Throughout the years our personal injury law firm has represented 100s of people just like you that were injured in San Francisco Bay Area public transportation accidents involving MUNI, BART, AC Transit, CalTrans and others and needed the best San Francisco bus accident lawyer they could find to help. They wanted to avoid making costly mistakes (MJQLAW????) with their claim and they had questions—some had a million, some only had a few, and others admitted that they had no idea what they needed to know. Regardless which you camp you fall into, below you will find our past client’s most common questions—with answers.
We organized our public transportation accident page this way so that you can choose how much information you want to consume and can get to the information you want as efficiently as possible. If you have a question that is not addressed here or would like to talk to us about representing you, please call us at (415) 345-4282.
Exactly what we do for our clients in a short, animated video:
Does your law firm specialize in public transit accident cases?
Yes. We handle a lot of injury accidents involving public transit. Most commonly we handle BART, MUNI, AC Transit and CalTrain accidents, but we have handled just about every form of public, mass transit in the Bay Area. We have seen it all, but here are three public transit cases we recently resolved for our clients.
$300,000 Settlement Our client, J.G., a bicyclist, was injured at a four-way stop sign in the Sunset District when a utility truck being driven by a MUNI supervisor, en route to alleviate a rail blockage on the N-Judah line, crashed into him. We alleged that the MUNI employee ran the stop sign, while the City Attorney (City and County of San Francisco (CCSF)) alleged that J. G. ran the stop sign. During the lawsuit, we were able to obtain GPS data that was being transmitted from the truck that tended to show, although not conclusive, that the MUNI employee did in fact run the stop sign.
$55,000 Settlement Our client, J.S., was walking home in Pacific Heights when he stumbled and fell after stepping into a poorly repaired portion of concrete near a utility box . The drop from the sidewalk into the portion of the concrete that was in disrepair was approximately 2 inches. The fall caused J.S. to fall onto his outstretched arm, which caused a small fracture in his elbow. He did not require surgery, but he did miss about 3 months of work as a physical therapist. Through the Sunshine Act, we were able to obtain correspondence between the property owner and the City, which showed that CCSF was on notice of the dangerous condition. The case settled without the need to file a complaint.
$660,000 Settlement Our clients, N.B. and T.C., were the daughters of an elderly man that was killed while exiting a MUNI bus in San Francisco. The man was wearing a long rain jacket that was caught in the door after the driver did not allow the man enough time to exit the bus. After being dragged a short distance, the man was run over by the bus and ultimately died from his injuries several weeks later.
I was injured in a public transit accident. Do I need a injury lawyer?
We’re sorry to learn that you were injured in a public transit accident, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the you need to hire a San Francisco muni accident lawyer. For example, if you suffered only minor injuries (scrapes and/or soft tissue injuries) AND it is clear that the public transit driver was at fault, you may be able to handle your claim with the governmental entity yourself. That said, if you suffered a serious injury you will need a public transit lawyer to help you recover what you are entitled to from the city, county or state. Give us a call at (415) 345-4282 for a free consultation to discuss whether you need a lawyer. If you don’t, we will happily give you some free advice/tips to handling your claim without a lawyer. We never take on cases that we can’t add value to; in other words, if you can’t likely net more money by hiring us, because we are paid with a percentage of the recovery (contingency fee), it doesn’t make sense to hire a personal injury lawyer and we will tell you that. That said, if you suffered serious injuries or fault isn’t crystal clear, you need to hire an experienced muni accident lawyer or else you will likely be costing yourself a lot of money; the California DMV agrees.
What will you be doing for me when I hire you?
When you hire us, you hand off all of your problems, work and stress associated with your accident to an experienced personal injury lawyer who has handled hundreds of cases like yours. This allows you to focus on your recovery, while we handle everything else. Whether you realize it or not, there are a lot of pitfalls out there for a personal injury claimant that has never dealt with a situation like this before. Insurance companies and their adjusters have the goal of saving as much money as possible and that means denying your claim, underpaying your claim and/or attempting to get you to do and say things that permanently harm the value of your claim. We won’t allow for any of that.
We will serve as the point of contact for anyone wanting to contact you about your accident or injuries. We will advise you about all the tricks that insurance companies and their agents play so that your claim, when presented, has no issues associated with it that might limit its value. Additionally, by hiring us you will swing the leverage of your injury claim back to your side, as the insurance company will be forced to accept the fact that you won’t be one of the claimants they can take financial advantage of—every major insurance company knows us and has dealt with us many times; we have a reputation of getting every dollar available.
Sounds great, but what does that exactly mean? Here are the specifics:
Investigate your Claim
- Find all sources for recovery (insurance policies and deep pockets).
- Order and review your medical records and bills.
- Hire medical professionals to review your medical records, if neccesary.
- Order any police/incident reports.
- Talk with any witnesses.
- Advance any upfront costs needed to establish your claim.
Present your Claim to the Insurance Company
- Handle all communication with the insurance company (they’ll stop calling you).
- Identify any problem areas with your case and address (and remedy if possible) them early on.
- Prepare and submit a detailed and comprehensive settlement demand package that includes legal arguments, a persuasive presentation of your claim and supporting documentation.
Maximize Your Settlement Amount
- Use our leverage of being able to file a lawsuit to put pressure on adjusters.
- Use our experience in handling 100s of cases like yours to ensure you are paid top dollar.
- Negotiate & reduce your health insurance claims, which nets you more.
Occasionally, the at-fault party’s insurance or decision-makers refuse to accept responsibility, wants to place an unfair amount of blame on you, or doesn’t respect the extent of your injuries and damages. When that happens, we file a lawsuit on your behalf and utilize the court system to create pressure on them. You see, the insurance company knows that if they don’t treat you fairly, a jury of 12 of your peers will ultimately decide what you are entitled to. This pressure causes them to reassess their position on your case and almost always causes them to offer you a good settlement before trial.
File a Lawsuit
- Prepare a formal complaint.
- Advance any upfront court costs (filing fees, service fees, etc.)
- Track down and personally serve the defendant(s).
Litigate your Case
- Explain and walk you through the entire process.
- Prepare you for when your participation is needed.
- Obtain all documents from the defendants to establish your case.
- Advance upfront costs for hiring any needed experts.
- Negotiate with opposing attorney to settle your case without the need for trial.
- If necessary, present your case at trial to a jury of your peers.
If I hire you, how long will the process take?
We understand that your goal is to get your personal injury claim resolved as quickly as possible so that you can get on with your life. However, the circumstances of your accident and injury will determine how long the process will take to achieve a settlement. We have found that the two windows most ripe for settlement are 2 months after your medical treatment is completed (pre-litigation settlement) and 6 months after filing a lawsuit (post-litigation settlement).
Of course, every case is different and opportunities to settle your case can be frequent. If we are required to file a complaint on your behalf because the insurance company refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, we typically will do that right away. However, you should know that California law gives you two years from the date of your accident to either settle your case or file a complaint to protect your claim (Note: if the defendant is a governmental entity, you have six months from the date of your accident to file a formal governmental claim, not two years).
2 months after medical treatment is completed
The majority of our cases are settled in this window. Cases that settle in this window often have the following characteristics:
- You have been diagnosed with an identifiable injury.
- You do not have substantial permanent injury or long-lasting symptoms.
- You do not require future medical treatment for your injuries.
- You did not have a pre-existing injury in the same part of your body.
- You have private health insurance (not Medi-cal, Medicare, etc.)
- The other party accepts responsibly and you bear no fault (comparative negligence)
- The person who injured you was not a government employee.
6 months after filing a lawsuit
Sometimes insurance companies refuse to accept responsibility or don’t respect the value of our client’s damages and we must file a lawsuit to create sufficient pressure on the other side. A common misconception about filing a lawsuit is that it means that a trial will occur. That’s not true, at least not with us. We have a reputation for working up our clients’ cases in the litigation process so well that approximately 95% of all cases that require us to litigate result in a settlement for our clients without the need for trial. The reason that our post-litigation settlements typically occur about 6 months after filing the complaint is because formal, written discovery needs to be done and depositions need to be taken of the parties (including you) and key witnesses. These things typically take about six months to complete.
If your case is one of the few that does requires a trial, we are experienced trial attorneys and will present your case to a jury. Personal injury jury trials in Bay Area counties (San Francisco, Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Napa and Sonoma) typically take place about 12–18 months after filing a lawsuit.
If I need a lawyer, how are you paid?
We are only paid if we are successful with your case. Our agreements call for a contingency fee of either 1/3rd or 40% of the settlement, award or verdict. If nothing is recovered on your behalf, we are not paid. If we are required to litigate your case (file a lawsuit) our fee slides from 1/3rd to 40% to account for the increased financial risk we are taking on. We never bill our clients by the hour and we spend as much time as is necessary with you and working on your case. These fees are standard in the industry. Additionally, we will advance all costs necessary to pursue your case and will never ask you for money to finance your own case. If we are successful, we are entitled to be reimbursed for our out-of-pocket, advanced costs in addition to our contingency fee. If we don’t receive a settlement or verdict on your behalf, you never owe us for the time or money we have spent pursuing your case. This arrangement allows everyone to be able to afford the best San Francisco public transit accident lawyer.
What is process of hiring you to represent me?
Trying to recover after being injured on one of the many Bay Area modes of public transportation can be confusing, stressful and intimidating. The San Francisco Bay Area is well equipped to handle our community’s demand for public transportation with over a dozen public entities providing bus, train, shuttle, ferry, and cable car rides to Bay Area citizens. With all that hustle and bustle, accidents are inevitable. You may have heard that holding a city, county, or state responsible can be a difficult task because there is no insurance company handling claims when their drivers and equipment cause injuries. While it is true that bringing a claim against a governmental agency can be more difficult, it is something we regularly do on behalf of our clients and we consistently get them the settlements they deserve.
For many of you, this is your first encounter with a personal injury lawyer and you are not too sure how the process works, what to do next, or what you’re entitled to. We understand. If you have been injured in a bike accident and are looking for a great San Francisco public transportation accident lawyer, you are in the right place!
If you have been injured in a public transit accident you should first seek out appropriate medical treatment and then contact us by submitting an online inquiry or calling us at (415) 345-4282 for a free consultation. At no charge and with complete confidentiality, we will discuss your accident with you and advise you on how to best proceed. Or if you’d prefer, we’d love to sit down with you face-to-face. Our law office is conveniently located in the Marina District of San Francisco, away from the hustle and bustle of the Financial District. We have free private and easy street parking available for your convenience.
Once we connect and discuss your situation and decide that we are a good fit for one another, there are three documents that we need you to sign: (1) Employment Agreement, (2) Letter of Representation, (3) Medical Records Release Form. You can either come into the office and sign them in person or we can email them to you and handle it electronically if you prefer.
How much is my public transit case worth?
This is a fair question that we are often asked by our clients and something we try to find the answer to as quickly as possible. That said, it is not an answer that we can provide with any level of confidence until we have worked up your case, interacted with the other side, and fully evaluated your injuries. Another San Francisco injury lawyer may pluck a random number from the sky in an effort to excite you, but we prefer to be honest with our clients. For that reason, we tell our clients that as soon as we determine a fair settlement value for their case we will let them know and then we will attempt to get more.
Another way of looking at this question is through the eyes of a potential jury or through the eyes of the governmental agency that has been sued. Of course, unless we press ahead and conduct a jury trial, your case is only worth what the governmental entity will pay you for it. That can be frustrating if their view of your case is different than our view. Fortunately, we always have the option of taking your case to trial and having a jury of your peers tell the defendant what they must pay you. Defendants in all cases take that threat very seriously and our firm has a proven track record of receiving large jury awards, which makes them less likely to want to take a chance and give the decision making power to the jury.
What are some common accidents you see involving public transportation?
- Pedestrian struck by a bus, light rail, trolley, or train.
- Passenger aboard MUNI, BART, AC Transit, SamTrans, Caltrain, or any other type of public transportation when an accident occurs.
- Driver’s/operators’s negligence causes you harm while you were either entering or exiting the public transportation vehicle.
- Injured at a terminal or station of MUNI, BART, AC Transit, SamTrans, Caltrain, or any other type of public transportation due to unsafe conditions.
- We occasionally see cases where a third party harms a passenger.
Is bringing a claim against a public entity different than an insurance company?
Yes. Bringing a claim against a governmental (public) agency is much more difficult than with non-governmental agencies primarily because CA state law protects governmental agencies from injury and death claims that they are not made aware of within 6 months of the accident. Specifically, CA Government Code Section 911.2 requires a person injured due to the negligence of a governmental agency (or their agents) to file a written governmental claim within 6 months of the injury (this is usually deemed to be the date of the accident, but not always). The governmental agency then has 45 days to accept or reject responsibility for the claim. If the governmental agency does not accept or reject the claim in 45 days, the claim is deemed to be rejected on the 45th day. Once the claim is rejected, the claimant then has 6 additional months from the date of rejection to file a proper complaint against the governmental entity in a court of law. Note: the statute of limitations for injury claims against non-public entities is 2 years from the date of injury.
A governmental entity may not be sued for personal injuries under the same theories that a non-governmental agency may be sued. Rather, a public agency may be sued for injuries only under the following grounds: (1) negligence of a public agency employee acting within the course and scope of their employment with the public agency (CA Government Code Section 815.2) and (2) dangerous condition of public property (CA Government Code Sections 835 & 840-840.6). There are also some additional actions that can be brought against police officers, fire fighters, medical providers, etc. (CA Government Code Sections 840-856.6).
What is common carrier liability?
Businesses and governmental agencies that advertise and/or hold themselves out to the public as being available to provide transportation for a fee are known as common carriers. In other words, if you are in the business of providing transportation for profit, you are a common carrier. Common carriers have a higher standard of care than your standard driver. Common carriers must exercise the highest degree of care and vigilance in order to ensure that their passengers are safe. Common carriers are required to provide safe vehicles for travel, train and qualify their operators, and implement proper safety protocols for their transportation offerings. The standard for common carriers is a difficult one to reach and often times, governmental agencies fail to meet their obligations under common carrier liability laws. This may be due to oversight, negligence, or inadequate budgets. Nonetheless, if you are injured by public transportation, you have a claim against them for your injuries if they failed to meet their obligations in any manner. We are experts in evaluating the conduct of common carriers, including governmental agencies, and have a long track record of recovering great financial settlements for our clients that are injured at the hands of common carriers.
Public Transportation Injury Tips
There is no doubt that you will need a great San Francisco accident attorney if you are going to take on the government in an accident claim after being injured on/by a public transportation vehicle. All of the governmental agencies in the Bay Area are self-insured, meaning that any settlement paid out will come from that governmental entity’s budget. As a result, they are very tight with their money and rarely accept liability for your injuries before you file a lawsuit. You need a lawyer. That said, you should be aware of the few things that apply specifically to bring an injury claim against a government entity. Most importantly, you have six months from the date of the accident to file a governmental claim with the appropriate entity. Failing to do so will likely prevent you from being able to pursue a claim against them. This six month statue of limitations is much shorter than California’s 2 year statute of limitations that applies to all non-governmental defendants. To that end, you should always seek the assistance of a San Francisco personal injury lawyer before filing a governmental claim. You can find the injury claim form against CCSF here (City and County of San Francisco) for your reference, but be warned that things you include or fail to include can harm your case moving forward. Here are some other more generalized areas of risk you should be informed about: