NJ Transit Held to High Standard of Care in Bus Accident Settlement

In October of 2008, Mercedes Perez was crossing a street when the unthinkable happened: she was struck head-on by a New Jersey Transit bus. Ms. Perez’s legs were pinned underneath the bus and she suffered extensive injury.

Ultimately, the 59-year-old Perez was forced to have her left leg and right foot amputated. She also suffered brain damage, losing her ability to speak or feed herself. But, Ms. Perez’s tribulations were not at an end. Placed in a rehabilitative center and facing skyrocketing medical costs, Ms. Perez now needed someone to pay for her care.

Victims injured under similar circumstances typically turn to New Jersey pedestrian accident attorneys, and Ms. Perez was no exception. She was at the center of a legal battle that was not resolved until January of 2012. But, the wait may have been worth it: Perez’s lawyer hammered out a deal with New Jersey Transit under which the agency will provide $7.85 million to cover her damages.

Perez Case Illustrates Danger Posed By New Jersey Transit Vehicles And Corresponding Duty Of Care

The multimillion-dollar settlement approved by a Superior Court judge on January 6 will provide much-needed respite for the now-disabled Perez. “She will get the finest care available,” Ms. Perez’s lawyer told The Star-Ledger. “I was very proud to help this woman.” Following the settlement, Ms. Perez’s care will be continued in a private facility.

The settlement in Ms. Perez’s case shows how, with persistence, those injured by New Jersey Transit employees can recover fair and just compensation. But it also raises red flags in terms of the agency’s attention to safety policies.

Reportedly, Ms. Perez had been more than halfway through a marked crosswalk when she was struck. The driver of the Transit Authority bus had been newly hired. Officially, the settlement does not mean New Jersey Transit admits responsibility for the accident, and a Transit spokesman declined to comment on Ms. Perez’s case. Still, the facts of the incident combined with the settlement amount go to show that at the very least, New Jersey Transit had a concern about how its practices would be viewed if a jury was ultimately asked to decide the question of fault.

New Jersey Transit is a public transportation corporation covering a service area of 5,325 square miles. It operates 2,027 buses, 711 trains and 45 light rail vehicles, providing nearly 223 million passenger trips annually. Considering the numbers, cases like Ms. Perez’s call into question safety of millions of New Jersey residents and visitors.

Obviously, buses and trains are massive vehicles, and when they come into contact with other passenger vehicles, pedestrians or bicyclists, the results are often devastating. Like the operator of any other motor vehicle, New Jersey Transit drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care and caution on the road. When any motor vehicle operator fails in this duty and causes harm to another, the driver, his or her employer (if the accident occurred within the scope of job duties), or an insurer may be held responsible for resulting damages. Like other professional drivers, Transit workers can incur liability that attaches to their employer.

While New Jersey Transit drivers have a duty to respect the safety of other motorists and pedestrians on the road, they also have a special responsibility to their passengers. As a transportation provider that offers services to the general public, New Jersey Transit must exercise the highest degree of care toward its passengers. The required high standard of care extends even beyond crash-related concerns: any injury sustained by a passenger onboard a Transit vehicle could be compensable (for instance, injuries caused by tripping over obstructions left in an aisle, slipping on wet surfaces, etc.).

Seeking Monetary Damages For Bus And Other Mass Transit Accidents

As evidenced by Ms. Perez’s tragedy, New Jersey Transit bus accidents can have devastating, life-altering consequences. Yet, the settlement reached in her case also proves that there is a glimmer of hope for accident victims and their families. While no amount of financial compensation will ever truly make up for a harm as grievous as a permanent impairment or the loss of a family member, a full and fair monetary judgment can help ease the burden on those who are forced to live with the consequences of the wrongful actions of another.

If you have been injured in a public transit accident, or if a family member has been killed, take steps to ensure you receive the just compensation you deserve. Contact a New Jersey attorney today to find out how you could benefit from a personal injury lawsuit.

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