SEPTA, or the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, is a system of trains, trolleys, and buses that provides public transportation in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. While SEPTA helps millions of people commute throughout the Philadelphia region, the company also has a track record of accidents and injuries.
If you or someone you love was recently injured in a SEPTA train, bus, or trolley accident, our attorneys can help you and your family seek the compensation that you deserve. Call today for a free and confidential case review.
What to Do After a SEPTA Accident in Philadelphia
Most vehicular accidents result in moderate to severe injuries, including SEPTA bus crashes and SEPTA train crashes. After a SEPTA accident has occurred, many people need to seek medical attention for injuries, which frequently result in costly medical bills. In addition to contending with expensive medical bills, many accident survivors find that they are unable to work due to their injuries, intensifying the financial hardships resulting from the accident.
Unfortunately, many people are not financially prepared to handle an unforeseen medical bill, nor does everyone have the ability to simply “take some time off” from work while recovering. However, filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit against SEPTA may lead to the recovery of compensation, which can provide you and your family with financial stability at a time when you are burdened with costly medical bills, a reduced ability to earn income, and, depending on the severity of the injury, long-term costs that may continue months or years into the future.
Seek Medical Attention
The first and most important step to take after a SEPTA accident is to seek medical care for your injuries. Even if your injuries seem minor or insignificant, it is critical to be examined by a physician as soon as possible. You may be in a state of shock that prevents you from perceiving the severity of your injuries, or could be suffering from internal injuries that are impossible to detect without sophisticated medical equipment.
If you are able to do so safely, you should take as many pictures and/or videos as possible at the scene of the accident, which can provide helpful information in future proceedings. However, you should absolutely never delay seeking medical care, or place yourself in the path of vehicles, in order to take photographs. Your health and safety are more important.
Contact an Injury Attorney that Has Experience in Handling SEPTA Cases
Once you have received medical care, your next step should be contacting a personal injury attorney who has prior experience handling claims and lawsuits against public transportation entities like SEPTA. Avoid making statements to SEPTA representatives or personnel, who may try to have you sign a contract or accept an inadequate settlement that does not account for the full scope of your losses and expenses. Let your train accident injury attorney, who is there to uphold your rights and protect your best interests, handle all correspondence with SEPTA on your behalf. Keep in mind that claims against public entities are exceptionally complex as they are governed by different rules than other types of personal injury claims. It is imperative to work with a skilled and experienced SEPTA injury lawyer after you have been hurt in a crash involving a SEPTA bus, train, or another vehicle.
What to Do if You are Involved in a SEPTA Trolley Crash
If you are involved in a trolley crash as a passenger, motorist, or pedestrian, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention for yourself and any other injured people. In addition to an ambulance, you should also call law enforcement to the scene.
If you are able to remain at the scene of the accident, you should take photographs of the scene, the vehicles, and any injuries you may have received. Be sure to make a note of any adverse weather conditions that may have caused the crash. If possible, you should speak with any witnesses who may have seen how the crash occurred.
If you believe the driver of the trolley was the cause of the accident, you should also attempt to get their name. Additionally, once law enforcement processes the scene of the accident, you should ask for a copy of the police report. SEPTA may send a representative to the scene to assess the accident. You should be careful about what you say to this representative as it could impact your case if you decide to pursue one.
Once you have gathered enough evidence, you should get medical attention for your injuries. Be sure to inform the medical staff of how you got your injuries so that you can document your injuries in anticipation for a lawsuit.
Causes of SEPTA Bus and Train Crashes
There are many ways preventable SEPTA accidents can occur. For example, operator error and improper maintenance can lead to two trains or trolleys colliding on the same track. Inadequately trained operators and drivers, and lack of proper maintenance to SEPTA vehicles can also lead to avoidable accidents and injuries. SEPTA maintenance workers are at risk of injury due to the dangerous working environment around fast-moving locomotives and high-voltage electrical grids. In some SEPTA accidents, a defective product can be the cause of a catastrophic injury or wrongful death.
If trolley tracks are not properly managed, they can cause accidents. Defective tracks could cause a trolley to possibly jump off the tracks or even cause the trolley’s brakes to malfunction.
Driver error is one of the most common causes of trolley crashes. If the driver of a trolley is inattentive or does not possess the requisite experience to drive the trolley, they may cause a serious accident. Trolley operators should also not drive while intoxicated or drive distracted while using a phone or splitting their attention with other distractions.
Trolleys require ongoing maintenance to ensure that they operate as intended. If SEPTA does not perform adequate maintenance on their vehicles, they risk injuring passengers and other motorists on the road.
In addition to accidents and injuries that occur while on a SEPTA vehicle, there are also countless accidents that occur at SEPTA terminals, SEPTA station stops, and SEPTA concourses. Dangerous conditions that are reported to SEPTA by passengers and pedestrians are often left unrepaired for months at a time. Leaky pipes, malfunctioning drains, and improperly maintained premises can cause slip and fall accidents. In addition, crumbling walls and ceilings have been reported to collapse on people, causing head injuries, brain injuries, and neck injuries.
What is the ‘Standard of Care’ that SEPTA Must Provide?
SEPTA and other companies that are in the business of providing transportation services for a fee are what is known as a common carrier. Common carriers can carry people, goods, or both and may be transported by train, bus, trolley, or other similar means. Common carriers are held to an extremely high legal standard because their regular business operations and because of the trust people place in the carrier when they contract for its services.
As such, common carriers are held to an extremely high legal standard. This legal standard is greater than that a regular driver. That is, common carriers can be held liable for injury and resultant damages suffered by passengers when any negligence or recklessness on the part of the common carrier is present – no matter how slight. However, this extraordinary standard of care expected of common carriers is subject to some limitations including the “jerk and jolt” doctrine.
Under the “jerk and jolt” doctrine the common carrier receives protection for the normal, regular, or anticipated bumps, jumps, and jerks the bus, train, or trolley may experience during a normal trip. In a sense, the “jerk and jolt” rule is a exception to the normal presumption that the tortfeasor (party causing the injury) takes the injury victim as he or she exists along with any particular or peculiar frailties he or she may have. Another term for this is the “eggshell skull” rule where a negligent party is responsible for damages even though the injured party was especially prone to head injuries such as a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). While the “jerk and jolt” doctrine was intended to be used as a shield, it is often used as a sword to deny liability to even life-altering injuries caused by negligence.
SEPTA’s Bus and Trolley “Jerk & Jolt” Doctrine
The “jerk and jolt” doctrine is a relatively well-known legal doctrine that provides a level of insulation from liability to providers of transportation services. Common carriers, like SEPTA, are immunized from certain types of liability on the basis of this doctrine. Thus, clients who being to educate themselves about the law in relation to their injury on a SEPTA bus, trolley, or train are often concerned about how whether their personal injury claim will be able to survive and overcome this doctrine that provides protection to common carriers.
In truth, the preparation to increase the likelihood that your matter will survive summary judgment and the invocation of this doctrine begins immediately after the serious, life-altering accident has occurred. In general, an experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorney will begin marshaling evidence in the context of the common carrier standard and doctrine as soon as practicable.
How Can an Injury Victim Overcome the “Jerk and Jolt” Doctrine’s Protection it Provides to SEPTA?
In order for the victim of a SEPTA injury or injury caused by another common carrier to recover he or she must show that the injury was caused by events beyond the normal, foreseeable operation of a bus, train, or other vehicle used by a common carrier. That is, a driver applying the brakes in a regular fashion would be insufficient to successfully impose liability even if serious injury occurred. However if the driver was speeding excessively to make up lost time and is forced to slam on the brakes to make an extremely sudden stop or swerve from lane-to-lane due to the driver’s own negligence, this may be sufficient.
However, the result an injury victim can expect is highly dependent on the evidence, including testimony, he or she can present to a court. Conclusory recitations that a stop was “abrupt” is insufficient to rebut the doctrine with nothing more. Furthermore, the mere presence of injuries does not mean that the action by the driver was “unusual or extraordinary.” However, testimony from other passengers, pedestrians, reports of the vehicle’s speed in context of its surroundings, video from traffic cameras, and an array of other evidence can be used to prove that the driver’s actions went beyond the protections provided by the doctrine.
Filing a Lawsuit Against SEPTA in Philadelphia
If you are pursuing a lawsuit against SEPTA for a trolley collision that injured you, you should know that you have a limited amount of time to file your case.
In Pennsylvania, personal injury cases have a filing deadline of two years from the date of the injury under the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations sets the amount of time an individual has to file a certain type of case, and cases filed after that deadline may be barred from court.
It is also important to note that if you are unaware that you were injured in a trolley accident, you may be able to use the discovery rule. The discovery rule states that you have two years to file an injury claim from the date you discovered your injury or reasonably should have discovered your injury. Other rules may also allow the case to be filed later under certain circumstances.
Our Philadelphia SEPTA Accident Lawyers Can Help
The Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm bring over 40 years of experience to each claim and lawsuit against SEPTA we handle.
Injuries from SEPTA accidents are not something to take lightly. Many of these accidents result in serious and catastrophic injuries, and can even cause wrongful death.
SEPTA has been deemed to be a state agency, and therefore, there are specific laws that you must abide when you are filing a lawsuit. Waiting too long to take legal action may prevent you from filing a lawsuit, so it is critical to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after a crash.
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident with SEPTA, do not be intimidated by their threats of litigation. The Philadelphia accident attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm strongly encourage you to consult an experienced SEPTA accident lawyer in order to fully protect your rights.