SEPTA hosts more than 300 million passengers annually on its subway, bus, trolley and regional rail lines — an average of 80,000 riders per day. With the sixth-largest ridership and the fifth-largest transit system nationwide, there are bound to be injuries because of operator error or defective equipment, negligence or recklessness. If you have been injured in an accident with SEPTA or while on SEPTA property, our trial lawyers will assess your case during a free consultation.
Although the Sovereign Immunity Act protects SEPTA just as it does other state agencies, SEPTA can still be held liable for injuries caused by its buses, trains, trolleys and the subway. Our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys have a wide range of experience litigating cases against mass transit providers in the area, including SEPTA.
SEPTA regional rail train at Fern Rock Transportation Center. Source: Wikipedia
How Do SEPTA Accidents Occur?
SEPTA has lawsuits brought against it more than once a day — and this number is dwarfed by the agency’s highwater mark in the 2014–2015 fiscal year, when SEPTA was sued 1,400 times and received 3,400 injury claims.
Most of the accidents that led to these claims occurred on roadways, but the occasional subway and regional rail accident can be much more injurious. Our law firm has brought forth cases that occurred in the following transit modes:
- Regional Rail Accidents: Millions ride the SEPTA regional rail system every year, gaining access to the trains at one of the 130 stations. But negligent operation or defective equipment has resulted in derailments, injuries to people crossing the tracks and car collisions at inadequately marked crossings. Passengers hurrying to catch a train might also slip and fall on SEPTA property due to negligent maintenance of the property.
- Subway and Elevated Train Injuries: The worst accident in SEPTA rail system history was a 1990 crash on the Market-Frankford Line outside of 30th Street Station, where four were killed and 162 injured. The accident resulted from a dislodged motor under the subway car that hit a switch to change tracks, derailing three cars.
Although subway derailments are thankfully rare occurrences, this is less true for injuries that result from a slip and fall on the stairs entering the train station or for other injury accidents. Other cases might involve, for example, a person struck by a train after a slip and fall from the platform onto the subway tracks.
- Bus Accident Injuries: In addition to its network of regional rail lines, subway and trolley lines, SEPTA operates around 1,400 buses out of nine depots, taking passengers on approximately 100 routes in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Although the news only covers a handful of accidents involving SEPTA buses every year, they are involved in many more accidents with cars and pedestrians.
- Trolley Accident Injuries: SEPTA has the largest trolley network in the country. It operates 159 trolley cars across 68 miles of track as part of eight trolley lines in the city of Philadelphia and Delaware County.
These trolleys have been in more crashes that you might expect. There have been around a dozen reported in the news from 2014 to 2017. Accidents have involved other trolleys, cars, bicyclists and pedestrians. Drivers crashing into trolley cars have been killed, trolley passengers have suffered back and shoulder injuries and pedestrians have been hit.
The Market-Frankford elevated SEPTA train. Source: Flickr, shared under a CC BY 2.0 license
The Most Common Causes of SEPTA Accidents
Anyone who has spent enough time in Philadelphia has seen SEPTA buses cutting off cars and bicycles, driving well above the speed limit, running yellow and nearly-red lights and generally failing to be courteous citizens of the road. Other Philadelphians have experience running for their train, only to notice a piece of litter or another tripping hazard and avoid it at the last second.
These common dangers are just part of the list of SEPTA accident causes our law firm has seen before, which also include:
- Operator or driver error
- Improper maintenance of vehicles
- Improper maintenance of property
- Lack of driver training or testing
- Negligent security
- Failure to fix design flaws
- Safety violations and regulation breaches
What You Should Do After a SEPTA Accident
If you are in a bus or trolley accident, the driver will hand you a form — this is very important to fill out, as it stands as proof that you were on the SEPTA vehicle when the accident happened. This form will come with a duplicate, so both you and the driver can keep a copy. Sometimes, people will try to jump onto a bus or trolley that’s been involved in an accident so that they can fraudulently make an injury claim.
If you don’t receive a form from the driver, you should ask for one. The form will ask for the following information:
- Name of the driver — you can also include a physical description
- Bus number, route and time
- Witness information
On your own, you should ask for other passengers’ information. This may come in handy in a lawsuit — for example, those injured by a SEPTA vehicle’s sudden stop may have to prove that the stop was unusual or extraordinary, something known as the “jerk and jolt” rule. One of the best ways to establish this is through passenger corroboration.
How the Sovereign Immunity Act Limits SEPTA’s Liability
SEPTA is a state agency, and the Sovereign Immunity Act can limit its liability to $250,000 for any one claim and $1 million total per accident, without regard to the number of victims or the severity of their injuries.
This act also sharply reduces the timeline to make a claim on a SEPTA accident — down to 6 months in most cases.
Sovereign immunity can also protect the agency from a lawsuit in the first place, and it will be up to your lawyer to argue the merits of a claim that would otherwise be denied outright.
When to Consult with an Experienced SEPTA Accident Attorney
At McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt, we have over 30 years of experience in litigating SEPTA accident cases. We take all SEPTA accident injury claims on a contingency basis, and will only charge you attorney fees if we are able to obtain financial compensation for your losses.
Thousands use public transportation to get around Philly safely every day. However, if you are one of the few who have been hurt in a SEPTA accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. If you or your family have suffered an injury while traveling with SEPTA, fill out our form or call us directly at 1-800-590-4116.