Dealing with the legal fallout from even the most straightforward car accident can be extremely complicated. But this is nothing compared to the difficulty of trying to recover damages for injuries suffered on public mass transportation, such as city buses and light rail. However, it’s a fact that any government agency or authority—city, county, state, or federal—can be held legally responsible for negligence that causes serious harm to members of the public. It’s just a matter of having the right experts on the case.
At Ashton & Price, we aren’t intimidated by the prospect of bringing claims against a government entity, because we have successfully navigated the process many times before. However, there are complex rules and timing requirements that apply to any claims against a government entity, that don’t come up in normal accidents. In most cases in California, you must file a motion of intent against any governmental agency within six months of an accident. Failing to do so will render you unable to recover financial compensation. That’s why, to protect your right and ability to make a legal claim against even a school district—let alone a larger government authority—it is imperative that you speak to an experienced attorney immediately.
At Ashton & Price, we have extensive experience in representing cases involving many types of accidents, against all levels of government.
We have represented individuals who have successfully recovered damages from local, city, state, and federal government authorities who were partially or fully at fault for many different types of accidents, including:
- Public transit and school bus accidents
- Light rail and train accidents (such as on trains run by BART, Amtrak, Caltrain)
- Other Sacramento area mass transit accidents
- Accidents and school and public bus stops
- Accidents on government property
- Accidents resulting from unsafe road designs and defects, as well as improper maintenance
We have also represented accidents involving many other types of government vehicles, including:
- Post office vehicles
- Police cars and fire trucks
- Ambulances and other EMT vehicles
- Road construction vehicles
- Vehicles rented or leased by a government agency
- Other vehicles owned and/or operated by a government agency
Drivers of mass transportation vehicles, such as buses, are held to a higher standard than regular drivers in the state of California, and in the United States in general.
Since April of 1992, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act has required that anyone driving a commercial vehicle must have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The CMVSA set federal minimum standards for CDLs. A CDL is require to operate any type of vehicle that:
- Weighs more than 26,001 pounds, or that tows a trailer and has a total weight of more than 10,001 pounds.
- Transports hazardous materials that warrant the use of warning placards according to Department of Transportation regulations.
- Has seating for 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
- Has seating for 8 or more passengers (including the driver), and receives compensation for transporting those passengers.
California has its own, more stringent requirements for having a CDL.
- Any driver whose primary employment is driving, even if they do not drive what is defined as a commercial vehicle according to federal standards (essentially, any vehicle that transports people or products for compensation).
- An individual must be 18 years of age or older in order to obtain a CDL. And only those 21 years of age or older may drive commercial vehicles that carry hazardous materials, or that cross state lines.
- Anyone applying for or renewing a CDL with an endorsement to transport hazardous materials must pass a security threat assessment.
- Drivers who drive certain types of mass transportation vehicles, such as school buses, vehicles for transporting youth, and paratransit transports, must pass a medical examination by a physician, registered nurse, or certified medical examiner.
- School bus drivers and public transit drivers may not use a cell phone while driving, even with a hands-free device.
There are a number of major violations which can result in the suspension of a CDL. Typically, the first offense results in a 1 year suspension (or a 3 year suspension if the offense is committed while operating a vehicle transporting hazardous materials.) A second violation will result in a lifetime disqualification (though some drivers may be eligible for reinstatement after 10 years). These offenses include:
- Being cited for a DUI (When a driver with a CDL is driving their commercial vehicle, the threshold for being cited for a DUI drops from the normal 0.08% to 0.04% blood alcohol content).
- Being under the influence of a controlled substance.
- Refusing to take an alcohol test.
- Leaving the scene of an accident.
- Using a vehicle to commit a felony (using a vehicle to commit a felony involving the transportation or manufacturing of a controlled substance will automatically result in a lifetime disqualification, without possibility for reinstatement).
- Causing a fatality through the negligent operation of a commercial vehicle (such crimes can include manslaughter, negligent homicide, or homicide).
- Driving a commercial vehicle with a suspended CDL.
- Commercial drivers can also have their CDLs suspended for serious traffic violations like speeding and reckless driving, in some cases even while only driving their personal vehicles.
The above should make it clear that, while it can be challenging to obtain damages in a case involving a public transportation vehicle, that the federal government and the state of California both hold extremely strict standards for the behavior of commercial drivers, and the violation of these standards is grounds for winning financial damages in a court case.