The day before Christmas Eve, 1996, Crystal Jones stepped off a train at the Fern Rock Station in Philadelphia. It was a frigid day, with gusty winds and snow falling lightly off and on. The promise of a white Christmas was in the air and workers at the station had spread rock salt to prevent ice forming on the platform as falling temperatures and an incoming storm were expected. As Jones stepped onto the platform from the train, she slipped on the rock salt and fell.
Beyond the embarrassment of falling in public, Jones was injured and had to seek medical help. Jones suffered significant injuries in her fall, and her attorney filed a personal injury claim against the operator of the platform alleging negligence on the part of workers for failing to properly warn passengers and remove built up rock salt from the platform. Jones’ attorney believed that workers knew or should have known that the rock salt would create an unsafe condition, and that it was the responsibility of the station operator to prevent dangerous situations such as the one Jones was injured in.
The operator of the train and the responsibility of the station are under the authority of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). In many instances, Jones’ injuries would likely result in a successful personal injury claim for negligence, for instance if Jones had filed against a business or restaurant. In Pennsylvania, laws passed in 1964 limit the potential liability and apply a cap to awards against Commonwealth parties, such as SEPTA, a protection not afforded to businesses in the state.
In Jones’ case, courts sided with SEPTA and determined that her injuries were not recoverable under the Sovereign Immunity Act, the law that restricts the liability of Commonwealth parties. In Jones case, the rock salt was determined to be the cause of her slip and fall, not the construction of the platform, a key determination against her in the suit. Because the platform was properly constructed, and it was determined that the rock salt caused her fall, SEPTA was not liable for the injuries Jones suffered.
Jones case illustrates how important it is to hire the best personal injury attorney in Philadelphia when trying to recover damages from an injury that occurs on a bus, train or subway operated by SEPTA. The attorneys at Joel J. Kofsky are experienced in handling claims against SEPTA and will determine the best course of action to recover damages suffered and prevent lost benefits you deserve.
SEPTA is the nations sixth largest public transportation agency in ridership and operates all major types of surface transportation. They operate regional commuter trains, subway and elevated trains, light rail trollies, trolley buses and coach buses. The agency is responsible for 290 stations and made nearly $478 million in passenger fares in 2016 according to the 2016 SEPTA Annual Report. SEPTA paid out $110 million in worker’s compensation, public liability and property damage claims that year, a decrease of $18 million from 2015 and nearly $40 million less than in 2014.
SEPTA will do whatever it can to avoid paying injury claims to riders and others who are injured. SEPTA uses video cameras in its transit vehicles and stations, and uses the video evidence to vigorously defend itself, even filing evidence with the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute people who SEPTA believes file fraudulent claims. The laws regulating injury claims against Commonwealth parties like SEPTA are massively complex and have multiple factors that can impact how a claim is filed and what the limits of the settlement can be. It is imperative to hire an experienced attorney to protect yourself and get the benefits you deserve. The attorneys at Joel J. Kofsky can discuss your case and determine if a claim against SEPTA is appropriate. Winning an injury case against SEPTA is difficult due to the unusual laws regulating the agency. SEPTA employees attorneys well educated in defending against injury claims. Pursuing a case against SEPTA without a highly trained and experienced personal injury attorney is not wise. The attorney’s at Joel J. Kofsky will ensure that your injury case is handled professionally and in your best interest.
Nationally, more than 24,000 people suffered injuries on public transportation in the United States according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Safety (BTS). In all, 155 people lost their lives in public transportation accidents in 2016, and data from BTS shows a trending increase in fatalities nationwide. Injuries are on the rise, too, as reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation. More people are using public transportation, but injuries are outpacing ridership growth nationwide. In many cases, the injuries are the result of transportation agencies such as SEPTA failing to maintain vehicles and walkways, leading to dangerous situations that can result in devastating injuries.
Injuries can occur in a variety of situations on SEPTA transit lines. Buses, trollies, subway cars and rail cars all present dangers, and Pennsylvania weather can make using public transportation particularly hazardous. Many injuries occur when riders are knocked to the ground by sudden stops, starts and turns; situations that can lead to claims of negligence by SEPTA. Others are injured in collisions with cars, other trains and objects. If you are injured on a SEPTA transit vehicle or on SEPTA property, one of the first steps to take is to contact an experienced lawyer to help with filing a claim against SEPTA. It can be difficult to prove that SEPTA was negligent. The attorney’s at Joel J. Kofsky will ensure that your injury claim is filed correctly and will fight for you to make sure SEPTA is held responsible for your injuries.
There are many factors that can lead to injuries on SEPTA transit lines. Critical information, such as the speed and direction of travel, operator’s being distracted, traffic and road safety problems and the effects of Philadelphia’s weather can all lead to accidents on trains, buses and trolleys operated by SEPTA. In some cases, the variables that lead to an injury can reduce or remove SEPTA from responsibility. Knowing how these factors impact your claim, and how to proceed legally to guarantee fair and just compensation for your injury is the role your personal injury attorney will provide. Experience counts with injury cases against SEPTA, and the attorney’s at Joel J. Kofsky will use the success they have to argue your case and get the best compensation possible.
If your injuries are not severe, you should document the situation to the best of your ability. If someone saw what happened, ask them for a phone number. What they saw may be important to prove negligence. The driver of the bus or operator of the train should provide you with an incident card that verifies you were involved in an incident. Document the drivers name and number, the number of the vehicle, the route number and as much information about the location and scenario as possible. An attorney will need as much information as possible in order to determine how to proceed with your case. Take photographs of as much of the scene as possible. Try and document any injuries you have to the best of your ability. If police or SEPTA security are called, get their information and request a copy of a police report.
Claims can be filed with SEPTA online, but the agency does require that you answer six questions. SEPTA will not accept claims filed without the following information: Date, Time, Route, Location, Destination and whether the individual filing the claim was on a SEPTA vehicle or injured by one, or if the person was inured on property operated by SEPTA. The agency will review the claim and conduct an investigation to determine the circumstances involved in the accident. SEPTA may take as little as a few weeks to as long as a few months to complete an investigation. The office of Joel J. Kofsky will fight for you to ensure the review is as quick as possible and that you will be able to receive medical treatment as needed while your claim is being investigated.
Most injury claims involving public transportation injuries are settled out of court. The Law Dictionary reports that about 96 percent of injury claims nationwide are settled without litigation. They point out that this number is skewed by the tendency of injured persons to become impatient with waiting for the claim to be settled and accepting initial offers that don’t always cover all the injuries sustained. It is important to allow your attorney to conduct as thorough an investigation as possible. Cases settled quickly can risk missing potentially long-term consequences of injuries that take time to heal, and once a case is settled, your injuries might not be covered. The Law Dictionary cites that settlements arranged through litigation often result in higher award amounts. Having a trustworthy injury attorneys, like the ones at our firm, can make all the difference between getting back on your feet and living with a lifetime of suffering.
Once SEPTA has completed their investigation and your attorney has interviewed witnesses, negotiations will begin. Typically, agencies like SEPTA will seek to settle an injury case in which they can be held at fault for as little money as possible. Often, injured persons will accept this award, sometimes at the urging of an attorney. In many injury claims filed against SEPTA, it is ill advised to settle quickly. Our attorneys will review the settlement offer and compare it to the costs of filing a suit and make a recommendation. A litigation firm that is confident in it’s abilities will not be afraid to go to court to get the best settlement for you. We have a proven track record of winning cases against public agencies like SEPTA in court and won’t be intimidated by agency operatives trying to settle claims quickly at your expense.
Winning a case against SEPTA is not an easy process. Claims can take more than a year to settle, and may take even longer if your attorney tries the case in court. SEPTA will try to resolve the case in their interest, and it is your attorney’s job to make sure you receive appropriate medical care and compensation for your injury. Hiring a top attorney like Philadelphia’s Joel J. Kofsky to manage your claim is the most important decision you can make. Leaving the process up to chance, or worse, hiring an attorney who doesn’t have the experience to win, will leave you in a dangerous situation that can cost you years of health and happiness.