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If you’re hurt while riding on public transportation, who is liable for your injuries?

The answer: Ideally, the negligent party would be responsible, although the law governing public transportation differs somewhat from standard personal injury.

Public Transportation Law

Most personal injury lawsuits hinge on the ability of the injured person to prove that the defendant was negligent and caused their harm. Without this proof, the plaintiff likely can not recover damages.

Public transportation law is also based on negligence, but public transportation companies in certain states are subject to what is known as common carrier law. Common carriers typically include:

  • Public buses
  • Commuter trains
  • Trolleys
  • Taxi cabs
  • School buses
  • Private limousine companies

Under common carrier law, public transportation companies owe their passengers a higher duty of care than the average person does. Although the injured person must still prove that the public transportation company was negligent in order to win their case, but in many states common carriers owe their passengers a higher or even the highest degree of care to provide a safe means and method of transportation for them.

$1.3 Million Settlement Reached Against Express Van Company

Common carrier cases sometimes result in large awards. In April 2015, a South Carolina woman ejected from her seat on an airport express van during a ride from O’Hare International Airport to a downtown Chicago hotel was awarded a $1.3 million personal injury settlement.

According to court documents, the driver came to a sudden stop and because the seat belts in the express van did not operate properly, the woman was ejected and injured her left knee. When she departed the van, the woman fell and seriously fractured her left leg, which subsequently failed to heal and needed replacement. The woman allegedly incurred more than $290,000 in medical bills.

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