Every day, hundreds of people use buses with the expectation that they will arrive safely at their destination, but unfortunately, bus accidents across the nation yield staggering injury and fatality statistics each year. As a major city and metropolitan area, Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania are served by numerous operators and many types of buses from throughout the United States. Bus accidents can occur in an array of types of buses, which can include long-haul, private interstate transportation providers, like “Chinatown buses”, short-range commuter shuttles, and other passenger-carrying motor carriers.
In addition to national carriers, Philadelphians rely on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) to navigate the city and adjacent suburbs. SEPTA manages and runs buses, subways, and regional rail lines throughout Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia area.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a bus accident, you may be able to file a bus accident liability claim in order to be compensated for your losses. The experienced lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm understand how emotionally, physically, and financially devastating these types of accidents can be and have helped hundreds of clients who may have suffered similar losses to your own. Do not hesitate to call our law offices at (215) 709-6940 in order to begin your free consultation.
Bus Injuries in Philadelphia Caused By Negligence
When an injury is caused by the negligent conduct of a bus driver, bus owner, or another party, accident victims have the right to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. There are many causes of preventable bus accidents in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs impairs a bus driver’s ability to control their vehicle, including responding to dangerous situations. Every bus driver is required to hold a commercial driver’s license. A commercial license holds drivers to a more rigorous standard regarding their blood alcohol level. Bus drivers are subjected to random drug and alcohol screenings and the legal limit is half of that for other motorists. When a bus driver gets behind the wheel while drunk or high, they are endangering themselves, their passengers, and other motorists on the road.
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of all motor vehicle accidents. Bus drivers are no exception. Federal law prevents bus drivers from using a cell phone unless it is a hands-free device. Still, some drivers ignore this regulation. However, bus drivers face other distractions that are related to their employment. For example, a driver’s attention could be drawn by the conduct of a passenger. It is also common for a bus driver to eat at the wheel, especially if they are in the middle of a long trip.
Commercial bus drivers often work long hours, resulting in drowsiness. Other drivers might not take the time to get the sleep they require and start their shift already tired. Driving a bus takes a significant level of concentration and, if a driver is feeling the effects of fatigue, they are liable to make a costly error.
Bus drivers make the same mistakes and poor decisions other motorists make. If a bus driver is behind schedule, they might drive at an excessive speed. Buses are much harder to control when traveling at high speeds. Furthermore, the force of a collision while exceeding the speed limit could result in catastrophic injuries.
In other cases, a bus driver could switch lanes without checking their rearview mirrors or confirming their blind spots were free of traffic. When a bus makes an erratic maneuver, passengers could be thrown from their seats.
Other Negligent Drivers
In some cases, the bus driver is not a fault for an accident. When another motorist improperly changes lanes or fails to yield the right of way to a bus, a collision could occur. Depending on the circumstances, liability could be shared between another motorist and the bus driver.
Bus owners have an obligation to inspect their vehicles and perform regular maintenance to ensure they are roadworthy. If a poorly maintained bus experiences a malfunction or systems breakdown, the driver could lose control and cause a devastating accident.
Poor Training or Hiring Practices
Bus companies and municipalities have a responsibility to hire qualified drivers and ensure that their drivers are professionally trained. If a bus driver with a poor driving record is hired, the company could be held accountable if the driver causes an accident.
Suing SEPTA in Philadelphia
SEPTA buses run throughout Philadelphia. While you could file a claim against SEPTA if you were injured in an accident, there are limitations. A SEPTA driver could only be held liable for any damages if they were operating their vehicle negligently. Some examples of negligent conduct including colliding with another vehicle, hitting a fixed object, striking a pedestrian, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, falling asleep, or ignoring other traffic rules or regulations.
Additionally, there are limits on SEPTA’s liability. Under Pennsylvania’s Tort Claims Act, SEPTA is protected by sovereign immunity in many cases. To hold SEPTA liable for your damages, the action must meet one of the exceptions under the law. For example, neither SEPTA nor the driver could be held liable if the bus is not in operation. Typically, “not in operation” means the vehicle is either stopped or parked.
Lawsuits against SEPTA are highly dependent on the facts of the case. It is advisable to have our experienced Philadelphia bus accident lawyers investigating your claim and advocating for your rights.
Statute of Limitations for Bus Accidents in Philadelphia
Under Pennsylvania law, an injured person generally has two years to file a claim in civil court. If you were a passenger on a commercial bus line, this deadline could apply to your case. However, if the accident occurred out of state, that state’s law could govern your claim. Our skilled bus accident attorneys will examine the circumstances surrounding your accident to ensure that your claim complies with any applicable deadline.
The Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act further complicates claims against SEPTA. If you are involved in an accident involving SEPTA, you are required to provide written notice to SEPTA of your potential claim. The written notice must include the date, location, and time of the accident, along with the injured individual’s name. Other information might be required depending on what occurred.
This notice must be sent to SEPTA within six months of the accident. It is critical to protect your rights and contact our Philadelphia bus accident attorneys immediately following an accident. Even though you have two years to file your claim in court, without the written notice, your case will likely be dismissed.
Contact Our Philadelphia Bus Accident Attorneys for a Free Consultation
No two bus accident injury claims are the same. Depending on the potential defendant and the crash location, an accident victim could be looking at several legal hurdles. The attorneys and staff at the Reiff Law Firm have the expertise and resources to handle the most challenging bus accident claims. Timing is vital, especially if you were hurt in a crash involving SEPTA. Do not hesitate to call our law offices at (215) 709-6940.