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LIFT Accident

Erie LIFT Accident Lawyer

An accident involving an Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority LIFT vehicle can be confusing when it comes to insurance coverage and who the at-fault party is in an accident. The Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority owns and operates the public transportation system in Erie County.

If the at-fault party involved in an accident is a government vehicle (LIFT), the doctrine of “governmental immunity” comes into play and there are different rules for accidents involving government vehicles.

The LIFT program

The LIFT is the County of Erie’s shared-ride, advanced-request transportation system. The LIFT serves those who are unable to use the regular bus service and has different programs to subsidize the cost of transportation.

There is the senior citizen program paratransit (LIFT) for those 65-years-of-age or over who are unable to use a fixed route service and/or who may live further than one-fourth of a mile away from a bus route. This program allows seniors to ride to doctor’s appointments and the nearest senior center for free. The price for other trips can be as low as $1.65.

There is also a service for individuals with disabilities who live in a rural area or need a ride to the rural area, called the “e” LIFT. It offers discounted shared ride services for eligible residents. The Rural Transportation Program for Persons with Disabilities provides services for residents of Erie County, under the age of 65 with a disability defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Trip costs, based on the distance traveled, range from $2.90 to $6.15.

For other programs for customers with disabilities, that information may be found here: https://www.ride-the-e.com/paratransit-service/

Common causes of LIFT accidents

A typical auto accident, as well as a collision with a LIFT bus, may happen for a number of reasons, such as:

  • Failure to maintain the vehicle properly
  • Failure to see pedestrians/other vehicles
  • Driver negligence
  • The driver being under the influence of a drug (street or prescription)
  • Reckless driving
  • Blind spot accidents
  • Speeding
  • Texting while driving
  • Unfamiliarity with a route or area of the city
  • The driver being under the influence of alcohol
  • A medical emergency
  • Improper vehicle maintenance

Common victims of LIFT 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 high risk of causing severe injuries or death even in lower speed accidents.

Recovering damages

To recover damages for pain and suffering following an accident involving a local government owned Erie LIFT vehicle, the injured plaintiff/victim must prove at least one of the following:

  • Permanent loss of a bodily function
  • Death
  • Permanent dismemberment where dental/medical costs exceeds $1,500.
  • Permanent disfigurement

The plaintiff needs to provide notice to the governmental agency responsible for the accident involving one of its vehicles within six months of the occurrence of the injury/accident.

Under Pennsylvania’s governmental immunity law, Erie is limited to paying the vehicle owner’s deductible and providing a rental. This is due to the Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, the law protecting governments from liability for problems caused while providing public services.

Government entities do not get a free pass in accident situations, as they can be held liable under limited circumstances that include negligence. However, exceptions to the Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act are difficult to prove and narrowly defined.

Sovereign Immunity versus Governmental Immunity

Personal injury lawyers know that officials acting for the government, within the scope of their duties, may be immune from lawsuits. This is known by another name, “sovereign immunity,” which refers to claims against the State or the Federal Government. “Governmental immunity” refers to claims against local municipal officials or municipalities themselves.

The difference between these two Pennsylvania statutes is important when 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.

Sovereign Immunity Act and 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
  • 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
  • The dangerous condition of service facilities for utilities
  • The dangerous condition of streets
  • The dangerous condition of sidewalks
  • 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.

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I would recommend them to anyone and have. 

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. 

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