If you were to slip and fall while at Wal-Mart, you may be able to sue them. But, what happens if you were a passenger on a SEPTA bus and you are injured in a motor vehicle collision? Suing the government for negligence is not as straightforward as it is for suing a member of the public or private entity like Wal-Mart. These scenarios will play out differently across the state and it all comes down to the accident itself, and the factors that led up to that accident. If the government’s negligence did cause your incident or it contributed toward your pain and suffering, you may be entitled to compensation.
However, the amount of compensation and the likelihood that you will succeed in a lawsuit will depend on the entity involved and the type of injury that you sustained, as well as what truly caused the accident.
Identifying Who is at-Fault
In an accident while riding a SEPTA bus, you still need to determine who is actually at-fault for the accident. Although SEPTA enjoys “governmental immunity” for certain types of accidents, they are NOT immune for bus accidents, assuming that the bus is IN MOTION when the accident occurs. Oftentimes, however, governmental immunity is not an issue if the at-fault party is another vehicle that collides with the SEPTA bus.
You are required to file your suit within two years for traditional lawsuits, but after a SEPTA accident, you must give a notice of intention to make a claim against SEPTA within six months of the accident – pursuant to 42 PA. C.S. Section 5522(a)(1). This statute requires that within six months, you:
- File in the office of the government unit and notify if an action against the commonwealth agency will be made for damages. Your statement must include:
- The name and residence of the person who caused the accident.
- The name and residence of the injured party.
- The date and time of the incident.
- The location where the incident occurred.
- The name and residence or office address of the attending physician who treated and/or diagnosed your injuries.
There is virtually no movement on this deadline. If you do not notify the government within six months, you will most likely be barred from requesting compensation. I say “most likely” because even if you do miss the six-month deadline, SEPTA will need to show that they were somehow prejudiced by the delay. This is usually difficult for SEPTA to prove.
Keep in mind that you must still meet the traditional burden of proof when filing a claim against SEPTA. First, you must establish that there was an accident. Second, you must prove that you were an actual passenger on the bus at the time of the incident – which is where your card presented to you at the accident should be used. If you do not have an incident card from the SEPTA incident, you may not be able to file a suit.
Contact an Attorney Who Understands SEPTA Claims
If you were injured in a bus or vehicle accident caused by a SEPTA bus operator, you must speak with an experienced Pennsylvania car and bus accident attorney who understands the PA Sovereign Immunity Act. Contact Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. today. To get started, schedule your free case evaluation with me by calling 800-465-8795 (office) or 215-771-0430 (cell), or request a consult online via my online contact form.