Posts made in June, 2017

Rules and Limitations that can Shield SEPTA from Liability

On January 12, 2017, NBC News reported a fatal bus accident in Philadelphia Area: the victim was a 64-year-old woman; the vehicle involved was a SEPTA bus.

Another SEPTA bus crash occurred on March 2, 2017, leaving 12 people injured – this involved another SEPTA bus that was said to have collided with a Philadelphia Water Department truck.

SEPTA, short for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, is a regional public transportation authority that operates roughly 120 bus routes in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Chester and Bucks County (other forms of public transit services SEPTA provides include subway and elevated rail, commuter rail, light rail and electric trolleybus).

Anyone who has walked the streets of Philadelphia can be witness to how SEPTA bus drivers have driven at excessive rates of speed, ran yellow and red lights, and failed to observe the rules of the road. As a result, hundreds of SEPTA bus accidents have occurred and continue to occur each year involving other cars, bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians. SEPTA general counsel Gino Benedetti himself has said that during the 2014-15 fiscal year SEPTA was sued about 1,400 times, not just 408 times as court records show. Back in 1988, this same number of lawsuits, 405, was filed against SEPTA in the month of January alone.

However, that whether one is injured while a passenger on a SEPTA bus, as a result of a car accident with a SEPTA bus, or while a pedestrian after being struck by a SEPTA bus, there are certain rules and limitations that will apply due to SEPTA being a government agency. This means SEPTA is entitled to certain immunity under the law. Also, an individual injured as a result of SEPTA’s negligence must provide notice (using SEPTA claims form) within 6 months of the date of the SEPTA accident. Failure to provide timely notice may result to inability to pursue a claim for personal injuries. In addition, SEPTA can be held liable only for injuries that occur with respect to its negligent operation of its buses and vehicles. In other words, the courts have held that in order to sue SEPTA, your personal injuries must have been caused by SEPTA’s actual operation of its vehicles. Since “to operate” means “to put in motion,” preparing to operate a vehicle or acts taken once the vehicle has come to a complete stop, therefore, cannot be considered as operating a vehicle. In fact, courts have rejected many lawsuits filed by passengers injured on SEPTA buses that were not “operating” at the time. For example, Pennsylvania courts have granted SEPTA immunity on the basis that SEPTA was not “operating a vehicle” in the following circumstances:

  • SEPTA bus rear-ended while loading/unloading passengers;
  • SEPTA bus overcrowded which resulted in passenger missing his stop and falling at the next stop;
  • SEPTA driver did not “kneel” bus properly for passenger to exit; and,
  • Wheelchair ramp was uneven with the ground after being lowered, resulting in injuries to wheelchair-bound passenger attempting to exit via ramp.

In 2011, the new law called the Fair Share Act was also gave SEPTA the assurance that it would no longer be on the hook for large payouts unless it can be ruled that it is responsible for at least 60 percent of an accident.

If you are a SEPTA passenger, pedestrian or car driver injured as a result of a SEPTA bus accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering as well as any economic damages such as wage loss and medical expenses incurred. However, due to the many rules and limitations that can shield SEPTA from liability, it may be much more advantageous if you will be represented by a skilled and experienced SEPTA accident lawyer.



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Common Damages Associated with Wrongful Deaths

A wrongful death occurs when a person has undeservedly died because of another person’s error, negligence, or recklessness. Usually, this happens in the form of accidents, such as the following:

  • Car accidents caused by reckless drivers
  • Medical malpractice cases caused by unwarrantedly incompetent medical professionals
  • Product liability cases caused by negligent designers and manufacturers
  • Premises liability cases caused by negligent property owners
  • Workplace accidents caused by negligent employers and supervisors

According to the website of these Chicago accident attorneys, those who have lost loved ones because of wrongful death may have legal options, like trying to make the responsible party accountable for the damages.
Family members may be able to get compensation for the following damages:

  • Medical Expenses – Not all victims immediately succumbed to injuries and illnesses that have been sustained from other parties. Some survive for quite a while, resulting into huge hospital bills, medication costs, and rehabilitative costs, not to mention false hopes from family members that their loved ones will survive.
  • Funeral Expenses – Aside from the medical costs, another direct financial burden is the funeral costs for the victims. Funerals are both expensive and emotional, making them double whammies.
  • Lost Salaries – This may not be a direct financial burden like medical and funeral expenses, but they are equally as devastating. This is particularly problematic if the victims are the primary workers in their respective families, because the lost wages will surely translate to significant lifestyle changes.
  • Lost Benefits – Financial plans including healthcare benefits, social security benefits, and pension plans may also be put at risk if their users have passed away, and this is another indirect financial burden to the family members and may even compromise their future, especially the children.
  • Lost Companionship – The victims’ spouses and children have lost an important person in their lives. This may have emotional and psychological implications, especially on children that are still on their development years. Usually, courts don’t give monetary compensation for lost companionship, but it can be a valid argument to strengthen a wrongful death case.
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