What happens if I’m hurt on public transit?

Point of view from someone hurt on public transit

Accidents involving public transportation vehicles pose unique legal challenges, often leaving injured individuals unsure of their options. It is important to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an incident to discuss these options.

Ontario laws governing the recovery of benefits or compensation for injuries sustained on public transit depend on several factors, including: the owner(s) of the vehicle(s), who was at fault, and whether there was a collision.

The Vehicle

An important first step is to determine whether you were hurt while in a vehicle that can be legally designated as “public transit”. Under Ontario law, a “public transit vehicle” includes any vehicle used to transport members of the public where there is a charge for the transportation and where the transportation is done on behalf of either a municipality or local board. Accordingly, ambulances, school buses, and transportation dedicated to disabled individuals are not considered public transit.

The Accident

Types of public transit injuries can involve anything that occurs within the platform, station, or stop, or while riding the vehicle, such as slip and falls, harsh or abrupt stops, platform hazards, and collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians, or objects on the road.

To be eligible for accident benefits for injuries sustained on a public transit vehicle, it is necessary that a collision either with another vehicle or with an object has occurred. Unfortunately, this legal qualification eliminates access to accident benefits from an auto insurance carrier for those injured on public transportation where no collision has occurred, such as when the public transit vehicle starts or stops abruptly or in a harsh manner. The inability to claim accident benefits in these situations means that many injured individuals are unable to access funds to assist with their immediate needs, such as medical treatment and income replacement benefits.

However, there are still some options to receive compensation for injuries sustained on public transit where a collision has not occurred. You may be able to receive compensation by bringing a lawsuit against the responsible party for damages, such as the bus or train operator, the individual driver, and possibly the municipality.

Where a collision does occur, either with an object or with another vehicle, you may be eligible to receive accident benefits. You can also bring a lawsuit in these circumstances.

General Tips

If you are injured in a public transit accident, you should try to do the following:

  • Document as many details about the accident as you can;
  • Take photos of any damage to the vehicle and/or of any injuries you sustain as a result of the accident;
  • See a doctor right away to have your injuries treated; and
  • Seek the assistance of a competent personal injury lawyer.
Written by

Anna is an associate lawyer on the personal injury team of Siskinds LLP. She has had the privilege of working closely with Douglas Bryce, a partner at the firm.

Anna holds a B.A. from the University of British Columbia and a J.D. from the University of New Brunswick. She was called to the bar in 2016 and is a member of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association.