The New York City subway is a rapid transit system owned by the City of New York and leased to the New York City Transit Authority which is a subsidiary agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It is probably one of the oldest and most extensive public transportation systems in the world with hundreds of stations in operation that are connected by hundreds of miles of track. Stations are located throughout the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The borough of Staten Island has its own train line which is known as the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority. Of course, there are other companies that act as train operators for the purpose of transporting passengers to and from various destinations. These include the New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North, PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) and the New Jersey Rail and Port Authority.
Train and subway accidents can be especially serious and result in significant injuries or even death. Unlike passenger cars, trains usually contain no safety restraints other than handholds which makes it very hard for passengers to protect themselves in the event of an accident.
Moreover, train and mass transit accidents often involve very complex and technical issues and principles which require a thorough understanding of the hierarchy, structure and operation of the train, subway and/or mass transit system involved.
Aside from possibly being injured while on board a train or subway, a passenger entering into the subway system or a train station will always come into contact with various locations including stairs, ramps, platforms, doors, passageways and other locations inside a station and/or system. A train, subway or mass transit accident can occur due to a number of circumstances which include the following:
- Train or subway crash;
- Defective or broken platform;
- Defective steps, stairs or handrails;
- Defective or broken elevators;
- Defective or broken escalators;
- Defective or malfunctioning doors, turnstiles or other equipment;
- Poor lighting;
- Buildup of ice, water and/or snow on walking surfaces;
- Improper signage;
- A failure to post proper signs or warnings;
- Negligent conductors or motormen operating the trains and subways; and,
- Failure to respond to a request for assistance or help.
If you or a loved one was the victim of a train, subway or mass transit accident and sustained injuries, damage or someone close to you has died in such an accident, call the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. for a free initial consultation regarding your legal rights in order to obtain full and fair compensation and damages due to your harms and losses.
STANDARD OF CARE OWED BY A COMMON CARRIER
Years ago it was important to determine whether a person that was injured in a subway or train station was a passenger of the common carrier since the liability of the common carrier would depend upon whether the plaintiff was a passenger, an invitee or a trespasser. Thankfully, the law has changed and it does not matter what the status of the person is inside a subway or train station in order to obtain damages for the wrongdoing of those responsible for operating and maintaining a train, subway or other common carrier.
In this regard, New York has adopted a single standard of reasonable care under the circumstances which means that the standard of care owed to a passenger is no different from the general standard of reasonable care under whatever the circumstances are. The duty owed includes the duty to use reasonable care in providing and maintaining safe and adequate premises.
A railroad, subway or common carrier owes its passengers a duty to use reasonable care in operating its train for their safety. Reasonable care means that care which a reasonably prudent railroad, train, subway or common carrier would use under the same circumstances in keeping with the dangers and risks known to the railroad, subway, train or common carrier for which it should reasonably have foreseen.
For instance, exposing a passenger to danger, which in the exercise of reasonable foresight could have been avoided, is negligent conduct on the part of a common carrier.
Duty to a Passenger Who Is Disabled
In New York, a common carrier does have a duty to a passenger who is disabled or sick to use such additional care as to render such aid for the disabled individual’s safety and welfare as is reasonably required by the passenger’s disability and the existing circumstances as long as the common carrier’s employees knew or should reasonably have known of the passenger’s disability.
Duty to Protect a Passenger from Injury by a Third Person
If a common carrier knew or by use of reasonable care should have known of conduct on the part of a third person that it should reasonably anticipate might result in injury to a passenger, the common carrier has a duty to take such steps that are reasonably necessary under the circumstances to prevent such an injury. In this regard, a common carrier such as a subway, railroad or train company does have a duty to use reasonable care to protect a passenger from being injured by a fellow passenger or third person. However, it is important to note that it may be determined that the common carrier had no reason to anticipate the injury which would preclude recovery for injuries sustained due to conduct of a third person causing an injury.
Duty to a Passenger Regarding the Maintenance of Equipment
Inasmuch as the common carrier who is providing train and subway service throughout New York City and the outerlying areas own and are the custodians of an enormous amount of equipment, there is a duty to use reasonable care under all of the circumstances in the maintenance of vehicles and equipment for the safety of passengers. Reasonable care means that care which a reasonably prudent common carrier would use under the same circumstances in keeping with the dangers and risks known to the common carrier or which should have reasonably been foreseen. Therefore, if it is found that the equipment of the common carrier was not maintained or provided in a reasonably safe condition and the common carrier knew or by using reasonable care should have known that the equipment was not in a reasonably safe condition then the common carrier will be found negligent. However, if it is found that the common carrier did not know and by the use of reasonable care would have not known of equipment that was not in a reasonably safe condition then the common carrier cannot be held negligent. Therefore, it is extremely important to conduct all necessary and proper investigation of circumstances so as to determine what caused an accident involving equipment owned by a common carrier such as a railroad, subway or other train company.
Duty to a Passenger as a Result of a Sudden Stop or Jerk
Often when passengers ride a train or subway there may be a sudden stop or jerk that occurs resulting in unfortunate injuries and damage to a passenger. It is important to note that a common carrier such as a railroad or subway owes a duty to use reasonable care for the safety of its passengers. However, because starting, slowing or stopping may not always be done smoothly and occasionally there may be some jolting, a common carrier is not liable for injuries to a passenger when that happens. Additionally, a passenger must also use reasonable care for his or her own protection. However, in the absence of an emergency, the common carrier must avoid sudden, unusual and violent jerks, lurches or stops. If it is found that the movement or stop of a subway, train or other railroad was unnecessarily sudden, unusual and violent, or, if necessary, it resulted from an emergency created or contributed to by the carrier’s own conduct then a common carrier will often be found negligent. However, if the emergency that caused the sudden stop or movement was not created by or contributed to by the common carrier, then often times the common carrier will not be found negligent. Finding out the cause of a sudden stop or movement by a common carrier is not easy and can be very difficult unless there is a thorough investigation of all facts, circumstances and proper inquiry concerning what occurred prior to such an incident or accident. The Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. have in the past recovered substantial compensation for various victims of accidents involving this type of negligence and are well aware of the rules, procedures and standards involved in operating subways and trains and can get to the bottom of what caused an accident.
Duty to a Passenger to Provide a Safe Place to Get on or Get off
A common carrier is obligated to exercise ordinary care in the maintenance of its stairways and stations which also includes the duty to provide adequate lighting. Moreover, where the stairway or approach is owned by another entity or individual and used as a means of access to other businesses or tenants, the common carrier still has a duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain the stairway or approach in a safe condition or to warn passengers of any unsafe conditions if the stairway is used “primarily” as a means of access to and egress from the common carrier. Further, a common carrier must provide a reasonably safe, direct entrance or exit from the vehicle, clear of any dangerous obstruction or defect and a safe path from which to leave the area. If the common carrier did anything to compel or even suggest that a passenger take a defective or dangerous path or ingress or egress, the common carrier has breached its duty and may be held responsible. In terms of a gap between a subway car and the platform, where it is found that the gap is greater than necessary for the operation of a train, there may be an unsafe condition that is proven, giving rise to a duty to warn on behalf of the common carrier.
Duty to Persons on or near Tracks
A subway, railroad or common carrier operating trains does owe a duty to persons on or near its tracks to exercise reasonable care in the movement of its trains for the safety of such persons. In this regard, reasonable care means that degree of care that a reasonably prudent railroad operator would exercise under the same circumstances. In this type of situation, in order to determine if a defendant railroad exercised reasonable care, there must be consideration of the circumstances surrounding a person’s presence on or near the tracks and whether the railroad, subway or common carrier had reason to foresee that someone might walk along the tracks or cross the tracks at the point where the accident happened. In this situation, it should be noted that a train engineer or operator who sees someone on or near a track in broad daylight is not bound to stop a train immediately, but has the right to assume that the person will see and hear the train, heed the danger and leave the track. In such a situation, the train operator or engineer has no duty to make an emergency stop until he or she determines that the person cannot or will not leave the area of the track. Therefore, under all of the circumstances, if it is found that a railroad’s conduct was unreasonable and that conduct was a substantial factor causing the person’s injuries, negligence can be found against the common carrier. However, if a railroad’s conduct was reasonable or that conduct was not a substantial factor in bringing about the injuries then there will be no finding of negligence against the common carrier.
Obviously, it is extremely important to have a full and complete understanding of all rules, procedures and guidelines which surround the ownership, operation and maintenance of trains that are operating throughout the City and State of New York. The Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. are thoroughly familiar with this type of common carrier negligence resulting in someone being struck by a train on the tracks. Having a familiarity with all of the rules, procedures and guidelines surrounding the ownership, operation and control of trains that travel throughout New York, we are at an advantage when it comes to prosecuting this type of serious and tragic accident as we have already recovered millions of dollars against a common carrier for this type of accident.