There are a substantial number of car accidents involving commercial buses such as Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) each year. SEPTA operates roughly 120 bus routes in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Chester and Bucks County, although the majority of SEPTA’s bus routes are in Philadelphia proper.
Anyone who has walked the streets of Philadelphia has observed SEPTA buses driving at excessive rates of speed well above the posted speed limit, running yellow and red lights, and failing to observe the rules of the road. As a result, there are hundreds of SEPTA bus accidents each year involving other cars, bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians.
Due to the large number of SEPTA accidents each year, SEPTA has installed surveillance cameras on all of its buses in an effort to crackdown on fraudulent claims. While the video surveillance has helped SEPTA to root out baseless claims, it is also very helpful to SEPTA accident lawyers in Philadelphia, because we are able to obtain videotape of the car accident, with cameras located both inside the vehicle and outside. As a result, we are able to see footage of our clients being thrown around inside the vehicle, as well as footage of the exterior showing the accident itself.
Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers have handled hundreds of SEPTA bus accident cases over the years with great success. The SEPTA accident cases we have handled consist of the following:
SEPTA Accident Passenger Injuries
If you are a SEPTA passenger 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. If you are a passenger on a SEPTA bus involved in an accident and you do not own a motor vehicle and also do not live with a relative who owns a car, SEPTA will have to pay for your medical treatment related to the car accident up to $5,000.
In order to get SEPTA to pay however, you will need to complete an application for benefits and affidavit of no insurance in a timely manner, in addition to having reported your injuries promptly. If you have your own motor vehicle, your car insurance will be first priority under the law and will pay for your personal injury accident related medical treatment even though you were on a SEPTA bus and were not driving at the time of the car accident.
There are two possible scenarios if you are injured on a SEPTA bus. If the SEPTA bus driver is at fault, we will be able to pursue SEPTA to recover pain and suffering and economic damages such as lost wages and medical expenses incurred. If the other car in the SEPTA accident is at fault, we will pursue the negligent driver who caused the car accident.
Either way, it is important to consult with a Philadelphia SEPTA accident lawyer immediately following a crash in order to make sure that all appropriate parties are properly notified of your claim and of your injuries. A SEPTA bus accident lawyer will be able to deal directly with SEPTA to facilitate the payment of medical expenses where required, as well as obtain insurance information for the other driver and communicate with that driver’s insurance company too.
Passengers on SEPTA buses are always deemed to be full-tort under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law because one of the exceptions to the limited tort law in Pennsylvania is for those individuals who are passengers on non-commercial vehicles.
Car Accident Involving SEPTA
In addition to being injured while a passenger on a SEPTA bus, one can also be injured while driving or a passenger in another car that is involved in a car accident with a SEPTA bus. In these circumstances, your own motor vehicle insurance will provide coverage for your medical treatment, and you will be bound by whatever tort option you selected when you purchased your motor vehicle insurance policy.
However, you will still be required to provide legal notice to SEPTA within 6 months of your SEPTA bus accident informing them that you sustained injuries as a result of the accident and providing identifying information. Failure to do so could result in you being precluded from eventually filing a personal injury lawsuit against SEPTA. Once again, consultation with a SEPTA accident lawyer in Philadelphia is highly recommended.
Pedestrian Injured by SEPTA Bus
Sadly, there are often occasions when a pedestrian is involved in an accident with SEPTA. One does not have to walk through Center City for very long in order to observe a SEPTA bus driver running a red light or aggressively entering the intersection after the traffic light has turned yellow, oblivious to the fact that on the other side of the street pedestrians have now entered the intersection after being given the walk signal.
Thankfully, in most instances the SEPTA driver is able to avoid hitting anyone, but occasionally we are not so fortunate, and a pedestrian is struck by the SEPTA bus. In these instances, the pedestrian hit by the SEPTA bus has every right to recover damages and pain and suffering from SEPTA due to the negligence of its driver in causing the accident.
SEPTA Immunity and Legal Requirements
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 apply. Because SEPTA is a government agency, it is entitled to certain immunity under the law. While SEPTA does not enjoy immunity with regard to bus accidents that occur due to its negligent operation of its buses, unfortunately an individual can only recover up to $250,000 in damages from SEPTA due to the cap set under the law.
Also, an individual injured as a result of SEPTA’s negligence must provide notice within 6 months of the date of the SEPTA accident. SEPTA has a claims form that it asks those injured as a result of a SEPTA accident to complete and submit. If you do not provide timely notice you may be unable to pursue a claim for personal injuries as a result of the bus accident, so it is imperative that you speak to an experienced Philadelphia SEPTA accident lawyer immediately following your injury.
Additionally, SEPTA is only liable 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. The courts have further held that to operate means to put in motion.
Preparing to operate a vehicle or acts taken once the vehicle has come to a complete stop are not the same as operating a vehicle, and courts have consistently rejected 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
- Wheelchair ramp was uneven with the ground after being lowered, resulting in injuries to wheelchair-bound passenger attempting to exit via ramp
The critical inquiry is whether the bus, or any part thereof, is in motion. Courts have denied SEPTA’s immunity claims regarding passengers injured as a result of being struck by bus doors which were in motion. It is important to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney in Philadelphia, PA at once regarding your SEPTA accident in order to explore the possible theories of liability against SEPTA and to prepare for any immunity defenses that SEPTA may raise.
What to do Following a SEPTA Accident
- Make sure to immediately write down the bus number, route number, time of day and accident location. This information is critical following a SEPTA bus accident as it will enable your personal injury lawyer to properly put SEPTA on notice and obtain video of the accident.
- If possible, obtain and write down the name of the SEPTA driver, as well as any other drivers involved in the car accident.
- If injured while a passenger on the SEPTA bus, make sure that the driver takes down your name and information to transmit to SEPTA on his/her incident form.
- Write down the names and telephone numbers of any fellow passengers or other witnesses to the car accident.
- Take pictures of the bus, the license plate numbers of all vehicles involved, street signs and anything else you can photograph at the scene of the bus accident. With the advent of smart phones, most of us always have a camera at our disposal- use it!
- Seek medical attention if you are injured. If you do not have a family doctor, go to your local emergency room. If you have a family doctor contact that physician and ask to be seen that day in order to be evaluated for your personal injuries.
- Contact an experienced car accident lawyer immediately. As indicated above, there are specific notice requirements that must be met in order to pursue a claim against SEPTA. An experienced car accident lawyer will be able to assist you in making sure that you submit all required information. Don’t wait too long and find out that it is too late to pursue a claim because you did not comply with the notice provisions under the law-call a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident and arrange for your free consultation.
Contact a Philadelphia SEPTA Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a SEPTA accident, contact the Philadelphia bus accident attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC to arrange a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers. You can also reach us at (215) 875-7030.