Accidents can happen on any public transportation system and paratransit systems, like AAR, are no exception.
New York City (NYC) data indicates 91 paratransit vans were involved in crashes, and 15 of them resulted in injuries, during 2019. The next 9 months saw 31 crashes with 11 injuries. (1)
What Is Access-A-Ride?
Paratransit services provide individuals with mobility issues to have access to public transportation. In NYC, this service is overseen by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and passengers only pay the same fare for each trip as they would on a bus or subway.
“The MTA’s New York City Transit Access-A-Ride (AAR) Paratransit Service provides public transportation for eligible customers with disabilities that prevent them from using the public buses and subways.” (2)
Use of Private Contract Carriers
To provide paratransit services, like AAR, the city also contracts with private carriers.
“Private carriers under contract to NYC Transit provide this service by lift-equipped vans, ramp-equipped vehicles or sedans. In addition, service is provided by private taxis, livery, and black car services, and Yellow and Green TLC [Taxi & Limousine Commission] accessible, and standard taxi.” (3)
Like all vehicles, those used by AAR can be involved in accidents. As is true of other motor vehicle accidents, there are common factors playing a role in paratransit accidents.
AAR Accident Causes
Some of the most common factors contributing to AAR and other paratransit accidents include:
- Falls; entering or exiting a vehicle leaves you particularly vulnerable to slips, trips, or stumbling.
- Malfunctioning equipment, such as wheelchair ramps or lifts for vans.
- Operator negligence.
- Pedestrians or cyclists struck by AAR vehicles.
- Vehicular accidents.
Serious injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes are usually due to impacts causing high energy trauma, says Dignityhealth.org, a non-profit healthcare services provider. (4)
Additionally, there are some common injuries resulting from these types of accidents.
If you or a loved one suffered due to mistakes made in an ER, you may be able to sue for medical malpractice.
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Common AAR Injuries
Crash injuries can range from bruises to neck and back sprains, to spinal injuries.
Here are some of the most common injuries: (5)
- Back and neck injuries.
- Fractures and broken bones.
- Open wounds.
- Spinal cord injuries.
- Sprains and strains.
- Contusions (bruises; skin is not broken).
Many of these injuries require extensive medical treatments and lengthy recovery times. This can mean loss of income, missing time from work, or even loss of a job, while bills continue to mount up.
If your financial security, and your family’s, has been jeopardized by an AAR paratransit service accident, you should weigh your legal options.
AAR Accident Lawsuits
In the United States, 98% of auto crashes are caused by human error. (6) When human error is involved, it is often a case of negligence.
AAR accident lawsuits are most often negligence cases. However, if someone dies in the accident, the case may also include a wrongful death action.
These types of cases hinge on whether or not a party has legal liability.
In NYC, there are agencies and independent contractors involved in AAR’s operations. This means there may be multiple liable parties for a given accident.
For example, AAR uses taxi drivers and Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft. These drivers, and the companies they transport passengers for, may be held accountable, but it is often complicated.
Vehicle Ownership Is a Factor
One of the factors complicating a lawsuit involving AAR accidents is the type of vehicle involved. The city contracts with various providers, employing different types of vehicles. Cars, vans, taxis and liveries can all provide AAR services.
However, the law treats these types of vehicles differently. Factors like ownership of the vehicle become important, because ownership affects how a case is handled. Also, these vehicles must operate under special rules for private carriers contracted with the city.
Vehicle Operator Negligence
Injuries can occur as a result of vehicle operator (driver) negligence.
Operator negligence includes such actions as: (7)
- Distracted driving, such as texting or making cell phone calls.
- Excessive speed.
- Incorrect lane changes.
- Judgement errors.
- Not using seatbelts.
- Tailgating (following too closely).
If an operator’s actions match any of these, they can be held accountable. Also, the operator can be held responsible for improper operation of vehicle equipment designed to aid passengers, such as lifts or wheelchair ramps.
The legal definition of negligence is “failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” (8)
So, in a negligence case the plaintiff (you, the person suing) must demonstrate to the court:
- There was a legal duty to act that the operator (defendant) owed you.
- The operator breached (violated) that duty.
- You were injured.
- The operator’s breach caused your injuries.
In reaching a judgement, the court weighs the definition of negligence against the arguments and supporting evidence you or your attorney present.
Wrongful Death Actions
When someone dies in an AAR accident, the family may bring a wrongful death action.
Wrongful death actions are civil actions brought against a party being held responsible for injuries causing someone’s death. These actions are most frequently brought by surviving family members. (9)
Wrongful death actions are brought for tortious injury, “any behavior… that may be sued upon as a civil wrong.” (10)
Were you or a loved one injured in an Access-A-Ride accident? You may be eligible for compensation.
How W&L Can Help
Every disabled person in New York is entitled to transportation to and from their medical visits. Paratransit services are intended to meet this need. The providers of these services are private carriers under contract with NYC. They must follow specific rules and guidelines.
“In the past few years new types of motor vehicle relationships have sprung up in New York, especially in New York City, to meet the transportation needs of the disabled. Weitz & Luxenberg is one of the few law firms with the experience necessary. We have represented persons injured by vehicles regulated by new rules applying to a hybrid of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Lyft and Uber,” says Lawrence B. Goldhirsch, trial counsel at W&L.
These are a couple of our successful cases: