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Subway Accident Lawsuits and Settlements

Subways are full of hazards that can result in injuries or death. People can slip, trip, and fall on loose tiles around subway stations. Poor maintenance, uneven walkways, and missing lighting in dark areas can cause serious injuries. Even worse, trains can derail and crash, causing wrongful deaths.

Train accident cases happen all over the country, from the NYC subway system to rapid transit lines in other highly populated places. Subways, light rail lines, and commuter trains are typically owned and managed by city and state authorities. That means these lawsuits and settlements involve distinct requirements. Since the defendant would be the government, filing procedures differ from those of a typical injury lawsuit.

This article provides a brief look at the issues frequently associated with subway accident lawsuits.

Who Owns Trains and Stations?

An important first step is figuring out who owns the train or station where your accident occurred. Government authorities own nearly all rapid mass transit systems. In some situations, privately owned trains may share a station with public transit. And in New York, Amtrak trains pull into Grand Central Station alongside Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) trains. The New York City Transit Authority's subway lines then run all over the city, linking Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

The identity of the party responsible for your subway accident will determine many important factors, including:

  • The manner and time frame in which a claim must be raised
  • Whether there are caps on the damages you can recover

Sovereign Immunity

Under the long-standing principle of sovereign immunity, the government cannot be sued in its own courts unless it consents to the lawsuit. This means that in some jurisdictions, you may be barred from suing the state or a state agency. Keep in mind that most subway systems and stations are owned by government metropolitan transportation authorities.

Some states have officially waived their right to sovereign immunity, while others have used it to set caps on damages or set shorter periods of time to file a notice of claim. In some situations, sovereign immunity might completely bar your claim. If the government does not provide consent to be sued, you may need an attorney to help you file an appeal.

If you are self-insured or have health insurance, you might be able to escape paying out of pocket for your medical bills even without a lawsuit. Otherwise, an accident lawyer may be able to help you find private parties to sue as defendants. For example, if a subway train accident was at least in part caused by defective parts, you may be able to sue the private parts manufacturers in a product liability lawsuit. If the state contracted a private train company, you may be able to sue them.

Notice of Claim

One common feature of procedures for suing state authorities is the notice of claim. Following a subway accident, an injured party must file a notice of claim with the government within a specified period following the accident.

All lawsuits have an associated statute of limitations that sets a time limit within which an injured party must file or lose their ability to sue. The deadline for a notice of claim is typically much shorter. Depending on your state, you may be required to file the notice of claim within as little as 30 days. The high end of the range is six months. By contrast, statutes of limitation generally run for a year or more before hitting their deadline.

Filing a notice of claim is not the same thing as filing a lawsuit. The statute of limitations on filing must be met separately and in addition to the notice of claim requirements. Other notice of claim requirements vary depending on the jurisdiction where the accident took place.

Damage Caps

Another common way the government flexes its sovereign immunity is by using damage caps. Federal law, for example, caps damage awards for rail transit liability. Passengers injured in train accidents may not obtain verdicts of more than $200 million. Additionally, state laws may include:

  • Caps of their own
  • Bars to certain kinds of damages
  • Other limitations on state liability that may affect your ability to recover money

Get Professional Help With Your Subway Accident Injury Claim

If you or a loved one was injured in a subway accident, be aware that the clock is already ticking. Getting a claim filed with the correct authorities at the right time can be a huge challenge. But a lawyer's assistance can help ensure your subway lawsuit doesn't get derailed. Contact a local personal injury attorney today for a case review. The right legal team can mean the difference between a winning personal injury lawsuit and a dead end.

Personal injury lawyers and law offices handle more than just car accidents. They're accident attorneys with experience in fighting insurance companies in personal injury cases involving public transportation. A personal injury claim through a train accident lawyer can help you win money for your medical expenses and pain and suffering.

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