The Philadelphia Personal Injury Law Blog

Man Ran Over by SEPTA Bus; City Liable?

A man tried to sneak in the back door of a bus and lost his life today. An unidentified 61-year-old man tried to enter a SEPTA bus via the rear exit door, got his arm stuck in the door, and was dragged under the vehicle, reports

He was pronounced dead upon arrival at Hahnemann University Hospital. An investigation is currently under way.

Was this the bus driver's fault? If so, it could cost SEPTA and the city a lot of money. City busses are usually equipped with mirrors that allow the bus driver to see the rear doors. This allows them to prevent people from sneaking onto the bus without paying. It should also allow them to make sure that the doors are clear before taking off. If the bus driver failed to check the rear doors, the city could be liable.

Then again, maybe it was the man's fault. Perhaps he was running to catch the bus and tried to sneak into the back door. If the rear door is exit-only, or if he was attempting to evade paying a fare, he could be partially at fault.

And finally, is this an unsafe bus design? Elevators have alarms for when something is jammed in the door. Many busses have doors that will open back up if something prevents them from closing all the way. Perhaps the bus could have had an alarm equipped to buzz if something was stuck in the rear doors.

The pending investigation should shed more light on who is at fault and will hopefully allow changes to be made to prevent future deaths of this kind. Even if the accident victim if found to be partially at fault, Pennsylvania's Comparative Negligence rule will still allow his family to recover, as long as he was not more than 50% at fault. With a potentially unsafe bus design and the possibility of a bus driver that didn't notice a man hanging out of the rear door, recovery for his loss seems like a distinct possibility.

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