When people use a bus or light rail service, they are putting their safety in the hands of experienced professional drivers and transportation experts. They quite rightly feel that the very least they can expect is to get from Point A to Point B without coming to any harm.
Likewise, Portland-area pedestrians and cyclists who are obeying the laws regarding the use of intersections, bike lanes, etc., have every reason to believe they will not be injured by a TriMet bus or train. However, every year Portland accident attorneys are called on to make personal injury—or even wrongful death claims—against TriMet, an entity to which special rules and limitations with regard to insurance claims and lawsuits applies.
Anyone considering filing a personal injury claim against TriMet should contact a Portland personal injury firm familiar with the intricacies of such cases. TriMet is the main bus and light rail transportation provider of bus and light rail services in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas Counties. While they are certainly not immune from liability for accidents and injuries caused by the negligence of one or more of their employees, or by faulty equipment, or for a variety of other reasons, time limits for filing a tort claim against them are quite strict.
Statute of limitations
Oregon Revised Statutes mandate that anyone considering a personal injury lawsuit against TriMet must file a tort claim notice within 180 days of the accident. Failure to meet this very strict requirement means that your claim will almost without question be thrown out, regardless of its validity.
To put it in the clearest possible terms, if a TriMet driver fell asleep at the wheel while reading a magazine with a beer in his or her hand and ran you over at a marked intersection while you were crossing the road with a green light, you would think you’d have a pretty strong claim against TriMet! However, if you failed to file that claim within 180 days, it would be thrown out.
Those are the rules, and they represent one of the best reasons why potential claimants should make it their first point of business to hire a Portland personal injury lawyer with experience in handling TriMet cases. In fact, several less experienced lawyers have been sued by their clients for not filing tort claim notices on time.
Self-insured and well protected
TriMet offers an invaluable service that gets people to work, to the shops, or j-st to the park for a day out, every day of the year. What many people may not realize is that they also sub-contract some of their work out to independent contractors.
In addition, it may come as something of a surprise that TriMet and any of the independent companies they use do not have insurance through an independent company. Instead, TriMet:
- Employs their own adjusters and attorneys
- Independently investigates each claim to determine fault and make a decision on negligence and subsequent payments
- Litigates and defends claims they feel are unjustified
The people who handle these cases work only for TriMet, and they understand quite clearly that the less money they pay out on claims, the better TriMet’s bottom line will look at the end of the year. This puts them in a completely different category when compared with making a personal injury claim involving more traditional insurance cover and is another reason it’s important for the plaintiff to have an attorney that’s used to dealing with TriMet and their built-in insurance/legal team.
TriMet quite rightly go to great lengths to protect themselves against unfair or bogus insurance claims. After all, bus and train companies may seem like a soft target to unscrupulous people looking to cash in on an unfortunate incident.
Most TriMet buses and light rail carriages are fitted with video cameras. Video evidence is incredibly effective in defending against a spurious claim, or equally effective in proving one that is utterly legitimate.
Here’s the problem, however. The video footage belongs to TriMet. If you do not notify them (or better still ask your attorney to do so) that you have been injured, they are well within their rights to destroy that evidence. Once notified, your attorney can insure the evidence is preserved, and TriMet cannot get rid of the video footage you need to help prove your case.
Bigger vehicles, bigger injuries
If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a behemoth of a bus, or a Titanic-sized train, it’s not quite the same as being hit by a child’s tricycle. The size and speed of TriMet vehicles means that injuries suffered are far more likely to involve serious, traumatic, painful and long-lasting damage than the average motor vehicle accident. Portland personal injury attorneys dealing with TriMet cases often find their clients have suffered with:
- Spinal cord damage
- Brain injuries
- Bone fractures
What if the accident wasn’t TriMet’s fault
It’s true that a number of factors besides driver negligence can cause your accident, but as long as you were not at fault, it would be unfair to expect you to bear the financial burden of your injuries as well as the pain, suffering and inconvenience. This could simply mean that someone in addition to TriMet may be included as a defendant in your claim; this is a matter to be discussed with your attorney. Other factors could include:
- Damaged streets and roads
- Dangerous weather and driving conditions
- Broken bus components
- Inadequate maintenance
- Road rage
The point is, if you’re a passenger using public transportation, or if you’re another road user abiding by the rules, you have an absolute right to a safe environment. If you’re injured, the injured party or parties, however big, powerful and intimidating they may be, should be held liable.
Clearly, a critical element to the success of your claim is finding the right attorney to represent you. The first thing you need to do if you’re thinking of filing a claim against TriMet and their formidable team of adjusters and attorneys, is to contact a well-known, highly reputable Portland personal injury attorney who has experience in dealing with TriMet cases.
Remember that strict time limits apply, so make the call the minute you even consider making a claim. Your consultation is free, and at the very least, you can get your questions answered, find out your rights and make an informed decision about how to proceed.