road and heavy winds topple a tree onto the bus, the weather is not the driver’s fault. That’s when you would have difficulties proving they were at fault. They cannot control the weather. Say the bus is going through an intersection and slams on the brakes after seeing another car is running the red light. You’re thrown forward and hit your head, but it’s not the driver’s fault that the other driver ran the light.
Know the Legalities of Filing a Claim
With any legal complaint, you have a deadline. This statute of limitations is shorter when you’re filing a lawsuit against a state, city, or other government entity. You may only have six months to file the complaint. This is why it’s imperative that you talk to a lawyer with expertise in public transportation accidents as soon as you can.
You also need to make sure the complaint you file goes to the right department. If you send it to the wrong place, it could cause delays that cause you to miss the statute of limitations. Your complaint could also be dismissed because you’ve filed a complaint against the wrong agency.
There’s one more thing to know about legal claims against a public transportation company. There may be caps on how much you can claim for your injuries. Plus, if you are found liable in any way, modified contributory negligence laws could reduce that amount. If you were switching seats while the bus was in motion, the jury may decide that you wouldn’t have been as badly injured had you stayed in your seat.
These are a few of the complications people run into when suing a common carrier. The laws are complex and may be hard to navigate. For some people, the difficulty understanding the laws leads to indecision as to whether there is a valid case or not. Don’t immediately dismiss thoughts of suing. You may have a case. You’ll know for sure by consulting with an expert.
Before you do, gather the paperwork and information you have. Photos of the scene, medical bills and doctors’ notes, witness statements, and accident reports are essential. Keep that information organized and protected from accidental loss. If you leave them lying around, someone cleaning your home may think they’re trash and toss them into the recycling. Keep a file of these documents and information in a safe location like a filing cabinet or lockbox.
Consult With a Knowledgeable Denver Attorney
Don’t let doubt keep you from seeking more advice. You could have a valid case against the agency that operates the bus, commuter train, or subway. The Denver personal injury attorneys at Jordan, Herington & Rowley are there for you. They offer free consultations. Reach out to them to find out more about your situation and whether you should proceed to file a claim. Call 1-303-647-3031 day or night to learn more.