Can You File a Lawsuit Against SEPTA?

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For assistance with filing a lawsuit against SETPA, call Gibbons & Crichton, Personal Injury and Accident Lawyers at 215-274-0173 for a free case evaluation. Our Philadelphia SEPTA accident lawyers represent injured passengers and non-passengers who have suffered physical injury in claims for compensation.

Is It Possible to Sue SEPTA?

If you are injured because of the negligent operation of a SEPTA bus, train, trolley or subway car, it may be possible to sue. 42 Pa. C.S. § 8522 creates exceptions to the sovereign immunity generally enjoyed by government entities. SETPA may pay financial compensation to parties injured by negligent operation of a vehicle.

Is it difficult to sue SETPA?

It depends. If you have a clear case – you were injured because of the negligent operation of a SEPTA vehicle, you can sue. There are important steps to follow, which can seem difficult, but if you follow the process, you may receive compensation for your injuries.

Lawsuits against SEPTA are allowed if certain conditions are met. The circumstances are limited and specific – not every incident that involves a SEPTA bus and an injury will qualify for compensation.

To sue SEPTA, the following must be true:

  • The injury must relate to the operation of a SETPA vehicle, as opposed to when the vehicle is stopped or standing.
  • For a claim based on sudden movement or jerking of a vehicle, the sudden movement must be unusual or extraordinary.
  • You must file a notice of the claim within six months.
  • You must file your lawsuit within two years of the incident.

SETPA and the Pennsylvania Sovereign Immunity Act

Under 1 Pa.C.S. § 2310, Pennsylvania government entities generally enjoy sovereign immunity, including SEPTA. However, the Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8521, et. seq. waives immunity in certain situations. To receive compensation, a claimant must show a common law or statutory cause of action and an enumerated exception to sovereign immunity.

What’s sovereign immunity?

Sovereign immunity is the concept that you can’t sue the government. Legally, the government isn’t treated the same as a private individual or corporation. The government is seen as above liability, and they can’t be sued unless they agree to allow a claim against them.

SEPTA is generally immune from liability unless a claim falls under one of the stated exceptions. The exception most likely to apply is the vehicle liability exception.

What is the vehicle liability exception for SEPTA?

Under 42 Pa. C.S. § 8522(b)(1), SEPTA may be liable for damages resulting from the operation of any motor vehicle in its possession or control. A motor vehicle includes any self-propelled vehicle, including rail operation.

The Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act contains other exceptions. These include the care, custody and control of personal property, dangerous conditions on highways and sidewalks, and potholes and dangerous conditions. These exceptions may also be explored, but the vehicle exception is going to be the most used in a SEPTA injury claim.

What does it mean for a vehicle to be in operation for a SEPTA lawsuit?

A key question in whether you can file a lawsuit against SEPTA is whether the vehicle was in motion at the time of the injury. Courts have construed the language of 42 Pa. C.S. § 8522(b)(1) strictly, ruling that a SEPTA vehicle is not in motion when stopping for embarkation and disembarkation. Wright v. Denny, 33 A.3d 687 (Pa. Cmmw. Ct. 2011).

How much can you sue SEPTA for?

You can sue SEPTA for damages up to statutory limitations. Under 42 Pa. C.S. § 8528, damages paid may not exceed $250,000 for any single plaintiff or $1,000,000 in the aggregate for a single incident.

What is the notice requirement to sue SEPTA?

Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5522, you must provide notice of your intent to sue SEPTA within six months. The notice must give the basic information relating to the claim and the date and time of the incident.

Once you’ve filed notice, you have two years to formally file your claim for compensation.

What Does It Mean That SEPTA Is A “Common Carrier”?

A common carrier is an entity that offers public transportation services. As a common carrier, SEPTA must take reasonable action to protect the public. They must protect against unreasonable risk of physical harm. Mack v. Pittsburgh Rys. Co., 247 Pa. 598, 602 (1915).

What is the jerk and jolt doctrine?

In Staller v. Phila. Rapid. Transit Co., 14 A.2d 289, 291 (Pa. 1940), the passenger entered the trolley carrying a suitcase and talking on their phone. They weren’t holding a railing when the trolley car suddenly accelerated. The passenger fell and sustained injury.

The court applied the jerk and jolt doctrine to analyze the sudden movement of the trolley car. The court explained that sudden movement must be unusual and extraordinary to create negligence liability. Violent movement, by itself, is not a negligent operation.

Talk to a SEPTA Accident Lawyer

Are you wondering if you can file a lawsuit against SEPTA? Contact Gibbons & Crichton, Personal Injury and Accident Lawyers for a free consultation about your case.

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