Millions of disabled U.S. residents, many of which are confined to wheelchairs, rely on public transportation for essential travel. When the operators of these public transit services do not meet the right requirements, a paratransit injury case in Maryland can become a very serious inevitability.
Taking a Look at the Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires operators of public transit services to provide paratransit options for disabled people who are unable to use regular services. A paratransit option usually takes the form of a wheelchair lift that allows disabled riders to board or disembark from a bus or train. Those options must:
- Be offered wherever regular rail/bus transit is available
- Be located three-quarters of a mile or less from regular transit routes
- Operate according to the same timetables that regular bus/rail services do
Maryland and the Washington, DC area provide many paratransit options such as MobilityLink, a service of the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). MobilityLink transports disabled riders from their homes to their destinations and back again via:
- Metro SubwayLink
- Light RailLink
Maryland Paratransit Accidents
Although paratransit systems are designed with the safety of the rider in mind, paratransit technology is not flawless, and accidents do occur for a number of reasons:
- Faulty lift/machinery design or installation
- Negligent operation by transit drivers/personnel
- Wheelchairs improperly secured on the lift
- Problems with roll-stop latches
- Slick or wet lift surfaces
Injuries Suffered by Paratransit Riders
When safety issues and/or negligence cause a paratransit accident, the rider may sustain any number of serous injuries, including:
- Concussion/brain injury
- Spinal cord damage/paralysis
- Whiplash/neck injuries
- Broken/fractured bones
If you’re injured in a paratransit accident, you’re entitled to file a claim against the operator’s insurance company for your damages, including:
- Medical bills
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Lost income
- Emotional/psychological trauma
If the insurer refuses to offer you a reasonable settlement, you may file a lawsuit and take the defendant to trial. However, filing a claim or lawsuit in a paratransit case can be more difficult than filing other types of personal injury claims due to the unique obstacles faced by victims in these cases.
Obstacles We Commonly See in a Paratransit Injury Case in Maryland
There are a variety of obstacles and challenges that victims face in a paratransit injury case in Maryland. These include:
- Pre-existing conditions. If you’re a disabled victim with medical issues that pre-date your paratransit accident, the defendant’s insurer is likely to dispute your claim and try to blame your injuries on your pre-existing condition, especially if you’re a senior citizen.
- Multiple Defendants. Trains and buses are commercial vehicles. That means, the liability for your accident could be shared by more than one of a number of defendants:
- The transit agency
- The driver/operator of the bus or train
- The company that manufactured the bus, train, or wheelchair lift
- A mechanic or repair service that serviced the bus/train
- A parts manufacturer that supplied a defective part that was installed during repair of the lift
Each of these defendants might have a different insurance company that will do its best to dispute or devalue your claim. Dealing with more than one defendant/insurer to get fair compensation can create complex and difficult challenges for the average person, especially one recovering from recent injuries.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can handle these challenges and utilize the following strategies to get you a significantly higher award than you’re likely to get on your own:
- Investigate your accident with the help of an accident reconstructionist
- Document your injuries and organize/present your medical evidence persuasively
- Interview any witnesses to the accident
- Determine which defendants are responsible for what percentages of your damages
- File multiple claims, negotiate with multiple insurers, and possibly file multiple lawsuits
- Contributory negligence. Maryland is one of only four states that follow a contributory negligence standard in personal injury cases. This means, if you’re found to be even one percent responsible for your own accident, you will collect no compensation at all. The insurer’s lawyers will be fighting their hardest to prove you were partially responsible. Having an attorney in your corner to prove you were not responsible could make the difference between collecting fair compensation and collecting nothing.
- Statute of limitations. Your attorney will know how to spot and resist stalling tactics by the lawyers and be sure you observe the statute of limitations for filing a paratransit injury case in Maryland. In MD, the statute of limitations is three years.
Are You the Victim of a Paratransit Accident in Maryland? Our Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help!
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you overcome obstacles unique to paratransit cases. Please contact us online, start a chat, or call us to schedule a free consultation. You pay no attorney fees unless we win your case.