Public transportation is a popular way to get around our nation's capital. Many residents of Maryland or Virginia may use public transportation to commute to work here in Washington D.C. Additionally, millions of tourists from around the world visit D.C. every year, taking the Metrorail, buses or trains. Taxis and ride-sharing apps like Lyft or Uber are another way people can get around the city without having to drive.
One of the reasons many people seek alternatives to driving is so they don't have to deal with the hassles of traffic, parking, or the potential of a traffic accident. Most people know what to do in the case of a car accident, including notifying the police and exchanging insurance information. However, most of us are unsure what to do if we are injured in an accident involving a taxi, ride-share driver, bus, or metro car. If you or someone you love was injured while using hired transportation, you may have questions regarding how you will be compensated for any injuries.
Negligent Hired Transportation Accidents in D.C.
In most cases, hired transportation providers owe their passengers a duty of care. If the driver or operator breaches the duty of care, which causes an accident or injury to a passenger, then the driver and the transportation company may be liable for the injuries caused. This includes physical damages, medical bills, future medical costs, lost wages, and even pain and suffering.
Companies or businesses that provide transportation services to individuals are known as “common carriers.” Common carriers have a long history of being involved in personal injury disputes. This includes planes, trains, boats, ferries, the metro, buses, and taxis. Common carriers owe their passengers a special duty of care. The duty owed to passengers is higher than the standard duty of care owed by one individual to another. Common carriers generally owe passengers a duty to operate in a safe manner which minimizes any undue risks to passengers.
When people use transportation services, they are entrusting their safety to the common carrier. They expect that the operator, as well as the company, will act in a professional manner and within the standard of care. However, common carriers are often involved in accidents, and in many cases, the passengers are the ones who suffer.
Buses, trains, and metro cars often travel at a high rate of speed. While we ride in private motor vehicles, we are required to wear seatbelts; however, no seat belts are required on the MetroRail. If a rail car or bus is involved in an accident, the passenger may be thrown from their seat, resulting in injury. This could lead to a minor injury, such as a scrape or bruise. It can also result in more serious injuries, including back pain, neck pain, broken bones, or even death. If the driver, operator, or common carrier was negligent in their operation of the hired transportation, they should be held responsible for the damages caused.
In some cases, common carriers may also be required to adhere to federal, state or local regulations. This includes mandatory inspections, training, and equipment maintenance. If the common carrier does not adhere to the required safety regulations, they may be in violation of their duty of care. If a passenger is injured due to an accident, then the common carrier may be liable for the damages and injuries caused.
Is the Employee Responsible?
Another important concept to understand when talking about injuries on hired transportation involves employee negligence. If the employee of a common carrier is negligent, can the common carrier also be held responsible for their employee's actions? In many cases, the employer may be vicariously liable for their employee's negligence, and can be named as a defendant in a personal injury action.
As an example, consider a bus driver who gets into an accident. A passenger on the bus may be injured, resulting in hospitalization, surgery, and continuing medical treatment. The passenger may end up with a hospital bill of tens of thousands of dollars. Then the passenger learns that the bus driver was operating the bus while intoxicated and has a history of DUI convictions. Even if the passenger files a lawsuit and wins, they may not be able to collect enough of the damages against the bus driver to pay for their hospital bills. However, the bus company may also be negligent for the bus driver's accident.
Under the concept of respondeat superior, an employer may be held liable for the negligent actions of their employee. In general, the plaintiff will have to show that there was an employer/employee relationship involved, the employee was working for the employer at the time, and was acting within their scope of employment when the injury occurred. The plaintiff may also seek damages from the employer under theories of negligent hiring and retention.
Be Wary of Quick Settlement Offers
After a personal injury accident involving hired transportation, the common carrier or insurance company may offer a quick settlement. For the injured passenger, this may be tempting as a fast way to be compensated for their injuries. However, it is important to understand the reason the company wants a fast settlement.
While many injuries may not seem too serious, it could take time before the true extent of an injury is understood. A whiplash accident may seem like only a minor neck pain in the days after the accident, but could lead to long-term pain and disability, and even prevent you from working. The insurance companies and responsible parties may want a quick and cheap payout in order to avoid a lawsuit. However, for the injured party, they should not have to settle when they were injured through no fault of their own.
Before accepting any settlement offer, you should consider speaking to a personal injury attorney. Most experienced personal injury attorneys will offer a no-cost consultation, so you can understand what a personal injury settlement will mean for you and your injuries. Additionally, personal injury attorneys may offer a contingent fee arrangement, so you will pay nothing up-front, and the lawyer will only be compensated for their services once you have won your case, and recovered damages from the parties responsible.
If You've Been Injured on Hired Transportation in Washington D.C.
Personal injury cases involving hired transportation can be complex. Identifying and tracking down the exact parties responsible for your injury can be difficult. At Gilman & Bedigian, our team of personal injury attorneys has extensive experience aggressively pursuing compensation for injury victims and their families. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury on any form of hired transportation in Washington D.C., please contact our law offices as soon as possible.