Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act defines public transportation as “any service for which a fare is charged for transporting the public by vehicles…” which includes transit buses, trains and subways. In Ontario, public transportation is most popular by far in Toronto, where it offers substantial benefits as it provides good service to many areas in the GTA, allows users to avoid the stress of driving in heavy traffic, eliminates the need to find and pay for expensive parking and in many cases, reduces travel time. Increasingly, people who live in the downtown core choose not to own a car, as public transportation is cheaper over the long run and can meet most of their needs. Outside of the GTA, buses are slightly less popular and often less convenient, but still used by many people in communities throughout Ontario, particularly students and commuters.
Although buses and public transportation have proven to be one of the safest ways to travel on Ontario roads, accidents still sometimes occur and when they do, the large number of travellers on any one bus increases the likelihood that someone will be injured. As busses themselves provide a significant amount of protection in the case of an accident given that they are as large and heavy as trucks, bus occupants sually experience less severe injuries than a pedestrian, cyclist or passenger in a smaller vehicle who are sometimes struck by a bus or train. In serious collisions, such victims of bus accidents may suffer catastrophic injuries or even death.
According to a 2013 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, public buses were involved in 750 accidents that year, nine of which involved fatalities. One of these collisions involved an Erin Mills woman who tragically suffered fatal injuries after being struck by a Mississauga public transit bus. The woman was crossing the street at an intersection in front of Erin Mills Town Centre when she was hit by the bus and pinned under it, as the bus driver attempted a left turn out of the mall. The driver was held responsible for causing the accident, but the incident did not result in his termination as a driver for the City of Mississauga.
The risk of fatal injury is significant when a pedestrian or cyclist is struck by a bus. As well, sometimes bus passengers can be severely injured when a bus stops abruptly, even in the absence of a crash, as the lack of seat belts makes anyone travelling on a bus vulnerable to fall or be thrown against the bus infrastructure, in such situations. The following injuries most commonly result for vehicle passengers when involved in a bus accident:
- Whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries
- Broken Bones
- Head injury and traumatic brain injury
- Back and spinal injuries
There are many factors that can cause bus accidents, and most involve driver error and negligence, either on behalf of other motorists or the bus driver. Driving while under the influence, speeding, distracted driving and fatigue are among the most common causes of injury or death resulting from a motor vehicle accident. As the safety and lives of bus passengers is in their hands, it’s imperative for bus drivers to abstain from any of these ‘at risk’ driving actions that may put their passengers and other road users at risk.
Of course, there are some circumstances that are out of a driver’s control, such as extreme weather and road conditions. However, professional drivers who are responsible for safely transporting customers to their destinations are held under a higher standard of care than an ordinary driver and accordingly, are expected to be vigilant and cautious, even in challenging driving conditions such as winter storms.
Claiming for injuries that resulted from your accident
As a victim of a public transit bus accident, you may be entitled to make a claim for any losses resulting from your injury. There are some issues to consider when making a decision to file a claim for compensation.
- Filing Deadlines – There are deadlines for filing personal injury claims and if you do not submit your claim within that time period, you run the risk of having it denied. A legal proceeding or civil suit against a government body or private party must be commenced within two years of realizing you have grounds to make an injury claim (usually two years from the accident). Also, claims made against municipalities and other government bodies have an additional deadline. Specifically, if you are making an accident or injury claim against the Ontario Ministry of Transportation or an Ontario municipality, notice of your claim must be submitted in writing to the appropriate government office within 10 days of the accident.
- Who Are You Filing Against – If the accident involved negligence on behalf of a public transportation service or driver, then the claim must be made against the municipality or other government jurisdiction responsible for operating the service. If the accident was caused by a privately owned vehicle, then you can file a suit for damages against the owner or operator of the bus/train. In some cases, when a public transit vehicle is responsible for causing an accident and resulting injuries, a civil suit will be brought against multiple defendants, such as the driver, bus operator and municipality.
- Proving Negligence – A tort action (i.e. law suit) for damages resulting from the negligence of a bus or bus transit service requires evidence to prove driver negligence and the specific losses incurred by the injured person as a result of the accident.
It is a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident to ensure that you have properly notified the various defendants in your claim and are meeting the required deadlines, particularly when a municipality is named in a claim for injury compensation. Through many years of experience in successfully representing clients who were injured in motor vehicle accidents, our Toronto motor vehicle accident lawyers have a deep understanding of the challenges accident victims face in the weeks and even years after serious injury. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a motor vehicle accident, including a public transit or bus accident, call us to schedule a no-obligation consultation and let us help you get the compensation you deserve.