May 6, 2015
Public Transit Accidents: You May Have A Right to Receive Compensation After an Injury
By Jonathan Damashek
Millions of New Yorkers rely on public transportation to take us safely where we need to go. The New York City subway, the city buses, and the commuter trains are all a part of daily life. We read a book, listen to music, get some work done or simply relax, not considering the possibility of an accident happening.
But news reports remind us that public transit accidents occur all too often causing serious injuries and disrupting the lives of New Yorkers. In recent weeks:
A bus veered off the road, smashed through a stone wall, and careened down an embankment near the George Washington Bridge in New York City. Two people were hurt.
An Amtrak train headed to New York City slammed into a tractor-trailer that was crossing the tracks in North Carolina. The conductor and at least 54 others were injured.
A Metro-North commuter train slammed into a car on the tracks in Valhalla in Westchester County. Six people were killed and more than a dozen were injured.
In many instances, an error by a motorist, a public transit employee, or lack of maintenance leads to a public transit accident.
The government agencies that oversee the transit systems have a legal obligation to ensure the subways, buses, and trains are safe. In cases where negligence has led to a train, bus, or subway accident, those who have been injured have a right to seek compensation for their injuries and associated losses, such as lost income during recovery. The operating agency or a third party, such as the driver of a passenger or commercial motor vehicle that caused a crash, may be held liable for their negligence.
As you consider a legal claim, there are steps you should take to help your case move forward after a public transit accident. A few of these are:
- Gather evidence of your accident.
Local, state, and federal authorities will investigate a mass transit accident, but it will be helpful for you to document your own experience. If you are able, get photos of the area of the train, bus, or ferry that you occupied to show damage from the accident. Photograph your injuries. Get the names and contact information of people around you and share yours with them.
- Record your activities.
As soon as it is practical after a mass transit accident, write down your activities surrounding the accident. Do this while your memory is fresh. Record such facts as where and when you got on the train or bus, where you were going, possessions you carried with you (such as shopping bags, a purse, a backpack), and where you sat. Write down your recollection of the crash and what happened in its aftermath.
- See a doctor.
If you need emergency care at the accident scene, cooperate with emergency responders. If you do not need emergency care, you should still see a doctor within a day or two of the accident. A medical exam could identify a serious injury that does not have symptoms right away and it will officially document the fact that you were injured, if indeed you were.
- Establish an accident file.
Save everything connected to your accident and the injuries and other losses it has caused. This means saving your photos, damaged and bloody clothing (unwashed), receipts for medical care, medication and every other expense related to the accident, records of work or school absences because of your injuries, and any mentions of you personally in the press regarding the accident.
As your recovery progresses or has setbacks, or your injury causes you hardships like missing significant family occasions, make notes or videos of what you are going through.
- Be wary of offers.
You may hear from insurers, lawyers, or others who promise a quick financial settlement if you will only sign with them. This is especially common after a widely publicized accident. Don’t sign any financial offer. You could be signing away your rights to the compensation you deserve. Don’t expect a quick settlement to be fair.
Personal injury and wrongful death claims are not concluded quickly when the accident is legitimately investigated and all of the injured person’s losses are fully calculated.
- Don’t publicize your claim.
Be careful who you speak to about your accident if you may have a legal claim. Decline to make statements to insurers or the press. Do not put any details of your injuries, impending lawsuit, or expectations for compensation on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Vine, or Instagram.
Any texts, photos, or audio that could be used as evidence that you were not badly hurt or otherwise show that your claim is not legitimate could keep you from obtaining the compensation you deserve.
If you are injured or have lost a loved one in an accident involving public transportation in the New York City metro area, turn to an NYC personal injury firm with a track record of success if you have been injured in a public transit accident.