Trains, Buses, and Mega-Disasters – hurt on public transportation?

Wilmington, Delaware - October 20, 2015: AMTRAK's Acela Train #2160 arriving on Track 2 at the Wilmington Train Station

We have all heard the statistical truth that says flying is the safest way to travel. While that may be counter-intuitive considering the horrific airline crashes memorialized on television, we are also beginning to see the disastrous impact of public transportation accidents including train derailments and bus accidents, which happen more frequently. Many readers may recall the terrible tragedy that took place just outside Philadelphia last year when an Amtrak passenger train rounded a curve too quickly and sent the bulk of its passenger cars tumbling into a nearby ditch. The Amtrak train was traveling the Northeast Corridor line from Washington D.C. to New York when it crashed, killing eight passengers and injuring nearly all of the other 230 people on board. But train derailments are not the only type of common carrier mass casualty disaster. Earlier this year, more than thirty people were injured when a New Jersey Transit bus crashed into a tree. Accidents involving common carrier vehicles such as buses and locomotives can injure those on board, along with non-affiliated bystanders. So what are the legal issues surrounding injuries caused by the negligence of common carriers?

Tort Laws and Public Transportation

Traditional tort law (negligence law) held common carriers such as bus and train operators to a higher degree of liability for accidents. Because common carriers were responsible for the safety of a large number of people, legal scholars argued that they should be held to a high safety standard to reduce the risk of potential accidents, which could kill or injure scores of riders. New Jersey has adopted this high standard model. The New Jersey model jury charge for common carriers describes common carriers as “carriers for hire,” which includes trains, subways, elevated railroads, buses, steamships, airplanes, taxicabs and “others similarly engaged in public transportation.” Such common carriers must exercise a “high degree of care” and use the utmost caution as exhibited by a “very cautious and prudent person.” Generally, under the law of tort for regular negligence applied to non-common carriers, a person is held to a “reasonable prudent person” standard. As one can see from the model jury charge related to common carriers, common carrier operators are held to a higher standard of care. As a practical matter, this means that anyone injured while traveling on a bus, train, subway, or other public transit vehicle for hire will, generally speaking, have an easier path to compensation. This high standard for common carriers helps instill confidence in the public transportation industry and holds common carriers to high safety standards.

Speak With A Personal Injury Attorney In New Jersey

Like any other legal matter, obtaining compensation after an injury can be difficult and confusing even if that injury is caused by a common carrier. In fact, if the common carrier is owned by the State or a municipality, the injured person faces strict notice requirements, which can result in the dismissal of her case if such notice requirements are not met shortly after the injury. To prevent this from happening to you and to ensure you obtain the best compensation possible for your injury, you need to speak with an experienced attorney. The lawyers at Villani & DeLuca, P.C. know how to tackle the most complex common carrier cases and can help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 888-389-9533 to set up your free consultation.