Many American cities have seen a decline in the number of residents riding public transportation. But in Austin, ridership has increased.
Austin’s Capital Metro bus and commuter rail lines carry well over a million riders every year.
With such a high volume of riders in a dense city, bus and rail accidents happen nearly every day in the Austin area. CapMetro data suggests there are up to 500 annual bus and railroad accidents in the Austin area.
What to Do After a Bus or Railroad Accident
Immediately Seek Medical Attention if Needed
If you have been involved in a commercial bus collision or railroad accident, you should seek medical attention for you and anyone else injured in the accident.
It is wise to have a medical examination after any auto collision. You may be more injured than you think. Untreated injuries can quickly worsen. At the very least, a doctor can give you peace of mind if you are uninjured.
Create a Record of the Bus or Rail Accident and Your Damages
If possible, you should take photographs of the accident. Make sure to get photos from different angles so a person can understand the scene. Include close-ups of any property damage. For example, if a train derailed, photograph the train off its tracks.
Also take photos of your injuries, and those of your passengers. Take both close-up photos, and photos that show you are in the scene of the accident.
Contact Witnesses and Record Their Information
Speak to any available witnesses to the bus or rail accident. Be certain to record all witnesses’ names and contact information.
Identify Everyone Involved in the Accident
Speak to any other drivers, including the bus driver or train operator. Record their names and contact information. The operator of a public transport vehicle may be personally responsible for the accident. In addition, having the driver’s name will help if the public transportation agency must pay for your injuries.
Bus vs. Car – Size Matters
Most transit buses in Austin measure about 40 feet and weigh 20-30,000 pounds. When fully loaded with passengers and baggage, their weight can balloon up to 40,000 pounds (20 tons).
Texas commuter trains have been designed to be slimmer and weigh less to increase efficiency. However, a fully loaded commuter train can weigh up to 190 tons.
Austin’s CapMetro uses Diesel-electric Stadler GTW train cars, which are one hundred feet long and can weigh up to 68 tons each.
At that length and weight, bus and rail collisions can be serious, even at low speeds.
Fortunately, a number of Texas laws provide relief for victims of a transit accident. If you have been involved in a bus or rail accident in Austin, you may be able to receive monetary compensation for your injuries, including:
- Property Damage and Car Repair
- Medical Expenses for Bodily Injuries
- Lost Wages
- Pain and Suffering
- Funeral Expenses
Loss of Care and Companionship
Who is Responsible After a Bus or Rail Accident in Austin?
Transit bus and train accidents can be fairly complex. They may involve multiple vehicles, complicated machinery and questions about vehicle operators and the message or signals they received.
As a result, there may be several different people, companies or government agencies who are responsible for a bus or rail accident in the Austin area.
Causes of Austin Bus and Rail Accidents
Public transit collisions and other accidents happen for many reasons, including derailments and collisions with other trains or vehicles. Many derailments occur because of sudden stops to avoid colliding with something on the tracks.
Transit Accidents Can Be the Result of Human Error
In some cases, transit bus and train accidents happen because of human error.
Transit Employees May Cause Bus and Train Accidents
Many employees participate in public transit:
- Bus and Train Operators
- Signal operators
- Maintenance and Repair Crews
- Safety Experts
- Administrators / Supervisors
Unfortunately, their mistakes can sometimes lead to catastrophic errors. In legal terms, this carelessness is known as negligence.
Operators may be operating the vehicle too quickly, or forget safety protocols like braking times and signalling. They may be distracted or intoxicated.
Maintenance employees may make mistakes or neglect safety warnings. This negligence can lead to vehicles and safety equipment operating incorrectly.
Employer Responsibility for Transit Accidents Caused By Employees
Many Federal and Texas state laws make an employer legally responsible for injuries caused by their employees.
In legal terms, employer responsibility for employee’s actions is known as respondeat superior. These laws apply to public employees and employers like transit agencies.
Making employers legally responsible for their employee’s unsafe behavior encourages employers to run their business safely. It also gives them a reason to screen potential hires, and remove careless employees.
For example, if you were involved in a bus or train accident in the Austin area, CapMetro may be responsible for hiring a bus operator with a bad driving history.
In addition, employers are in a better position to secure insurance and pay for accidents caused by their businesses.
That is why in many cases a public agency like CapMetro is responsible for injuries and damages resulting from an accident caused by CapMetro employees.
Other Human Error That Can Cause a Transit Accident
Transit Accidents Caused by Obstructions in the Vehicle Path
Sometimes other individuals contribute to a transit bus or train accident.
Vehicle operators might stop suddenly be trying to avoid objects left by others on the track. Sometimes careless pedestrians or even people attempting suicide are standing on the track.
Transit Accidents Resulting From Mechanical Failures
Many bus or rail accidents result from faulty equipment or vehicles. This can even include a breakdown in safety measures like the train signalling system.
The bus company or transit agency like CapMetro is expected to ensure their equipment and vehicles will operate safely. If they are unsafe, a number of other people or companies may be responsible as well:
Many train or bus companies do not own their vehicles. Instead, they rent them from another person or company that owns the transit vehicles and rents them out. These owners are also responsible for making sure they are safe.
If the bus or train owner rents out a transit vehicle they know is unsafe (or are too careless to check), they may be responsible if that transit vehicle is involved in an accident.
Repair people and companies can also be legally responsible for a transit collision or derailment. This includes construction companies that repair tracks or roads. If the accident was caused by their carelessness, the repair company might also have to pay compensation to injured victims.
Companies that manufacture faulty or defective equipment or parts that lead to a transit accident. For example, if a bus’ replacement part malfunctioned or was defective, the manufacturer might also be liable and have to contribute compensation for injuries resulting from the accident.
Many people and companies can cause a bus or rail collision. If you have been injured in a bus or rail accident, in order to get compensation for your injuries, it is important to identify everyone who was responsible for the accident.
It is also critical to figure out who was responsible so they can make improvements, and prevent anyone else from being injured in the future.
An Austin personal injury attorney from Justinian & Associates can assist in determining who was responsible, and all of your options. We have investigators and experience in analyzing complicated vehicular accidents. We can help.
Time is of the Essence After a Bus or Rail Accident
Nearly every lawsuit has a certain period of time it can be filed. A law that limits the amount of time that an injured victim has to file is known as a statute of limitations.
There is a specific statute of limitation for lawsuits involving government agencies. This period of time is different (and shorter) than the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit against a private party.
That is why it is important to act relatively quickly when dealing with government agencies such as Austin’s public transportation system.
The Austin personal injury lawyers at Justinian & Associates know when to file and can help you ensure that your right to recovery is preserved. If you’ve been injured by or on a bus or train, we urge you to call us immediately so we can start working on your case!
Justinian & Associates offers a free consultation with an experienced Austin personal injury attorney. We will listen to your story, and explain your options under the law. There is no fee, and no obligation to hire us.
Call, text or email us to arrange an appointment.