Subways are full of hazards and can result in a single person twisting their ankle on a loose tile or hundreds of deaths and injuries when a train derails or crashes. Since subways, light rail, and commuter trains are typically owned and managed by city and state authorities the subway accident lawsuits and settlements that arise out of these accidents involve requirements and procedures that differ from those of a typical injury lawsuit. This article provides a brief look at the issues frequently associated with subway accident lawsuits.
Who Owns the Trains and Stations?
An important preliminary matter involves determining who owns the train or station where your subway accident occurred. Although nearly all rapid mass transit systems are owned by government authorities there sometimes situations in which private trains may share a station with public transit. Amtrak trains pull into Grand Central Station alongside New York Metro Transit Authority trains, for example. The identity of the party responsible for your subway accident will determine many important factors including the time frame in which a claim must be raised and whether there are caps on the damages that can be recovered.
There is a longstanding principal of governance referred to as "sovereign immunity ." Under this principal the government cannot be sued in its own courts unless it consents to the lawsuit. This means that in some jurisdictions you may be barred from suing the state or a state agency. Some states have officially waived their right to sovereign immunity, while others have used it to set caps on damages or establish shorter periods of time to file a notice of claim.
Notice of Claim
One common feature of procedures for suing state authorities following a subway accident is the requirement that an injured party file a Notice of Claim within a specified period of time following the accident. All lawsuits have an associated "statute of limitations " that sets a time period within which an injured party must file or lose their ability to sue. A Notice of Claim requirement creates an additional, typically much shorter, deadline to act.
The filing of a Notice of Claim is usually required within a 30 or 60 day window, compared to statutes of limitation, which generally run for a year or more before hitting their deadline. Filing a Notice of Claim is not the same thing as filing a lawsuit, and the statute of limitation on filing must be met in addition to meeting the Notice of Claim requirements. Notice of Claim requirements vary depending on the jurisdiction where the accident took place.
Another common exercise of the government's sovereign immunity is the use of damage caps. Federal law, by way of example, caps damage awards for passengers injured in train accidents to a total of $200 million. State laws may include caps of their own, bars to certain kinds of damages, and other limitations on state liability that may impact your ability to recover.
Get a Free Claim Review
If you or a loved one was injured in a subway accident, be aware that the clock is already ticking. Getting a claim filed with the correct authorities at the right time can be a huge challenge, but a lawyer's assistance can help ensure that your subway lawsuit doesn't get derailed. Contact a local attorney for a free review of your claim to learn how they can help.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.