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Suing the Subway: Liability For Injury On Public Transportation

In the days following March 24, 2014, media across the country broadcast disturbing images of a Chicago CTA Blue Line train that had derailed at the O’Hare International Airport station.

Reporters explained that the train had failed to stop at its terminal station, jumped the platform and ended up on the escalator that led from the subway to O’Hare Airport.  A couple of days later, a video surfaced, recording of strange incident.  The 10- second dramatic video clip showed the train literally climbing the escalator.  Over 30 people were injured and $9 million worth of damage was done to CTA property.

Tragedies on the Subway

While subway accidents as dramatic as the Chicago Blue Line accident are rare, accidents on subway systems across the country are not uncommon.  Regardless, even minor train accidents can result in serious injuries.  Subway trains travel at high speeds;  some New York subway trains reportedly travel at speeds over 55 mph.  As a result of high speeds, passengers, many of whom stand, are often jostled about.  When an accident occurs, passengers are at risk of hitting their heads against metal poles, doors, or hard train floors.  Additionally, subway trains do not have the same safety features as cars such as seatbelts and airbags.  Without out such safety gear, passengers are more likely to suffer an injury if a derailment or collision occurs. Injuries suffered in subway train accidents are typically the fault of the subway authority.  In the case of the Blue Line CTA accident, the train operator admitted that she had fallen asleep.  In fact, there is some evidence that this was not the first time this operator had fallen asleep while on the job.

Filing a Lawsuit for Subway Injuries

Whether the subway accident occurred in Chicago, New York, Boston, or any other city, the process for filing a claim against the City or its transit authority is similar.  However, because the lawsuit would be against a government entity, the process is quite different from filing a lawsuit against an individual and there are strict rules that must be followed.  The main difference, between filing a claim against an individual and a government entity,  is that the plaintiff has to get permission to sue the city or other government entity by first filing a claim.  In the claim, the victim describes the incident, the injuries sustained, and the amount of money sought.  The government responds by offering a settlement amount or denying the claim.  If the victim is not satisfied with the government’s offer, or if the government denies the claim, the victim may file a lawsuit. Ultimately, once you get past the claim filing stage, suing a city, transit authority or any other government entity for injuries sustained in an accident is just like any other personal injury lawsuit. In the case of the Chicago CTA accident, the operator was fired.  Upon further examination, CTA’s train operator scheduling policies have have scrutinized and criticized.  As expected, several claims have been filed against the CTA.  As passengers of public transportation, we expect quick and safe service, but as with any mode of transportation, we are at risk of injuries.  Whether you believe that the CTA or the train operator holds full responsibility for the accident, victims from crash are entitled compensation for the injuries they received.

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