Erie Bus Accident Lawyer
The skilled legal counsel provided by Melaragno, Placidi & Parini ensures that your right to sue the government is protected.
The Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority owns and operates the public transportation system in Erie County, first established in 1897 and called the Erie City Passenger Railway Company. The city and county formed the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority in 1966.
An accident involving an Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority bus, county para-transit vehicle, LIFT and/or Bayliner Trolley can be confusing when it comes to who has what insurance coverage and who the at-fault party is in an accident. Different rules operate for accidents involving government vehicles. If the at-fault party is the government vehicle, the doctrine of “governmental immunity” comes into play. “Governmental immunity” refers to claims against local municipal officials or municipalities themselves.
To recover damages for pain and suffering following an accident involving a local government owned Erie bus, the injured plaintiff/victim must prove at least one of the following:
- Permanent dismemberment where dental/medical costs exceeds $1,500.
- Permanent disfigurement
- Permanent loss of a bodily function
The plaintiff needs to provide notice to the governmental agency responsible for the accident involving one of its vehicles within six (6) months of the occurrence of the injury/accident.
Sovereign Immunity versus Governmental Immunity
Personal injury lawyers are familiar with governmental immunity laws and also know that officials acting for the government, within the scope of their duties, may be immune from lawsuits as well. This is known by another name, “sovereign immunity,” which refers to claims against the State or the Federal Government. Governmental immunity, again, refers to claims against local municipal officials or municipalities themselves.
The difference between these two Pennsylvania statutes is important when it comes to filing a lawsuit because even though the courts abolished both immunities in the 70s, the legislature brought them back in 1980 and passed the Sovereign Immunity Act and the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act.
The Sovereign Immunity Act applies to claims against Pennsylvania State agencies and has a ceiling of $250,000 in damages for any one plaintiff or $1,000,000 for all persons injured in the same accident. Six types of damages are permitted:
- Loss of past earnings
- Pain/suffering (under limited circumstances)
- Medical/dental costs
- Loss of consortium
- Property losses (with some exceptions)
- Future loss of earnings/earning capacity
Note: Within six months after an injury and/or property damage accident, the claimant must provide written notice of a lawsuit. It must include the claimant’s name, address, location, date, and time of the accident, and the address of the doctor providing any treatment. If notice is not filed within the six-month time frame, any lawsuit is barred. There are limited exceptions.
The Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act does not allow lawsuits against local municipalities, but there are some exceptions, such as:
- Control, care, custody of street lighting, trees, traffic controls which create dangerous conditions
- The dangerous condition of service facilities for utilities
- The dangerous condition of streets
- The dangerous condition of sidewalks
- Control, care, custody of animals
- Control, care, custody of other’s personal property in the possession/control of a local agency
- Control, care, custody of real property in possession of a local agency
- Any official committing willful misconduct cannot claim immunity
- Operating a vehicle
The Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act limits damages and restricts damage types that may be recovered. It also limits damages to a maximum of $500,000 by a single plaintiff or in the aggregate.
The Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act also permits recovery for loss of support, and limits recovery for pain and suffering due to: death, or only in the case of permanent disfigurement, permanent loss of a bodily function, or permanent dismemberment where dental/medical costs exceeds $1,500.
Note: If there is insurance coverage for the plaintiff’s damages, any insurance recovery must be deducted from any awards against a local government.
Both of these acts are not only confusing, but complex and subject to change regularly. The skilled legal counsel provided by Melaragno, Placidi & Parini ensures that your right to sue the government is protected.
John is a great attorney. John and his staff promptly return calls and emails when you have questions and concerns not only when the process starts but all the way to completion. John and his staff have been a godsend throughout.
I would recommend them to anyone and have.
Causes of Bus Accidents
The same things that result in a typical auto accident, can cause collisions with buses, trollies and other public transportation vehicles, such as:
- Texting while driving
- Unfamiliarity with a route or area of the city
- Failure to maintain the vehicle properly
- Failure to see pedestrians/other vehicles
- Driver negligence
- The driver being under the influence of alcohol
- The driver being under the influence of a drug (street or prescription)
- Reckless driving
- Blind spot accidents
Common victims of bus accidents in Erie are other vehicles and their driver or passengers, senior citizens, disabled people, children, adults, pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists and joggers. Due to the size of buses there is a very high risk of causing severe injuries or death even in lower speed accidents.