Imagine it’s a Monday morning and you’re running behind to get to work on time. You ride BART to/from San Francisco or Oakland every day and know the train schedules like the back of your hand. You race to the BART station, up to the BART platform and slip through the open doors with at least 10 seconds to spare! You made it; your week is not going to begin with your boss on your back!
Just about the time you start to relax and jump on Twitter or Facebook, in storms a group of criminals that are there to rob you and your fellow commuters of your valuables. You don’t want to be hurt (or worse) so you hand over your valuables and helplessly watch them storm off of the BART train. Of course, you are shaken and upset—they just took your laptop, your watch and your cell phone—but what do you do now?
This scenario is a very real possibility for Bay Area commuters these days. Just today, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a front page article about the recent increased crime on BART. You may also recall hearing about the robbery last weekend where at least 40 teenagers stormed a Dublin/Pleasanton bound BART train at Coliseum station in Oakland and robbed at least seven commuters of their valuables. In fact, the first arrest of a juvenile occurred today.
Sadly, riding BART safely is not something that can be taken for granted anymore and San Francisco Bay Area commuters are forced to choose between two evils: (1) continue to ride BART for commuting and transportation purposes and assume the risk of being the victim of a crime, or (2) avoid BART and find alternative methods of getting to and from work, social functions and other gatherings. For most people, option 2 is not a reasonable option. Many people don’t own cars and there is increased time, expense and stress associated with avoiding public transportation options like BART. That leaves most commuters with no reasonable choice but to assume the risk of becoming a victim of a crime while riding BART.
This article is intended to educate you about your rights and options should a Bay Area commuter’s nightmare occur.
Of course, we recognize that the most culpable entity here is the criminal, but for purposes of this post we will assume that the criminal disappears along with your valuables and you are left looking for recourse. In that scenario, there are three methods of recovery for someone that is victimized while riding BART from our legal vantage point:
OPTION #1: Suing BART
[Potential Total Recovery] This option will require that you hire a personal injury lawyer, but it will make it possible to recover all of your damages, which include: property loss, medical bills, wage loss, pain and suffering, etc. That said, this is not an easy route given that BART would likely deny any claim and vigorously defend any lawsuit. For that reason, it would only be advisable for someone that suffered substantial injuries and/or losses. In effect, holding BART vicariously liable for the intentional, criminal act of an unknown third party would be required.
In order to prevail you would have to show that BART owed you a duty to protect you against these criminal acts. To determine if a duty exists, the courts will weigh the foreseeability of harm against the burden of the duty to be imposed. Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center, 6 Cal. 4th 666 (1993)
There is a high standard for establishing the foreseeability of a crime; prior, similar criminal acts will almost certainly be required. These prior, similar criminal acts must be substantially similar in terms of the type of crime and type of harm.
Should it be determined that the crime was foreseeable and therefore BART owed you a duty to protect you from these criminal acts, you would then have to establish that BART did not meet this duty by showing that BART failed to take reasonable precautions for the foreseeable crime. In fact, because BART is a “common carrier”, they would be held to the highest standard of care to protect you from foreseeable criminal acts. A common carrier is a company that transports passengers for a fee.
Due to the recent negative attention BART has received, your lawyer would likely find that establishing the high level of foreseeability of a robbery would be easier than in past years.
Option #2: Homeowners/Renters Insurance
[Value of Property Only] You may be surprised to learn that most people can make a claim for stolen items under their homeowners/renters insurance policy. Any items stolen from you while riding BART would certainly apply. Homeowners and renters insurance coverage is often times overlooked when items are lost/stolen while you are away from home, because people mistakenly assume that the loss must occur within the home.
If you have either type of insurance coverage, you will be able to turn to your policy and be compensated for the value of what has been lost/stolen.
You should be aware that these policies do include limitations and exceptions for expensive items, such as jewelry and computers. For instance, most policies limit their coverage for the theft of jewelry up to $500 per item and $1,000 per computer. Diamond rings are also not typically covered under these policies. Lastly, you will be required to cover your deductible before you are reimbursed for your loss. The typical deductible ranges from $500-$1,000 per claim. If you don’t posses either of these types of insurance we strongly recommend that you consider purchasing coverage as it covers you in more ways than you might expect.
Option #3: The California Victim Compensation Board (“CalVCB”)
[Medical Expenses/Lost Income Only] The CalVCB provides financial compensation for victims of violent crime who are injured or threatened with injury, including robbery and battery. If you meet these requirements, you could qualify to have your medical expenses paid, receive compensation for your income loss, and other related expenses, which are listed on CALVCB.
However, you will not be able to recover damages for your stolen property and your pain and suffering. The max recovery for any applicant is set at $70,000. You would not need a lawyer to make this claim.