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 personal injury attorney will begin marshalling evidence in the context of the common carrier standard and doctrine as soon as practicable.
Pennsylvanians and Philadelphians have relied on the personal injury attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm for decades to hold parties responsible for severe injuries financially accountable. At The Reiff Law Firm, you aren’t just a number to us. Rather, we only take on a few serious cases at one time. We devote our focus and attention to just a few matters and provide extremely responsive service to our clients. To schedule an appointment to discuss your SEPTA or common carrier injury with an experienced personal injury attorney call (215) 246-9000 or contact us online today.
To What Standard of Care Must a Common Carrier Like Septa Conform?
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.
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.
Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys Work to Hold Common Carriers Responsible for Injuries
The personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm work to hold common carriers, like SEPTA, responsible for the injuries they cause due to negligent or reckless operation of bus, trains, or trolleys. By fighting for accident victims we can provide the much-needed compensation injured individuals need while fighting to reduce the likelihood that other members of the public will experience injury through similar circumstances. To schedule a free and confidential personal injury consultation call the personal injury attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000 or contact us online.