by Scott Blumenshine
In Chicago and the suburbs, public transportation is an important means for people to commute to work and other locations. Illinois residents rely on public transportation to get them from one place to another on a daily basis. This is especially true in the Chicago metro area, where the Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRA) and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) offer many different methods of public transportation including buses, trains, the “el” and subway service.
While public transportation is often a safer alternative than driving yourself, it is not immune from collisions causing injuries or even fatalities. If you have been involved in an accident involving public transportation, you need to speak to an experienced attorney right away.
There are complex aspects of filing a claim against the municipal transportation entities that only a legal professional would be able to navigate. This article outlines the basics of pursuing a claim against a public transportation company and the information your attorney will need know to successfully pursue your case.
The majority of personal injury cases are based on the legal theory of negligence. This means the injured party must prove that the other party was careless by breaching a duty of care that led to their damages. Public transportation injury law is also based on negligence, but public transportation companies in Illinois are subject to the “common carrier” rule. Common carriers include services that provide public transportation. Examples include: public buses, trains, ships, elevators, and taxis. There are special rules attached to common carriers that do not apply to the average person.
Common carriers owe their passengers an elevated degree of care. The general rule in Illinois for common carriers such as buses and trains is: “A common carrier owes its passengers the duty to use the highest degree of care consistent with the type of vehicle used in the practical operation of its business.” Rotheli v. Chicago Transit Authority, 130 N.E.2d 172 (1955). This means it is the carrier’s duty to take care of its passengers and provide safe transportation to a higher degree than an average person. This is to ensure that common carriers that transport many passengers everyday operate their vehicles more safely than the average driver. They must take all reasonable precautions to avoid collisions or other danger to its passengers.
Bringing a claim against a public transportation company can be tricky. Because the state or municipality owns the transportation entity, there are special rules that may apply to claims that are brought against them. There are strict time and notice deadlines for filing personal injury claims. For Illinois, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury suit against a common carrier may be less than the two years after the cause of action accrued which applies to private drivers. The sooner you bring the claim, the better. It is always best to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney about the specific facts of your case. If you are injured in a collision involving a common carrier, do not sign anything or give any statements (except to a doctor or other medical professional) before speaking to an attorney.
If you were riding on public transportation and were involved in an accident, or you were injured by a public vehicle such as a bus or train, there are a few things that you need to do to ensure you can be properly compensated for your damages.
If you are injured, seek medical attention right away. Even if you feel as though your injuries are minor, it is still best to get a professional opinion. Save all your medical bills, doctors’ notes, prescription receipts, and any other pertinent medical documentation.
Get the driver’s name and contact information for the transportation company. Write all information down that identifies the bus, trolley, or train you were riding on. Take pictures with your cell phone of the accident and your injuries. Gather contact information of a few other passengers and ask if they would be willing to provide you or your attorney with a formal declaration. All this information is crucial to building your case and receiving fair compensation for the pain you have experienced.
Immediately look for a personal injury attorney with experience in public transportation accidents. They will understand how to properly file suit against the common carrier responsible, as well as assist you in subsequent insurance claims that may arise. With proper legal representation, you can maximize the compensation you receive for your damages.
While filing a claim against a common carrier can be complicated, you do not have to do it alone. An experienced public transportation accident attorney can provide you with answers applicable to your specific case and act as a powerful legal advocate to ensure you are treated fairly. Contact us today for a free no obligation consultation.