Who is liable for injuries suffered by subway passengers?
New York City boasts the seventh busiest public transit system in the world and the busiest in the United States. According to data from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, over 1.6 billion people rode the subway in New York City in 2018. The subway features 472 stations, which is the largest number of subway stations in the world. Given the sheer number of riders each day, the relative number of injuries suffered by subway riders remains low. Nonetheless, each year there are some subway accidents that range in severity from minor slip and falls to deaths caused by crashes. Our NYC personal injury lawyer Michael LoGiudice discusses some of the most common subway accidents and liability for these accidents below.
Being Hit by a Subway Train
One of the most terrifying incidents that can occur is when a person is either hit by a subway train on the tracks or while getting too close to the train on the platform. In 2017, 900 people were hit by a train. These incidents have several different causes. About 40 cases were believed to be caused by people attempting to commit suicide. The remaining were thought to stem from people who were drunk, confused, urinating on the tracks, fell, or dropped something. A few people were pushed into the oncoming train.
In cases such as these, liability may depend on exactly why the person was on the tracks. Intentionally placing oneself at risk could negate liability on the part of the municipality, while passengers who fall could potentially have a claim if the fall was the result of a dangerous condition. Other cities have taken steps to prevent people from ending up on the tracks by installing walls and platform doors. New York has yet to do so.
Slip and Falls
The subway station and trains can be a site for slip and falls. Subways are often crowded and the personal possessions of riders haphazardly placed. Floors can be slick with spills that may not be cleaned for some time. For these reasons, it is common for passengers to slip, trip, and fall in and around the subway. Liability for these instances can be complex because the subway is owned by the City of New York, which has some immunity.
Perhaps the least common, but severe, accidents occur when one subway train crashes into another or into another object. The deadliest subway accident in the history of the NYC subway occurred in 1918. This horrific accident claimed 93 lives and injured 250 more. Investigations revealed the cause of the crash to be the train operator losing control around a curve, likely the result of his inexperience and extreme fatigue.
More recently, 30 people were injured when a subway train derailed in 2017 and crashed into a wall. Subway crashes caused by operator negligence could open up liability, with the municipality potentially financially liable. Given the many complexities surrounding suing a municipality, accident victims should contact a personal injury lawyer right away after their injury.