TriMet, the public transportation source for light rail and buses in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties, logs millions of miles covered every month. Safety, however, remains less than perfect. Back in 2019, The Oregonian reported that TriMet was involved in 24 injury accidents in the month of April alone. If you, as a vehicle driver or passenger, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian, are seriously hurt in an accident involving TriMet, you should know that these cases are different from ordinary vehicle accident civil suits, and having legal representation from a lawyer experienced in these matters can be essential.
Part of that difference stems from the fact that TriMet, as a municipal corporation of the State of Oregon, is a public body. That status means that pursuing civil liability against TriMet works differently than pursuing a private individual or business entity. In your case, you must comply with all the requirements of the Oregon Tort Claims Act (ORS Sections 30.260-30.300.)
In a TriMet accident, you're required to submit a formal written notice of your claim to TriMet. The deadline for doing that is only 180 days if yours is a negligence case. If yours is a wrongful death case, you have more time (one year.) If you miss the notice deadline, then you probably will be forever barred from obtaining recovery for the harm you endured.
In terms of filing your lawsuit with the court, you typically have the same amount of time as you'd have in any other injury or wrongful death case.
Success in a TriMet accident case is hardly impossible, however. In 2019, a bicyclist recovered a $145,000 settlement after being injured in a 2015 TriMet crash in Portland. In 2009, the parents of a Beaverton teen recovered $200,000 in a wrongful death settlement after a TriMet bus allegedly strayed into the designated bicycle lane and struck the boy.
The Oregon Tort Claims Act places a cap on the amount of damages you can recover. If, for example, you had suffered a catastrophic bicycle crash involving a TriMet bus during the second half of 2019 or first half of 2020, the maximum amount of damages available would be $749,000. In 1979, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that “for purposes of the damages cap in the Oregon Tort Claims Act, a wrongful death claim represents multiple claims by multiple claimants — the beneficiaries.” When there are multiple beneficiaries, the cap amount can stack up to two beneficiaries.
Obviously, if yours is an accident involving TriMet, then yours is an accident involving an extraordinarily large vehicle, meaning that you have an elevated risk of suffering major injuries. An attorney experienced in these sorts of cases will know, not just to investigate, but how to investigate properly -- including obtaining copies of the driver's driving record, training records, and the bus's performance and maintenance history -- to assess whether the true causes for the accident are actually more complicated (and perhaps more numerous) than first meets the eye, and will furthermore know how to go about pursuing your case to get compensation for the many different types of harm you've suffered.
That legal experience can be priceless when the injuries TriMet inflicted were catastrophic or fatal. As noted above, Oregon law imposes very restrictive caps on damages awards against TriMet. But that may not be the end of the story in terms of the compensation you get.
Back in 2010, a TriMet bus driver made a left-hand turn and ran over five people crossing inside a crosswalk in the Old Town neighborhood, killing two of them. In one of the subsequent lawsuits (filed by one victim plus the father of a fatally injured victim,) the plaintiffs sought $20 million in damages. Critically, given that the extent of the victims’ damages was massive, they sued not just TriMet but also the manufacturer of the bus’s left-side rear-view mirror and the seller of the bus, asserting negligence based on the dangerous blind spot that the rear-view mirror and an “A-pillar that supported the windshield” created.
Whether you were seriously hurt or loved one was killed in an accident involving a TriMet vehicle, your case is going to have unique hurdles you have to clear. To make sure that your case has the best chance of success, your case requires legal representation from someone who's experienced in these types of lawsuits. The TriMet accident attorneys at the office of Kaplan Law LLC possess that knowledge, skill, and experience, as well as a personalized commitment and dedication to each of our valued clients. Please call us at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online today to discuss how we can help.