SEPTA Accidents in Philadelphia
The South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) is one of the largest public transportation operations in the world. The size and scope of SEPTA means that at any time of day, there is a good chance a train, bus, or trolley will be involved in an accident.
Pennsylvanians are frequently injured in slip, trip, and fall accidents on SEPTA platforms, bus stops, and at transit hubs. SEPTA vehicles cause serious car accidents and injuries to pedestrians. Thousands of injuries happen because of SEPTA each year in Pennsylvania, but only a few hundred cases are filed with the Courts, and only a small percentage of those claims are successful.
Hiring a Lawyer for Your SEPTA Injury Claim
Hiring a personal injury lawyer is always a good idea when filing an injury claim. You need good representation that understands the unique laws in Pennsylvania, no matter how your injury happened. But with SEPTA accidents, it is vital that you hire the absolute best personal injury lawyers who know what it takes to win cases against SEPTA. The laws that restrict how claims can be filed are tricky, and it is very easy to miss a filing deadline, fail to file a document correctly, or make a mistake that can cause your entire claim to be thrown out, costing you the opportunity to recover damages from your SEPTA accident.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
First and foremost, a personal injury lawyer that knows how to handle SEPTA claims will be able to get your case moving forward quickly. A lawyer will make sure that you are able to get the medical care you need, whether you need to see doctors or specialists, or when physical therapy sessions need to be arranged, your injury lawyer makes sure you get the care you deserve without the fear and worry of the process. Your accident attorney will put your mind at ease, take away the stress of litigation, and allow you and your family the peace of mind to rest and recover from your injuries.
The Best Advantages of Hiring an Accident Lawyer in Pennsylvania
Filing claims against SEPTA, or any government agency for that matter, is not an exercise for the faint of heart. Government attorneys get paid to prevent lawsuits from ever reaching the courts, and they have numerous tricks they can use to reduce liability, shield the agencies from responsibility, and ultimately, pay you as little as possible for your injury.
Laws that protect the government from injury claims date back to a time when we were ruled by the Monarchy of England and “the King could do no wrong.” It takes a special lawyer, one with the skills and experience earned by successfully litigating claims against government agencies, to succeed in a personal injury lawsuit against SEPTA. Not every attorney can win these cases, so it is important to retain a great injury attorney in Philadelphia to handle your SEPTA claim. Fighting back against the government to recover damages is substantially more challenging than winning any other type of injury claim.
A personal injury attorney will make sure every step of the complex process to file and win your case is followed. Our attorney’s have extensive experience winning SEPTA injury claims resulting from accidents on buses, trains, trolleys, and transit stations. Getting the best outcome from your claim depends on hiring the right personal injury attorney.
Special Rules that Protect SEPTA
Most Pennsylvanians know that if you are injured at a business or by an employee of a business while they are working, you have a right to recover damages including medical bills and pain and suffering. SEPTA is different from a private business. Numerous laws that reduce frivolous lawsuits and protect the government from a constant stream of litigation apply to personal injury claims against SEPTA.
These rules make filing claims against government agencies in Pennsylvania especially tricky. The vast majority of SEPTA injury claims that do not make it to the courts are lost because of technical errors in filing. Injury claims against SEPTA have a very short window to file the claim in, and numerous laws prevent claims common in personal injury law. Further, monetary awards from accidents involving SEPTA are capped by law, so you may not be able to recover enough to pay your medical bills, lost wages, and expenses. Failure to follow the proper procedure as outlined in law results in dismissal with no recourse. That is why hiring an experienced SEPTA accident lawyer is necessary to get the best possible outcome.
The Sovereign Immunity Act: Pennsylvania Code §8521
The use of Sovereign Immunity Law in the United States actually dates to a case that arose from actions in Philadelphia Harbor in 1811. The case arose after a ship, armed and crewed by the French Navy, docked in Philadelphia for emergency repairs. While in port, two Americans filed suit, claiming they rightfully owned the ship and that it had been commandeered on the high seas.
In the case, the Supreme Court ruled that American citizens cannot sue foreign governments for personal losses. The practice of Sovereign Immunity has since spread to include Federal and State governments, but not municipalities. Today, Sovereign Immunity law is exceedingly complex and has been met with numerous legal challenges, leading to a more flexible interpretation of the application of immunity.
Pennsylvania State Law sets out the provisions of Sovereign Immunity within the Commonwealth through Title 42 § 8521, The Sovereign Immunity Act.
Pennsylvania Laws and SEPTA Claims
Pennsylvania law establishes Sovereign Immunity for the State, Cities, and Municipalities, but also applies strict limitations to claims of immunity. The limitations of the Sovereign Immunity Act are found in Pennsylvania Code Title 42 § 8522.
Pennsylvania law spells out 10 instances when State governments can be sued for damages. These include motor vehicle accidents that would normally result in personal injury damages. The limitation includes instances when a SEPTA vehicle is involved in accidents.
Applying Sovereign Immunity
Sovereign Immunity is applied to SEPTA because it is owned by the Commonwealth, and therefore part of the State. Court rulings have held that a SEPTA vehicle must be “in operation” to qualify for exemption from Sovereign Immunity.
This means that when a SEPTA vehicle is not in motion, you cannot sue SEPTA for injuries. Even if the vehicle is stopped, with the engine running, and you slip, trip, and fall, SEPTA is protected from claims of injury. You will have to go through your automobile insurance to seek recovery for your injuries.
Your personal injury attorney will help you defeat sovereign immunity claims. There are ways to overcome an immunity defense, but it can be very challenging. Our attorney’s win these cases because we know the laws and how to win against the odds.
Pennsylvania’s “Jerk and Jolt” Doctrine
The Jerk and Jolt Doctrine is the result of a series of court decisions that hold injuries caused by the jerk and jolt of a passenger vehicle must be extreme and extraordinary beyond a person’s reasonable anticipation before claims of injury can proceed. In practice, most instances of injury caused by sudden acceleration or braking risk dismissal under the Jerk and Jolt Doctrine.
Defending Against Jerk and Jolt Limitations
Claims stand a better chance of success when more than one person is injured and it can be established that the motion was truly extraordinary. Unfortunately, the legal definition of extraordinary jerking and jolting is not established. A good injury attorney can help you establish the severity of motion that caused your injury.
Slip, Trip, and Fall Limitations
One nuanced wrinkle in Pennsylvania law applies to SEPTA platforms. In most personal injury claims, the owner of a walkway may be held liable for an injury that is caused by intentional melting of ice and snow. Supreme Court rulings have found that SEPTA is exempt from this doctrine unless the platform is defective or improperly designed. Slip, trip, and fall claims can be particularly difficult to prove. Numerous aspects of the law reduce or prevent SEPTA liability.
A personal injury attorney is essential to winning your case against SEPTA. There are numerous ways attorneys representing SEPTA can slip out of paying your claim. Don’t let SEPTA lawyers swindle you out of the settlement you deserve. Our attorney’s will fight for you and use the nuanced Pennsylvania laws to your advantage. We will get you the best settlement possible for your injuries.
Car Accidents Involving SEPTA Vehicles
Pennsylvania law does not shield SEPTA drivers from personal injury lawsuits when they cause accidents. SEPTA is liable for the damages caused by negligent actions of drivers. Injuries can happen to passengers riding within SEPTA buses, trains, and trolley.
Accidents happen when SEPTA drivers fail to stop at signs or signals, or make turns across lanes of traffic that are not clear. Pedestrians and bicyclists are frequently hit by SEPTA vehicles in crosswalks and on roadways in Philadelphia. SEPTA drivers make the same mistakes as anyone else, and a driver of a speeding bus is just as liable as a person driving a speeding car.
Winning Car Accident Claims Against SEPTA
SEPTA attorneys are skilled at settling injury claims quickly, quietly, and for as little money as possible. Our attorneys have seen all the tricks, and we know how to win. Don’t let the legal process intimidate you into settling your car accident claim with a SEPTA vehicle ruin your life.
Our attorneys handle your claim completely and professionally, freeing you to focus on recovering. We won’t let you be bullied into a settlement that doesn’t compensate you for your injuries.
Common Injuries in SEPTA-Related Accidents
The types of injuries that can happen as a result of accidents involving SEPTA vehicles and platforms is varied and extensive. Our attorneys have seen claims of injury as a result of collisions with trains and buses, falls in parking areas and from platforms, and many other types of injury.
Common injuries we often address when settling injury claims against SEPTA:
In both collisions and falls, injuries to the spine and neck are the most common. Any neck injury will require extensive testing and rehabilitation to recover from without lasting pain and reduced movement. Neck and spine injuries can take days to show symptoms and can take months to fully recover from. Serious injuries can result in paralysis, traumatic brain injuries, and death. There is no such thing as a minor neck, spine, or head injury.
The Cost of Neck, Back and Head Injuries
Injuries to the spine, neck, and head can result in tens of thousands in medical bills to treat. Accidents that result in serious spinal injuries that require surgical fusion can cost more than $26,000 for the surgery alone. After scans, testing, surgery, medications, and rehabilitation, a back surgery can easily exceed $200,000.
A traumatic brain injury, often called a concussion, can cost as much as $85,000 to treat. Traumatic brain injuries can have long-lasting consequences, and some estimates are that lifetime treatment for these injuries can reach $3 million.
Fractures are common in collisions. Our offices handle far too many injury claims resulting from pedestrians and bicyclists being struck by SEPTA drivers. Broken bones occur regularly in collisions. Falls, particularly when they happen to an older person, can result in serious fractures that can be life-threatening.
The Cost of Fractures
Treatment and rehabilitation for a simple fracture can result in medical bills over $10,000. More complex injuries, like a hip fracture suffered in a trip and fall may require several surgeries and a lifetime of pain. Hip fracture medical costs can reach $95,000 and are the leading cause of accidental death in Americans over the age of 65.
Strains, Sprains, and Tears:
Many people are injured each year on SEPTA vehicles due to lurching starts and stops that cause sprains and strains. These injuries can seem minor, and sometimes all you need is rest to recover, but by the time you know the difference between a serious injury and a minor one, you have lost precious time.
Cost of Sprains, Strains, and Tears
A sprained ankle is painful, but is usually easy to treat. In order for a sprain to heal, you must rest the ankle until it has healed. For many people with busy lives and jobs that they need to go to, this kind of rest is impossible. Too many people rush their recovery from a sprain to prevent missing work, only to cause a more severe injury that puts them out of work for a longer period of time. Costs of treatment for a sprain can be $5,000, but ligament damage, such as an ACL tear is more difficult to recover from and more expensive. A torn ACL surgery will cost around $20,000.
Protecting Your Medical Benefits
Personal injury lawyers are skilled at making sure you get the medical benefits you need when you are hurt in an accident with a SEPTA vehicle. Many times, settlement offers from claims against SEPTA seem like a good deal, but they do not take into account the full magnitude of the expense your injury causes. Claims against SEPTA are often the most challenging to get the best settlement, that’s why our attorneys fight hard for you.
Statute of Limitations
Pennsylvania Law allows for up to two years to file a claim for injury resulting from the negligent actions of someone else.
Claims against SEPTA must follow a very specific format to be accepted. An experienced personal injury attorney will help you file your claim on time, correctly, but you should contact one as soon as possible after your injury.
Most of the time, when you are injured in an accident with a SEPTA driver, you will be given an incident card. You should keep that as proof that you were present in an accident.
You have six months from the time of incident to file a “Notice of Claim” with SEPTA. This is a document that announces a civil action against a government agency and requires that certain information be submitted.
The notice must include:
- Your Name and Address
- The Name and Address of the Person Who Caused the Accident
- The Date, Time, and Location of the Accident
- Your Treating Physician’s Contact Information
Failure to file this information within the six month period can result in a denial of claim by SEPTA that is legally enforceable and difficult to get around.
The law requires that you exhaust all administrative efforts to resolve your claim. The process involves negotiations between doctors, lawyers, and claims adjusters. Most injury claims are settled out of court through fair negotiation.
A skilled personal injury attorney will be able to assist you in resolving your claim because we understand how the injury you suffered compares to injuries suffered by similar people. We use legal findings to your advantage and make sure the settlement you receive is fair.
Caps on SEPTA Liability
The law sets a cap on the amount of money that can be brought in a suit against SEPTA for injury. The limits are $250,000 per claim, and $1 million per accident. The cost of healthcare continues to rise, and many of the common injuries experienced by people involved in accidents with SEPTA vehicles can be catastrophically expensive. It is vital that you have the kind of experienced personal injury attorney who can win your SEPTA injury claim.
When Should You Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
The statute of limitations on filing a claim with SEPTA is brief. It is best not to wait to contact an attorney. Many people are not sure if they have a claim, and so they don’t call soon enough. We offer a free consultation, just so that you can share the facts of your accident with our attorneys. Our experience winning cases against SEPTA gives us the confidence to guarantee that we can win your claim. If we can’t settle your case, you owe us nothing.
Why it is Vital to Have an Attorney When Filing Against SEPTA?
The day before Christmas Eve, 1996, Crystal Jones stepped off a train at the Fern Rock Station in Philadelphia. It was a frigid day, with gusty winds and snow falling lightly off and on.
The promise of a white Christmas was in the air and workers at the station had spread rock salt to prevent ice forming on the platform as falling temperatures and an incoming storm were expected. As Jones stepped onto the platform from the train, she slipped on the rock salt and fell.
Beyond the embarrassment of falling in public, Jones was injured and had to seek medical help. Jones suffered significant injuries in her fall, and her attorney filed a personal injury claim against the operator of the platform alleging negligence on the part of workers for failing to properly warn passengers and remove built up rock salt from the platform.
Jones’ attorney believed that workers knew or should have known that the rock salt would create an unsafe condition, and that it was the responsibility of the station operator to prevent dangerous situations such as the one Jones was injured in.
The operator of the train and the responsibility of the station are under the authority of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). In many instances, Jones’ injuries would likely result in a successful personal injury claim for negligence, for instance if Jones had filed against a business or restaurant. In Pennsylvania, laws passed in 1964 limit the potential liability and apply a cap to awards against Commonwealth parties, such as SEPTA, a protection not afforded to businesses in the state.
In Jones’ case, courts sided with SEPTA and determined that her injuries were not recoverable under the Sovereign Immunity Act, the law that restricts the liability of Commonwealth parties.
In Jones case, the rock salt was determined to be the cause of her slip and fall, not the construction of the platform, a key determination against her in the suit. Because the platform was properly constructed, and it was determined that the rock salt caused her fall, SEPTA was not liable for the injuries Jones suffered.
Jones case illustrates how important it is to hire the best personal injury attorney in Philadelphia when trying to recover damages from an injury that occurs on a bus, train or subway operated by SEPTA. Our attorneys are experienced in handling claims against SEPTA and will determine the best course of action to recover damages suffered and prevent lost benefits you deserve.
SEPTA is the nations sixth largest public transportation agency in ridership and operates all major types of surface transportation. They operate regional commuter trains, subway and elevated trains, light rail trollies, trolley buses and coach buses. The agency is responsible for 290 stations and made nearly $478 million in passenger fares in 2016 according to the 2016 SEPTA Annual Report. SEPTA paid out $110 million in worker’s compensation, public liability and property damage claims that year, a decrease of $18 million from 2015 and nearly $40 million less than in 2014.
SEPTA will do whatever it can to avoid paying injury claims to riders and others who are injured. SEPTA uses video cameras in its transit vehicles and stations, and uses the video evidence to vigorously defend itself, even filing evidence with the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute people who SEPTA believes file fraudulent claims.
The laws regulating injury claims against Commonwealth parties like SEPTA are massively complex and have multiple factors that can impact how a claim is filed and what the limits of the settlement can be.
It is imperative to hire an experienced attorney to protect yourself and get the benefits you deserve. The attorneys at Joel J. Kofsky can discuss your case and determine if a claim against SEPTA is appropriate. Winning an injury case against SEPTA is difficult due to the unusual laws regulating the agency.
SEPTA employees attorneys well educated in defending against injury claims. Pursuing a case against SEPTA without a highly trained and experienced personal injury attorney is not wise.
We will ensure that your injury case is handled professionally and in your best interest.
Nationally, more than 24,000 people suffered injuries on public transportation in the United States according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Safety (BTS). In all, 155 people lost their lives in public transportation accidents in 2016, and data from BTS shows a trending increase in fatalities nationwide.
Injuries are on the rise, too, as reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation. More people are using public transportation, but injuries are outpacing ridership growth nationwide. In many cases, the injuries are the result of transportation agencies such as SEPTA failing to maintain vehicles and walkways, leading to dangerous situations that can result in devastating injuries.
Injuries can occur in a variety of situations on SEPTA transit lines. Buses, trollies, subway cars and rail cars all present dangers, and Pennsylvania weather can make using public transportation particularly hazardous. Many injuries occur when riders are knocked to the ground by sudden stops, starts and turns; situations that can lead to claims of negligence by SEPTA.
Others are injured in collisions with cars, other trains and objects. If you are injured on a SEPTA transit vehicle or on SEPTA property, one of the first steps to take is to contact an experienced lawyer to help with filing a claim against SEPTA. It can be difficult to prove that SEPTA was negligent. The attorney’s at Joel J. Kofsky will ensure that your injury claim is filed correctly and will fight for you to make sure SEPTA is held responsible for your injuries.
There are many factors that can lead to injuries on SEPTA transit lines. Critical information, such as the speed and direction of travel, operator’s being distracted, traffic and road safety problems and the effects of Philadelphia’s weather can all lead to accidents on trains, buses and trolleys operated by SEPTA.
In some cases, the variables that lead to an injury can reduce or remove SEPTA from responsibility. Knowing how these factors impact your claim, and how to proceed legally to guarantee fair and just compensation for your injury is the role your personal injury attorney will provide. Experience counts with injury cases against SEPTA, and our attorney’s will use the success they have to argue your case and get the best compensation possible.
If your injuries are not severe, you should document the situation to the best of your ability. If someone saw what happened, ask them for a phone number. What they saw may be important to prove negligence. The driver of the bus or operator of the train should provide you with an incident card that verifies you were involved in an incident. Document the drivers name and number, the number of the vehicle, the route number and as much information about the location and scenario as possible.
An attorney will need as much information as possible in order to determine how to proceed with your case. Take photographs of as much of the scene as possible. Try and document any injuries you have to the best of your ability. If police or SEPTA security are called, get their information and request a copy of a police report.
Claims can be filed with SEPTA online, but the agency does require that you answer six questions. SEPTA will not accept claims filed without the following information: Date, Time, Route, Location, Destination and whether the individual filing the claim was on a SEPTA vehicle or injured by one, or if the person was inured on property operated by SEPTA. The agency will review the claim and conduct an investigation to determine the circumstances involved in the accident.
SEPTA may take as little as a few weeks to as long as a few months to complete an investigation. Our lawyers will fight for you to ensure the review is as quick as possible and that you will be able to receive medical treatment as needed while your claim is being investigated.
Most injury claims involving public transportation injuries are settled out of court. The Law Dictionary reports that about 96 percent of injury claims nationwide are settled without litigation. They point out that this number is skewed by the tendency of injured persons to become impatient with waiting for the claim to be settled and accepting initial offers that don’t always cover all the injuries sustained.
It is important to allow your attorney to conduct as thorough an investigation as possible. Cases settled quickly can risk missing potentially long-term consequences of injuries that take time to heal, and once a case is settled, your injuries might not be covered.
The Law Dictionary cites that settlements arranged through litigation often result in higher award amounts. Having a trustworthy injury attorneys, like the ones at our firm, can make all the difference between getting back on your feet and living with a lifetime of suffering.
Once SEPTA has completed their investigation and your attorney has interviewed witnesses, negotiations will begin. Typically, agencies like SEPTA will seek to settle an injury case in which they can be held at fault for as little money as possible.
Often, injured persons will accept this award, sometimes at the urging of an attorney. In many injury claims filed against SEPTA, it is ill advised to settle quickly. Our attorneys will review the settlement offer and compare it to the costs of filing a suit and make a recommendation. A litigation firm that is confident in it’s abilities will not be afraid to go to court to get the best settlement for you.
We have a proven track record of winning cases against public agencies like SEPTA in court and won’t be intimidated by agency operatives trying to settle claims quickly at your expense.
Winning a case against SEPTA is not an easy process. Claims can take more than a year to settle, and may take even longer if your attorney tries the case in court. SEPTA will try to resolve the case in their interest, and it is your attorney’s job to make sure you receive appropriate medical care and compensation for your injury.
Hiring a top attorney to manage your claim is the most important decision you can make. Leaving the process up to chance, or worse, hiring an attorney who doesn’t have the experience to win, will leave you in a dangerous situation that can cost you years of health and happiness.