Riding public transit is a trusted and affordable mode of transportation for most locals and tourists in Florida. With the increase in the number of passengers using public transit, the occurrence of accidents has also risen. Florida public transit accidents are usually more severe than private car collisions because of the size of vehicles used. The extent of damages is broader because there are more people involved.
Responsibilities of Common Carriers
Common carriers are private or public agencies that own and operate vehicles for public transit. All common carriers are regulated by the state government.
Thousands of residents and tourists use public transit each day. Children commonly ride school buses in going to school while workers use trains or buses.
Because of the volume of passengers, public transit vehicles should be maintained regularly. Their drivers should always make sure that the vehicles are in the right condition.
Engines, tires, and fluids should always be checked before and after finishing each route. There should also be monthly general cleaning and inspection.
Owners and operators of common carriers are responsible for their passengers’ safety. According to the Common Carrier Law, they have a higher responsibility than a private car owner.
Passengers should be able to enter and exit in safe locations designated for pick ups and drop offs. If there is any danger ahead, operators must warn the passengers.
On each trip, passengers should be notified on how the can have a safe ride. For example, they should be reminded of using seat belts or hand rails.
Passengers should also be instructed to sit on their seats properly and avoid standing unless they are about to leave or there are no available seats.
Also, common carrier drivers are obliged to follow traffic rules strictly and avoid any collision with pedestrians and other vehicles. Any accident due to negligence or misdemeanor can result in a fine of up to $1,000.
In many counties, common carrier drivers can only work for a designated number of hours to make sure that they are physically and mentally fit to drive for numerous passengers.
Laws Governing Public Transit Accidents
The majority of Florida’s public transit vehicles are owned and operated by the government. Under the Florida Tort Claims Act, you can file a case against the government agencies who manage common carriers in case of public transit accidents.
In filing a case against government agencies, you should follow a strict protocol. The law states that there is a limit of four years for filing a case.
You should make sure that you are filing a claim on the right department. The government officials would not entertain your claim if you have approaches the wrong agency.
Also, there are restrictions on the amount of damage compensation that you can receive as a victim. Also, if you have a life or health insurance provider, the insurance company can also have a claim for the compensation.
Unfortunately, you will get lower compensation in public transit accidents than in personal injury claims. The damage compensation is usually $100,000 or less regardless of the extent of damages.
The Complexities of Public Transit Accident Lawsuit
Common carrier vehicles like bus and trains are usually bigger than private vehicles. This is why they can cause more severe injuries in case of accidents.
The lawsuit against privately or publicly owned carriers can be more complex than personal injury claims because there are lots of factors to consider such as public transit laws, insurance claims, and extent of damages.
Remember that if you have been injured will riding a common carrier, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance will not be applicable. You can only use PIP if you are injured inside a private vehicle that has been hit by a public transit vehicle.
The first step in filing a lawsuit is to determine who is at fault in the public transit accident. Some of the most common causes of public transit accidents are:
- Common Carrier’s negligence or law violation
- Common Carrier’s lack of safety procedures and inability to explain them to passengers
- Operator’s lack of safety training and equipment
- Technical problems of the vehicle
- Violence, law violation, or negligence of passengers
- Negligence or law violation of other drivers, either private or public vehicles
- Hazardous roads or tracks
To determine the real cause of the accident, you must have strong evidence. If you are injured inside a public transport vehicle you should keep evidence such as tickets or badges. You should also know the bus or train number.
If there are other passengers hurt in the accident, it is better to collate all of the victim’s testimonies to make a stronger claim.
If you are a pedestrian or passenger of a private vehicle, you can use CCTV footages and witness testimonies as evidence. You must be able to identify at least the type of public transit and its operator.
The lawsuit is usually more complicated when you are not one of the passengers. The court will have to determine if you or the common carrier operator is at fault.
After proving that the common carrier is at fault, the second step is to show the extent of the damages. If you have been hospitalized, you must keep hospital and medication receipts.
Public transport vehicles are huge so accidents usually result in serious physical injuries like paralysis, disfigurement, brain and spine injuries, and even death.
In the case of death, only the family member of the victim can claim compensation by providing identification documents.
If your car has been damaged in the accident, you should also present the cost of fixing the vehicle. All receipts must be presented in the case. You should also list future expenses for long-term damages.
To help you with the case, you must consult a lawyer for the necessary steps. Every public transit accident is unique so the solutions should be adjusted based on your situation.
Other articles you might be interested in:
Know Your Rights After A Bus Accident
Keeping Kids Safe on the Bus – What You Should Know About School Bus Accidents
How Do I File A Personal Injury Claim Against the Government?