Philadelphia SEPTA Bus Accident Attorney
John Mattiacci and William Coppol have nearly two decades of experience handling cases in many areas of law, but they have extensive experience with personal injury cases involving bus and SEPTA accidents in Pennsylvania . This experience includes lawsuits brought against SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) for a variety of cases. These include SEPTA bus accidents, SEPTA trolley accidents, and fall cases that have taken place on SEPTA stations and properties in and around Philadelphia and across southeastern Pennsylvania.
There a number of different types of accidents that can involve SEPTA buses and trolleys. These include collisions with other vehicles, jerk and jolt accidents (in which passengers are thrown the ground because of an unexpected movement of the bus), and pedestrian accidents. The Mattiacci Law Firm has handled each type of bus accident case and is familiar with litigating cases against SEPTA and other commercial bus companies.
Can I Sue SEPTA for an Accident?
You can sue SEPTA for injuries that you sustained while you were a passenger on a SEPTA bus under certain circumstances. SEPTA's driver or operator may only be held responsible if the driver negligently operates SEPTA's vehicle.
Negligence usually means that SEPTA and its employee did something a reasonably careful person would not do under the circumstances. SEPTA's employees also can be negligent by failing to act reasonably. A person who fails to do something a reasonably careful person would do under the circumstances is negligent.
Regarding bus accidents, there are many ways to show that a SEPTA driver was negligent. This can involve a SEPTA driver:
- Striking another vehicle
- Striking a curb or fixed object
- Striking a pedestrian
- Falling asleep while driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Distracted driving
- Texting or using a phone while driving
- Traveling too fast for traffic or road conditions
However, there are limitations to SEPTA's liability. SEPTA, along with state and local governments, has certain protections under Pennsylvania law. This law, called the Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act, is codified as 42 Pa. C.S. § 5522. It provides sovereign immunity to SEPTA in many situations.
This means that the Tort Claims Act only allows SEPTA to be sued if its actions fit under one of the exceptions to sovereign immunity. One of the exceptions are when injuries are caused by the operation of a vehicle. This is codified under 42 Pa. C.S. § 8522(b)(1). This is the most commonly-used exception for SEPTA bus accidents or trolley accidents.
However, the application of this exception is not absolute. SEPTA and its driver may not be held responsible if the bus was "not in operation" at the time of the incident. This generally means that if a SEPTA bus is parked or stopped, it is not considered to be in operation. If the bus in not in operation then SEPTA may not be responsible for an injury under this law.
SEPTA cases can be very fact-specific. An experienced SEPTA accident lawyer can help examine the facts and evidence to evaluate all potential claims. Our accident team has years of experience in handling lawsuits against SEPTA. We will investigate the facts of your potential case to determine whether the SEPTA bus driver violated any motor vehicle laws or internal SEPTA rules. We use any violation of the law or safety rules to help show that SEPTA's driver was negligent and responsible for a collision.
Contact our firm today for a free consultation.
You Have Limited Time In Which to Put SEPTA On Notice
The Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act requires injured claimants to provide SEPTA with written notice of a potential claim. This strict notice requirement is time-sensitive.
An injured person who is considering bringing a claim against SEPTA only has six (6) months to provide SEPTA a written notice of the claim. The written notice must be sent to SEPTA within six (6) months from the date of the accident. Even though a person has up to two (2) years in which to file a formal lawsuit against SEPTA with the Court, that lawsuit may be dismissed if the initial written notice was not provided to SEPTA within six (6) months of the accident.
The notice requirement is extremely important. It requires specific information, including the date, time and location of the incident, the injured person's name and information, and other details. If SEPTA is not put on notice of a potential claim within six (6) months of the accident, they may be able to dismiss any lawsuit that is filed in Court. This is why it is vitally important to have the necessary written notice sent to SEPTA as soon as possible after an accident.
These deadlines and the notice requirements are why it is very important to get an experience SEPTA accident lawyer involved in your potential case as quickly as possible after an accident. Our law firm submits the necessary written notices to SEPTA on behalf of our clients. We handle the paperwork and submitting the require information so that our clients' claims are protected. The SEPTA accident legal team at Mattiacci Law investigates our clients' cases to see whether any written notices are required. We promptly investigate whether SEPTA or any other government unit or agency requires notice for your claims.
SEPTA Accidents Involving Other Vehicles
Not every accident involving a SEPTA bus or a SEPTA trolley is the fault of SEPTA or its employees. There are times whether other drivers will strike a SEPTA vehicle. When another driver causes the accident, the injured person has the option of suing the other driver who is at fault. The other types of vehicles that may be at fault for a SEPTA accident include other cars, buses, limos, taxis, trucks, and other commercial or private vehicles.
It should be noted that person who is injured while a passenger on a SEPTA bus is not bound by limited tort. Generally, if a person in Pennsylvania owns a car and has car insurance, that person has a choice of electing full tort or limited tort auto insurance. If a person has limited tort auto insurance, he or she may only be able to sue for damages like pain and suffering if he or she suffers a serious injury in a car accident.
However, a person's selection of limited tort will not apply when the injured person is hurt while they are a passenger aboard a SEPTA bus. The law in Pennsylvania provides that limited tort only limits a person's right to recover pain and suffering when the person is in a private passenger vehicle. The law specifically states that, "An individual otherwise bound by the limited tort election shall retain full tort rights if injured while an occupant of a motor vehicle other than a private passenger motor vehicle." See 75 Pa. C.S. § 1705(d)(3).
In other words, a person's election of limited tort on their own insurance will not apply when that person is injured while a passenger aboard a SEPTA bus. This means that there should be no limitation on that injured person's ability to sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering damages.
What To Do If You Are Injured On A Septa Bus
There are a number of important steps that can be taken to protect your rights if you are injured while a passenger on a SEPTA bus. If you are able to do so safely, consider doing the following:
- Make sure the driver or operator takes down your name as a passenger
- Complete an incident report or obtain a copy of the incident number
- Record the name of the SEPTA bus driver, bus number, and route number
- Request that 911 is called or contact 911 if there is an accident
- Ensure that any responding police officer records that you were a passenger
- Document the scene, including the date, time and location of the accident
- Document or photograph any driver and other vehicle involved, including the license plate
- Seek immediate medical attention
These are just examples of actions that can be helpful in protecting your rights after a SEPTA bus accident. Any such actions should be done only if they can be done safely. You should also contact an experienced SEPTA bus accident lawyer as soon as possible after an accident.
Contact the bus accident lawyers at Mattiacci Law today for a free consultation. We will evaluate your case and help guide you through the process of bringing a claim against SEPTA.
Who Will Pay For My Medical Bills From A SEPTA Accident?
If you are injured while a passenger on a SEPTA bus you may be concerned about paying medical bills. If you do not own your own car you may be able to get medical benefits paid by SEPTA.
SEPTA provides medical coverage to passengers injured aboard its vehicles. This coverage is generally referred to as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or First-Party Benefits. SEPTA will provide PIP coverage when certain conditions are met. First, the injured person must have been a passenger on board the SEPTA bus at the time of the incident. Next, the injured person must complete paperwork certifying that he or she does not own a vehicle and does not live with a relative who owns a vehicle. The injured person also must confirm that he or she is not entitled to PIP benefits through any other policy.
If these conditions are met, SEPTA should have up to $5,000 available to pay toward medical bills incurred because of the accident.
Contact our firm today if you have been injured in a SEPTA accident and have questions about whether SEPTA can pay your medical bills.
SEPTA Jerk and Jolt Accidents
Serious injuries can occur to passengers on vehicles such as buses and trolleys when the vehicle comes to an abrupt or sudden stop. These types of accidents are frequently referred to as “jerk and jolt” cases and often do not involve a collision with another vehicle. In order to be compensated under Pennsylvania law, a person may need to go beyond proving that he or she fell because a moving bus or trolley car suddenly stopped. Additional evidence may be needed to show that the movement of the bus was so unusual and extraordinary that it was beyond the passenger’s reasonable anticipation.
Click here to read more about jerk and jolt accidents.
SEPTA Uses Cameras On Its Vehicles
Over the years, SEPTA has installed video cameras inside most of its buses. They are used to show what happened inside of a bus during a collision. The video footage can confirm whether someone was thrown about inside the bus, whether the person was thrown to the ground, or if a passenger struck another person or a fixed object inside the vehicle.
Our firm generally requests video footage at the outset of a case so we can evaluate whether the footage captures the incident. This type of evidence can be extremely helpful in showing that a client was injured. It can also help confirm the details of a crash.
The use of cameras has also helped reduce the number of claims brought against SEPTA, in addition to the amount of money paid by SEPTA for lawsuit. According to a 2014 article, SEPTA stated that the use of cameras saved it nearly $11 million in claims. The number of claims dropped as well. In fiscal year 2013, SEPTA reported nearly 4,200 claims. In 2014, the number of claims dropped to 2,800.
The use of video footage is used by SEPTA to ensure that only legitimate claims are permitted. If a SEPTA vehicle is equipped with surveillance cameras, SEPTA will search this footage to confirm whether the facts alleged by an injured victim match what is shown in the video. If it does not, SEPTA will often use the footage to fight the claim.
What Is A Common Carrier in Pennsylvania?
SEPTA and other transportation companies are often referred to as common carriers. Our SEPTA bus accident lawyers, including John Mattiacci and Bill Coppol, are experienced personal injury lawyers who have successfully sued common carriers on behalf of clients over the years.
A common carrier is a company that holds itself open to the public and charges to transport people or goods. Under the law, a common carrier is required to use a higher degree of care for the safety of its passengers than that ordinarily imposed on others. The carrier must exercise the highest standard of care that is reasonably practicable to protect its passengers.
Unfortunately, SEPTA and other transportation companies sometimes breach this duty of care. SEPTA can violate this highest duty of care by colliding with another vehicle, striking a curb, unexpectedly moving the bus (commonly called a jerk and jolt), and not waiting until all passengers are safely off the bus before closing the doors and driving off.
As a SEPTA bus accident lawyer in Philadelphia, John Mattiacci handled one egregious case in which a SEPTA bus driver closed the doors to the bus while a passenger was still getting off of the rear stairs. The bus doors closed on the passenger and the bus started to move. The passenger was dragged by the SEPTA bus and suffered injuries. The bus did not stop until other pedestrians frantically flagged the bus driver down to make him stop the bus. John aggressively pursued SEPTA and recovered money for the client.
How a SEPTA Bus Accident Lawyer Can Help
Suing SEPTA for an accident case is not easy. There are legal protections that SEPTA enjoys that must be challenged. There are strict deadlines that must be followed to permit a claim to be brought. And there is paperwork and a claims process that must be utilized to ensure that medical bills are paid.
The skilled SEPTA accident lawyers at Mattiacci Law have years of experience in handling cases against SEPTA. Our team will aggressively pursue SEPTA, or any other person, who may be responsible for injuries resulting from a SEPTA bus accident or a SEPTA trolley accident. We will also put SEPTA on written notice of your claim, which is required by the Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act. Our lawyers will file the paperwork to help get your medical bills paid through SEPTA or through any available auto insurance.
Our goal is to get our clients the best possible recovery. To do this we will investigate the facts of your case to craft the strongest case we can on your behalf. Our lawyers will aggressively pursue SEPTA anyone else responsible to obtain full compensation for our clients.
Contact the Philadelphia personal injury law firm of Mattiacci Law today for a consultation. The initial call is completely free. We are happy to answer your questions and to provide guidance on the claims process and on how to sue SEPTA to recover your damages.
When I was involved in an automobile accident the only person I even considered calling was John Mattiacci. John is a tireless advocate for his clientele and I knew I was in good hands when he took my case. Thanks to John’s efforts he was able to resolve my case quickly and made sure I was satisfied. I can’t thank him enough for all he has done.Joe, February 24, 2016
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What should I do after a SEPTA accident?
Take the following steps, at a minimum:
- Complete a SEPTA Incident Form. This form should be given to you by the driver after the accident. If it isn’t, demand one from the driver.
- Seek medical care, even if you do not believe you were seriously injured.
- Refuse any request from SEPTA for a recorded statement.
- Contact a bus accident lawyer.
What is a SEPTA Incident Card?
A SEPTA Incident Card is a card that the driver is supposed to pass out to passengers after a SEPTA accident. You should fill out your name, address, birth date, description of the accident and a description of your injuries. You will out the form and the driver gets a carbon copy. A SEPTA Incident Card is critical evidence of your claim.
What happens to a personal injury claim if the victim dies in the accident?
The personal representative of the deceased victim’s estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action on behalf of the victim’s close relatives and beneficiaries. Damages can include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering by the deceased
- Lost earning power by the deceased
- Loss of services and care from the deceased
Should I sue or settle?
While our firm seeks to obtain a just settlement for our clients, we also prepare each case for trial and will file a lawsuit if the other party (SEPTA or a third party who caused the accident) refuses to offer a fair settlement. Once a lawsuit is filed, there is still a chance that the case may resolve through settlement prior to trial. The Courts generally will encourage the parties to a lawsuit to attend a settlement conference in an effort to get the case resolved. At other times, the parties agree to mediation, in which an impartial mediator will help facilitate a settlement between the parties. However, there are times when a client must be willing to go to trial to get the best possible result.
What special rules apply to a SEPTA lawsuit?
Filing a lawsuit against a government entity like SEPTA is different from filing an ordinary personal injury lawsuit. Special conditions apply because any damages will come from taxpayer-provided funds.
You must comply with the SEPTA notice requirement within six months of the accident. You must also retain your SEPTA Incident Card. Some grounds for a personal injury lawsuit are barred, and certain other limitations apply. Consult with your SEPTA bus accident attorney for details.
What is the SEPTA notice requirement?
Before you can file a lawsuit against SEPTA , you must notify SEPTA in writing of:
- Your name and address
- Your intent to file a claim
- The date, time and location of the accident
- The name and contact details of your doctor.
The notice must be filed within six months of the accident.
Is there a damages cap applicable to lawsuits against SEPTA?
Yes. The maximum is $250,000 per injured victim and a grand total of $1,000,000 per accident. The $1,000,000 limit per accident could be problem if a single accident injures many people. In other words, if more than one person is injured in an accident caused by SEPTA, then the total amount of money available from SEPTA would be $1,000,000, which would then need to be divided to compensate each of the injured parties according the relative values of their claims.
Does SEPTA maintain insurance that might cover my injuries if the accident was caused by an uninsured third party?
Yes. If a SEPTA accident is caused by an uninsured motorist (not a SEPTA driver), SEPTA uninsured motorist insurance will pay up to $15,000 per person and up to $30,000 per accident. Keep in mind that $30,000 isn’t much to share if the accident involved many injured victims.
If the accident was caused by an uninsured drunk driver, can I se the bar that sold him alcohol?
Yes, potentially. Under the Pennsylvania Dram Shop Law, you can san sue the holder of the liquor license if the bar served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person whose intoxication later caused an accident.
About John Mattiacci
John Mattiacci has been practicing law for 15 years, and over the past five years he has helped recover nearly $50 million in personal injury damages for his clients. His other honors include:
- Named a "Super Lawyer" (2020) and a “Pennsylvania Rising Star” (2008) by Super Lawyers and Philadelphia Magazine;
- Member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, together with fewer than one percent of the nation’s lawyers.
- Nominated by other attorneys and judges for the "AV Pre-eminent" rating through the Martindale-Hubbell peer review process.
- Assigned a "Superb" rating of 10/10 by the Avvo lawyer rating service.