One of the advantages of living in Washington is all the different forms of public transportation available to residents and visitors. There are monorails, trains, ferries and buses that can get people from one place to the next, and there are many ways for people to see the sights the area has to offer and commute to and from work. Unfortunately, with all the options out there, there are also going to be accidents associated with them along the way, such as the December derailing of a speeding Amtrak train in Tacoma that took three lives and injured countless others.
At the beginning of the year, the Amtrak victims and their families filed a lawsuit against Amtrak, but they may be facing a difficult battle. Getting compensation, no matter how deserved, when public transit is involved is more complicated than people think, which is why it’s so important to have an experienced personal injury lawyer in Washington involved in these types of cases.
Public Transit Carriers are Protected
Many public transit accidents happen because of errors made by the driver or negligence. In the Amtrak case, for example, it has been reported that the train was going 50 miles above the speed limit and the engineer may have been distracted by a cell phone or something else in his cab when the train derailed, according to the New York Times.
However, despite this fact, you may not be able to sue the driver even if it was his or her fault. When a person works for the government, as is the case with public transit operators, they are part a government entity. Filling a lawsuit against a public entity is different from suing a private citizen. Both Washington’s state government and local governments, such as the City of Seattle, have a special form of immunity that shields them from public injury lawsuits. It is worth noting that a government entity can waive the immunity after an incident, and many do.
Before a public transit accident victim can file a lawsuit against the government, they need to submit a claim to the Washington State Office of Risk Management (ORC). On the claim, the victim provides details about the incident, injuries and associated damages. The form must be filled out completely correctly; otherwise, the office may deny it, making it impossible for a victim to have the case heard in front of a jury. These forms are long and complex and may not be the easiest to understand, so you may want a consult a legal professional for help if you’re having any trouble.
Once 60 days have passed since the form was filed with the office, the victim can file a personal injury claim. Over the two-month waiting period, the ORC looks into the accident and may offer the victim a settlement. Before agreeing to any settlement, the victim should have the proposed settlement reviewed by a personal injury lawyer to ensure it’s fair.
Private Companies and Public Accidents
A private company or citizen may still be liable in a public transit accident. For example, this might be the case if another driver was at fault or it was equipment made by a private company that caused the accident or was the predominant factor. A personal injury attorney at Feldman & Lee can review the circumstances of your case and the parties involved to ensure the proper parties at fault are identified.
In other states, there are caps on the amount of money you can be awarded by a jury in your personal injury lawsuit. These caps may be fixed or could depend on another amount. However, the State of Washington has found these caps to be unconstitutional, so there are no limits on what you can be awarded even if you are suing a public entity.
If you’ve been in a public transport accident, it can be tough to know what to do because of the special rules and considerations covered above. This is exactly why consulting with a personal injury lawyer is so crucial in a public transit case. An experienced attorney will know what to do in your specific situation so you have the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses. If you need help with a personal injury case, contact the experienced attorneys at Feldman & Lee for help today.