Personal Injury

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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The Basics of a No-Zone Accident

Anyone can tell you than an eighteen wheeler truck is so much more massive than a regular vehicle. Putting it into a more calculated perspective, an eighteen wheeler can weigh up to 80,000 pounds without a permit while a regular vehicle weighs only around 3,000 to 10,000 pounds. The contrast between the two vehicles is huge and so, when operating such a massive vehicle, there are certain precautionary measures that are needed.

Take, for instance, the amount of visibility that a truck driver has of their surroundings. There are certain areas of the truck that are difficult to see. While a truck driver must be professional trained in matters concerning turns or changing lanes, some drivers may fail to take these “no-zones” into account. If mishandled or negligently done, the narrow spaces in front, behind, or on the sides of a truck could cause significant damage if the truck driver turns suddenly, without the necessary precautions.

This kind of negligence is not something that should be allowed to let pass, henceforth why there are specific restrictions and laws that are exclusive to trucks, their drivers, and the employers who utilize their services. A driver, for example, can only drive a truck for fourteen hours a day. These precautions are necessary not only just to protect the driver but also the other vehicles on the road. There is precedent for this, of course, as the level of damage that truck could do far outweighs the damage that a regular vehicle can do; that’s just the basic math of it.

So if even the slightest bit of a slip up in the standard of care that a truck driver must follow by is neglected, a lot of people could be affected simply by being at the wrong “no-zone” at the wrong time.

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The Relation of Negligence and Personal Injury

In most dealings with personal injury, the word “negligence” is often thrown about with cases concerning it. After all, according to the website, personal injury deals with incidents that have caused injury towards a person that were due to acts that were negligent in nature, either intentionally or unintentionally. But why is that so?

Negligence is the primary cause for personal injury cases as by definition, it means that there has been carelessness from one party and if that carelessness brings forth a damaging accident towards a victim, then the victim is warranted some form of justice and compensation for it. According to the website of the lawyers with Abel Law, every single person has a duty of care to each other. If that duty has been neglected and the result causes injury to someone else, the guilty party is then liable to compensate for the damage done.

In the website, some examples that can be cited of this relationship are through the cases from various subsets of personal injury such as car accident. If Driver A did not practice the necessary precautions when getting on the road – making sure they are well rested, not intoxicated, etc – and this reckless negligence results into a car crash that greatly injures Driver B, then that is means for personal injury.

Things are not, however, always quite as straightforward as all that. Sometimes, things can get complicated, as can be the case for cases involving premises or product liability, wherein the fault lies to a guilty party but it was indirectly done. According to the website of Abel Law, proving negligence can be quite the difficult task.

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How Can You Cope After Personal Injury?

The aftermath of an accident can haunt you all the rest of your days. May it be in the form of a physical scar or through trauma that then affects you mentally and emotionally – there are ways that personal injury can stay with you forever. So how can you cope?

According to the website of the lawyers with the Abel Law Firm, many victims of personal injury find themselves forced to suddenly cope with unexpected and drastic changes to their living situation. If the victim were the primary income earner of the family, the entire household would then be put into jeopardy.

It is then difficult to deal with the aftermath of the personal injury as well as its casualties such as that and that is why it is the most recommended course of action to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. This is so the tedious part of the legal process can be dealt with quickly and smoothly and the recovery from the accident can begin with no hiccups.

Personal injury talks about more than just the physical injuries and the most obvious expenses. It is detailed in posts located in the website of the Law Offices of Mazin & Associates that injuries that are suffered mentally and emotionally also need to be accounted for. There are people who suffer from illnesses like Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and are thereby susceptible to debilitating panic attacks or depressive relapses that render them unable to work. This is no way to live on one’s own and if this trauma was instilled due to an accident that was caused by the negligence of another party, legal action is definitely warranted.

Coping is more than just about closing up the scars – it’s about learning how to live with them and the memories that caused them as well. There are some medications that can aid people who suffer mentally from an accident as well as therapy that allows them a healthier way to express and worth through their struggles.

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