Suing a publicly owned bus company differs with respect to procedural matters such as notice requirements, statute of limitations, and also the resources available to the defense at trial.
With few exceptions, you can sue a government-owned bus company in Illinois for negligence and all the same things you can sue a private company for related to accident injuries. Governmental bodies including towns and municipalities enjoy certain immunities because of their public status; for example, they cannot be held liable for failure to adopt or enforce any law or for failing to install traffic signs or signals somewhere.
But since these immunities don’t really apply to the circumstances surrounding a bus accident, government agencies and actors generally cannot look to them for relief. They are still on the hook for their negligence the same way a private company would be.
Illinois has enacted a $2-million cap on tort damages paid by the state, but this does not apply to injuries caused by state-owned vehicles, nor does it apply to local municipalities.
Still, there are other considerations to keep in mind when considering a legal action against a publicly owned bus company, the most important of which are the statute of limitations and notice requirements.
First, as provided in the state’s Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, you must bring a civil action against a public entity within one year for all personal injuries and within two years for wrongful death (745 ILCS 10/8-101). This is half the amount of time you have to bring an action against a private defendant. Previously, the law had barred any action against the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) if it was brought more than six months from the date of the accident causing the injury, but that was repealed in 2009.
Second, you must file a written notice of claim with the government body you intend to sue or whose employees you are suing, or risk having the action dismissed and being permanently barred from bringing a suit (745 ILCS 10/8-103). This is different from the “service” of a complaint which must be given to all civil defendants at the time it is filed in court. A notice of claim must be made in advance of filing the legal action, generally within six months of the injury-causing accident.
Practical Realities of Suing a Public Bus Company
The mechanics of bringing a suit against a public bus company differ very little from those brought against private companies. You must file a complaint that sets forth your damages, the misconduct that caused them and actors who caused them, and the relief you are seeking. However, some of these tasks are a bit harder in practice when the offender is a public transit operator. For example, at the onset of the case most public operators will argue that you failed to file your complaint on time and will expend significant resources to prove that allegation. Then at trial, they will deny your injuries were the fault of their employee or employees; therefore, your attorney’s chief task is to prove that it was entirely the bus driver’s fault and not yours or a third party’s.
Of course, private defendants also raise these same arguments in similar cases, but you must be prepared for the size and sophistication of the counter-offensives launched by public bus companies in particular.
Still Unsure of who You Should Sue in a Bus Accident Case?
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has experience bringing successful personal injury claims in Illinois against public and private defendants. We can identify exactly whom you should sue and how to bring your claim against them. Also, we will not charge you any legal fees unless we recover compensation on your behalf. Your financial recovery is within your grasp. Call our offices and speak with one of our dedicated bus accident attorneys today.