Injured While Commuting? Understanding Your Rights and Options
Passengers involved in crashes caused by public transportation companies should have similar personal injury rights to any other driver, passenger, or pedestrian on the road. Reality doesn’t always work out that way.
There are differences in the standard of care “common carriers” must exercise to ensure passenger safety. In Georgia, the “standard of care for carriers and common carriers” can be found here in O.C.G.A. 46-9-1.
The higher standard of care language reads, “a carrier of passengers must exercise extraordinary care to protect the lives and persons.”
These laws aren’t only meant to protect passengers on city buses. They also apply to many businesses, like taxi and rideshare drivers and companies that deliver packages or commercial goods.
Common carrier as a legal concept applies to more than just transportation. Any public or private entity offering services to the general public may be considered a common carrier. Telecommunication companies and some utility providers are subject to common carrier regulations because anyone can purchase the product, just like anyone can ride a bus, hail a taxi, or summon an Uber as long as they can pay the fee.
Common carrier laws are, in part, intended to ensure every service user is treated fairly, meaning there are no different rules based on race, gender, socioeconomics, etc. The service is available to everyone, and everyone who uses it needs to be treated the same. That goes for safety as well.
If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of a public transportation provider, you have rights. First and foremost, seek medical assistance as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to prove your injuries were caused by the accident.
You should also contact an attorney specializing in common carrier law and personal injury claims immediately. An experienced lawyer can help assess what happened and determine if a lawsuit is necessary to get payment for any medical bills or lost wages due to your injuries.
Why Do Common Carrier Laws Matter for People Injured in Bus Accidents in Georgia?
There’s an assumption that common carriers, like the public transit system, are liable for injuries they cause unless they prove otherwise. It somewhat reverses the script in a personal injury case, making the public transportation company responsible for showing you were liable, not them.
That doesn’t mean there’s no need for a personal injury attorney. Injured riders often still need a lawyer who can investigate the details of a public transportation accident and offer compelling evidence to counter whatever defense the company comes up with.
Logically, winning a bus, taxi, or rideshare injury case seems easier since you had no control over the vehicle. In a typical car accident case, the other driver involved in the accident can say you did something wrong – like making an illegal left turn, changing lanes without a blinker, or speeding.
A bus passenger has no control over the bus, so the driver or the other person who caused the accident can’t say the passenger was somehow responsible. That doesn’t mean the company can’t try to defend itself, and a knowledgeable lawyer helps prove your case.
It’s also important to consider that even if you are injured while using public transportation, such as a school bus, you may not have the same rights to compensation as if you were injured in a car accident with another driver. In some cases, the school district may be protected by governmental immunity laws and thus unable to be held responsible for any damages suffered due to an accident.
What Makes Bus Accident Cases Harder Than Other Common Carrier Cases
Public transportation in Georgia owned and operated by the state or local municipalities may get to play by a different set of rules due to sovereign immunity laws. The laws in Georgia about sovereign immunity and the higher duty of care imposed by common carrier laws are sometimes at odds with one another.
For example, any carrier operating under the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority is “exempt from regulation as a carrier under Code Section 50-32-71.”
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) buses are technically operated by the government, meaning bus drivers are public employees and are protected, to some extent, by sovereign immunity laws.
Holding government employees responsible for injuries they cause isn’t always easy because public entities are immune to civil liability or benefit from special process requirements or limitations on damages.
People whom government agencies injure must take extra steps quickly, like filing an Ante Litem letter. This letter must be sent within six months of an injury and acts almost like a shorter statute of limitations on government injury cases.
How Can I Avoid Injuries When Using Public Transportation Vehicles?
Although public transportation is convenient and affordable for many, it can also be dangerous. To reduce the risk of injury while using public transportation, try to:
- Wear a seat belt if provided;
- Pay attention to your surroundings;
- Use railings when available for assistance in boarding and alighting;
- Avoid walking near the side of buses or trains;
- Try to sit in a seat near the front, if available, and
- Do not lean out windows.
If you get injured while using public transportation, contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. In some cases, prompt action can help preserve evidence and increase your chances of getting fair compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
At the Dressie Law Firm, we understand the difficulty of navigating personal injury claims against a government entity. Contact us for a free review of your case and to learn more about how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Getting Legal Help After Public Transportation Injuries in Atlanta
If you or a loved one have been injured while using MARTA or any other public transportation, you likely have questions about how to proceed. Personal injury law is always complicated, but the process can get particularly complex when a government worker or entity causes your injury.
The sooner you speak with a personal injury lawyer experienced in bus and public transportation accidents, the more likely you’ll be able to meet all the necessary deadlines for filing. If you have any questions about the process, please call 770-756-6333 to speak with our attorneys at the Dressie Law Firm.