The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) provides public transit services for Philadelphia as well as the counties of Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester. As the sixth-largest public transit network in the country, SEPTA provides over 330 million rides per year.
Although most passengers arrive at their destination without incident, SEPTA accidents are more common than many people believe. As a Philadelphia SEPTA injury attorney who has been helping injured victims for over 30 years, Gary Heslin has seen firsthand the devastating consequences of a SEPTA driver’s negligence.
How Mass Transit Can Lead to Serious Accidents
There is an inherent danger while riding in a vehicle without seat belts that is known for making sudden stops. Passengers in SEPTA accidents can suffer a wide range of serious injuries. These may include:
- Soft tissue injuries
- Broken bones
- Brain injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Back injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Organ damage
- Nerve damage
Pedestrians, bicyclists, and occupants of other vehicles who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time can also be seriously injured in SEPTA accidents. The size and weight of a SEPTA bus increase the force of impact—leading to serious injuries even at relatively low speeds. Bus drivers who are speeding, running red lights, and failing to observe the rules of the road in order to maintain the posted schedule only serve to increase the risk of an accident occurring.
What to Do After a SEPTA Accident
The process of protecting your right to a fair recovery begins immediately after you’re involved in an accident. The following is a brief overview:
- If you are a passenger on a SEPTA bus, the driver will hand out a form to fill out that will identify you as a passenger on the bus. The form will come with a duplicate. Keep one for your records and give the other to the bus driver. Without proof you were on the bus during the accident, a major setback can occur that will delay the settlement. If the bus driver does not hand out forms, ask for one.
- Request the bus driver’s name. Write down a detailed description of the driver, including information such as sex, race, height, weight, and any distinguishing features in case you need to identify them at some point.
- Record the time, bus number, and route you were on at the time of the Pennsylvania SEPTA accident.
- Do your best to collect the names, phone numbers, and addresses of any witnesses at the scene of the accident. If possible, get the names and phone numbers of some of the passengers on the bus.
- If you are able to do so, take pictures of the accident scene. Photos taken from a variety of angles can be valuable evidence in a claim. Surveillance cameras have been installed on all SEPTA buses, but it can take time to access the footage.
- Report your injury to a healthcare provider right away, even if you aren’t sure that you have been hurt. If necessary, request transport to an emergency room. Tell the doctor you were involved in a SEPTA accident and explain your symptoms in as much detail as possible. If your medical records do not indicate you were injured by a SEPTA bus, the insurance company will deny or delay the claim.
Damages in a SEPTA Accident
As with other types of personal injury claims, a SEPTA accident case can include compensation for:
- Medical care, including emergency care, surgery, hospital stays, prescription medications, physical therapy, and other necessary services determined by your healthcare provider
- Anticipated future medical needs, if you’ve been left permanently disabled by the accident
- Lost wages from the time you were unable to work due to your injuries
- Any loss of future earning potential due to your injuries
- Pain and suffering
The damages in a SEPTA accident can be substantial. In a previous SEPTA accident case, Heslin Law Firm was representing a client who was offered a $100,000 dollar settlement. She was tired of the trial and wanted to return to her home in Puerto Rico. Against our firm’s advice, she was willing to settle for $120,000. When SEPTA refused, she allowed us to continue with her case. Two days later, the jury came back with a verdict of $1.5 million.
Proving Liability in a SEPTA Accident
SEPTA is a government agency, which means special rules limit its liability for injuries. For example:
- If you are claiming an injury due to a sudden stop, you have to prove it was unusual or extraordinary. This is known as the “jerk and jolt” rule. It’s not enough that you were thrown and injured as a result of the stop. Having other passengers on the bus who can explain the situation in a way that is consistent with your version of the story will help your case.
- SEPTA must be “operating a vehicle” when you are injured. If you are hurt while exiting the bus or the bus is rear-ended while stopped, your claim can be denied. The vehicle needs to be in motion at the time the accident occurred.
- Personal injury claims in Pennsylvania normally have a two-year statute of limitations, but SEPTA accident claims require you to give notice of your intent to sue within six months of your injury.
Why Hire a SEPTA Accident Lawyer?
Since SEPTA is considered a “common carrier” under the law, they are required to be held at a higher standard of care when dealing with the safety of their passengers. However, these cases are so complex that only an experienced Philadelphia-based SEPTA accident lawyer can help you receive a fair financial settlement for the damages you’ve suffered.
You may be thinking it’s impossible to hire an attorney if your injuries are preventing you from working, but SEPTA personal injury attorneys like Gary Heslin work on a contingency fee basis. Your fee for legal services is a percentage of the final settlement you receive, so there’s no upfront cost associated with pursuing your recovery.
Philadelphia SEPTA Accident Attorney
To learn more about how Heslin Law Firm can help with your case, complete our contact form or call 215-332-0300 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We’ll explain your options without any confusing legal jargon and help you decide how to best proceed.
Our office is located in Philadelphia’s Mayfair neighborhood and convenient to residents of Crescentville, Lawndale, Rhawnhurst, Tacony, Holme Circle, Holmesburg, Upper Holmesburg, Morrell Park, Oxford Circle, Castor Gardens, Burholme, Bell's Corner, Normandy, Summerdale, Bustleton, Parkwood, Somerton, Fox Chase, Modena Park, Pennypack Woods, Torresdale, and Winchester Park.