Matthew Minner | February 22, 2022 | Negligence
Not all van and bus accidents happen on the road. Transporting individuals with disabilities requires special care and training. When paratransit services make mistakes while loading, operating, and maintaining vehicles, their passengers can get injured.
Worse yet, paratransit workers have an incentive to cover up the accident. Their passengers already have disabilities, so they may think they can escape liability for new injuries.
Here are some things to know about paratransit accidents and how you can pursue compensation for the injuries they can cause.
Standard of Care for Paratransit Services
Paratransit operators have a legal duty to exercise “reasonable care” under the circumstances. Reasonable care means the level of care and caution a reasonably prudent person would exercise in the same situation.
This is an objective standard. If a jury thinks the operator failed to exercise reasonable care, the jury can hold the operator liable, regardless of the operator’s intent or mindset.
For example, suppose that a driver failed to secure someone’s wheelchair inside a van or bus. The wheelchair tipped over during the ride, and the individual using the wheelchair suffered a spinal cord injury. The operator may be liable for their injuries, whether the driver intended to skip the step or merely forgot.
Who is Liable for Paratransit Accidents?
Multiple parties could be liable for a paratransit injury. Some parties who might have contributed to your accident include:
If the driver’s acts or omissions caused your accident, you might have a case against the driver. But you should bear in mind that the driver might not have the resources to pay a judgment if you win your lawsuit.
Also, the driver’s employer probably bears vicarious liability for the driver’s actions while working. As a result, you will probably not sue the driver.
In most cases, you will sue the paratransit operator. The operator could have acted negligently in many ways, including:
- Insufficient training
- Outdated equipment
- Lack of supervision
- Negligent hiring
You might also have a claim if the operator’s response was deficient. For example, if the driver waited to call 911, you might have a claim based on how a delayed response made your injuries worse.
Repair or Maintenance Garage
Not every accident happens because of the operator. Sometimes accidents happen because the equipment was improperly repaired or maintained. A frayed strap or a broken lift could drop you, despite the driver’s reasonable actions. If your injuries were caused by broken equipment, you might have a claim against the maintenance facility.
The law imposes strict liability on manufacturers for defective products. If the equipment used to lift or secure you in a paratransit vehicle was defective, you might have a claim against the manufacturer.
To win a product liability case, you must show that the paratransit equipment had a design defect, manufacturing defect, or warning defect when it left the manufacturer.
Nursing Home or Hospital
When a long-term care facility or hospital contracts with service providers, it must exercise reasonable care in selecting them. If they merely choose the cheapest option despite a poor safety record, you might have a claim for negligence in selecting the paratransit service.
If your paratransit accident happened on a bus operated by Lextran, you may have a limited right to sue Lextran. Under Kentucky law, the county and Lextran have sovereign immunity. This means you cannot sue them for actions performed within the ordinary scope of government business.
But Kentucky has also waived its sovereign immunity in cases of negligence. To sue Lextran for a paratransit accident, you would need to prove Lextran was negligent in some way. Some avenues for proving negligence include inadequate procedures, deficient training, and broken equipment.
Compensation for Paratransit Accidents
If you get injured in a paratransit accident, you can sue for your economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include your past and future medical expenses. It also includes your lost wages if you missed work.
Non-economic losses cover your diminished quality of life. These include physical pain and mental suffering.