Public Transportation Vehicles Accidents Attorney in Atlanta

Accidents happen every day in the United States, and these events can leave accident victims physically injured, emotionally traumatized, or fatally injured. Despite the fact that traveling is a dangerous activity, we still place our faith in different types of transportation machines every day, but accidents are an inevitable part of life. For example, according to the Center for Disease Control, two million people a year are injured in car accidents, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were an estimated 37,461 car accident fatalities in 2016.

These accidents result in about 91 car accident fatalities a day in the U.S., but these statistics do not mean that road safety isn’t improving. According to the NHTSA, seat belt usage in the state of Georgia was over 97% in 2017, but what do you think happens when you are involved in an accident involving a vehicle that doesn’t have seat belts or safety equipment such as a bus or train? Accidents involving forms of public transportation do not occur as often as the average car accident, but when they do occur, these accidents can leave passengers either severely or fatally wounded.

Public Transportation AccidentsPublic Transportation Vehicle Accident Laws in GA

Accidents involving public transportation vehicles are complex legal matters, because the facts surrounding how the accident occured, the type of vehicle involved, and the owner of the vehicle can all have an impact on which laws ultimately apply in your specific scenario. As such, there are few provisions of the Georgia code that you should be aware of if you are ever involved in a public transportation vehicle accident.

Under Georgia law, public transportation vehicles are normally considered to be common carrier’s, which can be generally defined as people or companies that own vehicles used for mass transportation. Common carriers fall under a different standard than other vehicles due to the degree of trust people place in public transit companies. As such, common carrier’s owe a different duty of care to their passengers than what is expected of normal drivers.

Common Carrier Laws in Georgia

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 46-9-1, common carriers are required to use extraordinary diligence while executing their duties, and in cases of loss such as an accident, O.C.G.A. § 46-9-1 explicitly states that the presumption of law is against the common carrier unless the loss occurred due to an act of God or the actions of public enemies of the state. However, the problem with public transit accidents stems from who owns the vehicle and who employs the operator of the vehicle.

Government Owned Public Transit Vehicles in GA

Under normal circumstances, the company or entity that owns a public transit vehicle could be held liable for the actions of their driver under the doctrine of “respondeat superior,” which provides that an employer can be held liable for the negligent actions of its employee as long as the employee is within the course and scope of their employment when the negligent act is committed.

However, many public transit companies are owned and operated by local or state governments, and as a general matter, the local, state, and federal government is protected from being sued under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, unless the sovereign, meaning the government, waives its immunity. This does not mean that a government entity cannot be held liable for an accident involving a public transit vehicle, but it does add an additional level of complexity to your case that requires the expertise of a public transportation accident attorney.

Public Transportation Vehicles Owned by a City or the State

Another potential problem that can arise in public transportation accidents involving buses is centered around the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 40-1-100. This statute defines a motor carrier in the context of public transit as every person owning, controlling, operating, or managing any motor vehicle used in the business of transporting persons for hire, but O.C.G.A. § 40-1-100(12)(B)(i-viii) lists several exceptions to this definition including motor vehicles owned and operated exclusively by the United States government, the state of Georgia, or any subdivision thereof.

So, in certain instances, this provision of the statute can be used to make the argument that a public transportation vehicle is owned and operated by our state or local government, which is a subdivision of the state, in an effort to argue that the public transit company owes its passengers a lower duty of care than the extraordinary diligence standard articulated in O.C.G.A. § 46-9-1.

Liability in Public Transportation Vehicle Accidents

These factors do not preclude a state or city from being held liable damages incurred by an accident victim in every case, and in the case of private companies contracted to provide public transportation, they may not apply at all. These factors merely intensify the complexity of the case when your personal injury attorney is determining who is liable for the damages you have incurred as a result of the accident. Naturally, a privately owned public transit company will try to deny that they are liable for your injuries due to the insurance requirements for privately owned motor carriers in our state. The minimum insurance requirements for privately owned motor carriers are listed below:

  • Motor carriers with a seating capacity of 12 people or less
    • $100,000 per person in bodily injury liability insurance coverage
    • $300,000 per accident in bodily injury liability insurance coverage
    • $50,000 per accident in property damage liability insurance coverage
  • Motor carriers with a seating capacity of more than 12 people
    • $100,000 per person in bodily injury liability insurance coverage
    • $500,000 per accident in bodily injury liability insurance coverage
    • $50,000 per accident in property damage liability insurance coverage

Damages in a Public Transportation Vehicle Accident

In most auto accidents, you essentially have to prove four things to prevail in a court of law:

  1. The driver or company who caused the accident owed you a duty of care.
  2. The driver or company breached the duty of care they owed to you
  3. The driver or company’s breach of their duty of care caused you to sustain injuries and damages.
  4. You must demonstrate that you incurred legally recognized damages

Generally, public transportation accidents are caused by the negligent actions of the bus driver, train operator, the public transit company, or a driver operating another vehicle. As such, the damages that are normally sought in these cases are compensatory damages, which can be separated into two subcategories: economic and non-economic compensatory damages.

Economic damages cover losses for things such as lost wages, medical bills, and medication. In contrast, non-economic damages compensate you for things such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental anguish.

Placing a value on the damages you have incurred as a result of the accident is a task that should be carried out with the guidance of a public transportation accident lawyer, because while quantifying economic damages by reviewing medical records, wage statements, and future healthcare recommendations from doctors can be straightforward, placing a value on pain and suffering or mental anguish requires experience and legal expertise.

Public Transportation Accidents in Atlanta, GA

At Cambre and Associates, our attorneys have spent years helping accident victims seek the health care they need and the compensation they deserve for their injuries. According Federal Motor Safety Administration, large truck and bus accidents accounted for 12% of all traffic fatalities in 2016, but you or your family member aren’t just a number to our lawyers. You’re a person that needs help. So call our office today for a free consultation.


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