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Is SEPTA immune from Personal Injury Lawsuits

In this article, Philadelphia SEPTA accident lawyer, Brent Wieand, Esq., discusses whether SEPTA can be held liable for injuries caused by accidents such as train crashes, bus accidents or slip and fall accidents that occur on SEPTA property.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, a/k/a SEPTA, is a transit service provider owned by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth. SEPTA operates hundreds of buses, trains and trolleys throughout Southeastern PA. Most of these trips are completed without incident. However, sometimes, SEPTA vehicles are involved in accidents, or people may become hurt due to a defective or hazardous condition of SEPTA’s property.

Contrary to what many people think, SEPTA is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (not the City of Philadelphia). Because SEPTA is owned by the Commonwealth, it is entitled to protection from lawsuits. This is known as Sovereign immunity. However, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has created exceptions to Sovereign immunity in certain cases. The law which creates exceptions to Sovereign Immunity is the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act.

Sovereign immunity is coded in Subchapter B, §8521 et seq. §8522 sets forth nine exceptions to sovereign immunity including: 1) vehicle liability, 2) medical professional liability, 3) Care, custody and control of personal property, 4) commonwealth real estate, highways and sidewalks, 5) Potholes and other dangerous conditions, 6) Care, custody and control of animals, 7) Liquor store sales, 8) National guard activities and 9) Toxoids and vaccines. If a personal injury lawsuits meets the criteria of one of these 9 exceptions you can bring a claim for injuries caused by SEPTA in court.

The most common provisions that apply to SEPTA accidents resulting in injury are: 1) vehicle liability 4) commonwealth real estate, highways and sidewalks and 5) potholes and other dangerous conditions.

The vehicle liability exception waives immunity for injuries caused by SEPTA due to the operation of any “motor vehicle” which is self propelled and any attachment thereto, including vehicles operated by rail, through water and in the air. Thus, collisions involving SEPTA trolleys, buses, trains and subway cars are covered under an exception to sovereign immunity.

SEPTA may also be held liable for a dangerous condition of SEPTA owned real estate, highways, sidewalks, potholes and other dangerous conditions. These exceptions most frequently apply to slip and fall or trip and fall accidents which occur because of a defect on SEPTA owned property. For example, if a person trips on broken sidewalk owned by SEPTA and breaks their hip, SEPTA may be held liable for the harms and losses caused.

Notably, there is much more to a personal injury case than can be covered in this article. If you are injured in a SEPTA accident you should speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you understand your rights.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.


Thanks to our friends and contributors from Wieand Law Firm for their insight into SEPTA immune from personal injury lawsuits.

 



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