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SEPTA is the 6th-largest U.S. rapid transit system by ridership, and the 5th largest overall transit system, with about 302 million annual unlinked trips a year. This puts a lot of busses on Philadelphia’s streets, and unfortunately, the more there are, the more likely there will be crashes. Some of these accidents are chain-reaction meaning that two vehicles collide, and a third (or more) get involved because of the first crash. When a SEPTA bus is involved, the results can be serious.

Like many large cities, Philadelphia offers several public transportation options to its residents. Buses, regional rail systems, customized community transportation for people with disabilities, and trolleys, are all means of public transportation provided to Philadelphia residents, giving them the chance to move freely throughout the city without having to worry about the expense of owning and maintaining a vehicle.

However, since the public transportation system provides a public service, an agency is in place to administer the details of licensing, insurance, and dealing with any personal injury claims that arise from accidents. This agency is called the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and if you are ever in an accident involving public transportation in Philadelphia, you will need to have an experienced Philadelphia mass transit accident lawyer on your side. Someone who will be able to maneuver their complex legal claims department and who can help you get the compensation you deserve.

In this Guide:

    1. Why You Should Hire An Experienced Philadelphia Mass Transit Accident Lawyer
    2. Personal Injury and SEPTA Accidents
    3. Who’s at Fault?
    4. SEPTA and the Statute of Limitations
    5. SEPTA Liability
    6. SEPTA Bus Bicycle Accidents
    7. Causes of SEPTA Train Accidents
    8. Support for Philadelphia Train Accident Victims and Their Families
    9. Who Can Claim a SEPTA Wrongful Death Claim?
    10. Contact A Philadelphia Transit Accident Attorney

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Why Should You Hire An Experienced Philadelphia Mass Transit Accident Lawyer Near You?

An experienced SEPTA accident attorney can help if you have been in an accident with or are hurt while riding Philadelphia public transportation. SEPTA lawsuits can be quite complex as this organization serves many functions, including maintaining all public transportation vehicles, keeping them up to code, and making sure passengers are safe.

SEPTA also manages personal injury claims. The agency falls under the umbrella of protection provided by the Sovereign Immunity Act. This act limits the financial liability of SEPTA, with the intention that the public transit system does not go broke if a person successfully sues SEPTA in a personal injury claim.

Personal Injury and SEPTA Accidents

The Sovereign Immunity Act limits the expenses of a personal injury claim to $1,000,000 per accident, regardless of the severity of injuries or how many people are involved. It also limits liability to $250,000 per person injured.

However, SEPTA personal injury claims don’t always involve car accidents with another vehicle, other examples of SEPTA accidents include:

  • Being hit by a public transit vehicle’s side-view mirror while walking on a sidewalk
  • Being hit by a bus while crossing the street
  • Sexual assault while riding public transportation
  • Physical assault while riding public transportation
  • Injuries from repeated, abrupt stop-and-go motions
  • A variety of recent cases involving SEPTA
    • 2017 – A trolley crashed in Philadelphia when it smashed into a train that was parked on the tracks.
    • 2019 – A SEPTA Train Rider when he fell backward onto the tracks of the Market-Frankford Line as he exited the train car
    • 2021 – A SEPTA Train struck & killed a pedestrian on the tracks in Tioga-Nicetown

Many SEPTA accidents overlap with other types of cases, including personal injury, premises liability, and others. Whatever the details of your accident, at The Pearce Law Firm Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers, we are experienced Philadelphia mass transit accident lawyers. We can help you unravel the complicated laws involved in your case, aide you in dealing with the SEPTA accident claims department, and assist you in pursuing the compensation that will enable you to move on with your life.

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Who’s at Fault?

At first blush, it would seem that the pedestrian is almost always at fault because the train can only ride on the tracks, which means that if the pedestrian is not on the tracks, then there would be no accident. However, it’s not always that simple.

According to Pennsylvania law, anyone not on a train or on a crosswalk or other designated crossing zone of the SEPTA tracks is a trespasser. This means that it’s technically illegal to go on the tracks even for a moment unless in the crossing zones.

But not all accidents are solely the fault of the person on the tracks. Under personal injury law, the train company owes a duty of reasonable care to everyone even if they are trespassing. Thus when the train company fails to act according to the law, then they can be partially or fully liable. Some of these duties are:

  • Keep a proper lookout on the tracks for people crossing or walking.
  • When spotted, the train operator must take reasonable steps to avoid hitting the person.
  • Properly maintain all railroad safety equipment and safety warning signs.
  • Properly train employees responsible for the safety of the community such as conductors, operators and lookouts.
  • Steps to screen for drugs and alcohol use by employees.
  • Keep trains and hooking mechanisms in proper working order.
  • Maintain proper speeds accounting for inclines, declines, curves and populated areas.

When a SEPTA bus crashes into a motor vehicle, it’s not automatically the SEPTA driver’s fault. The law looks at who was negligent and that person will bear the costs of the damages. In many cases, there is no single person that is negligent, and Pennsylvania law allows the court to divide the negligence to more that one driver and assign a percentage of fault.

Then each at-fault driver will pay their share of the compensation for the injuries sustained by the victims.

SEPTA and the Statute of Limitations

While personal injury claims in Philadelphia normally have a two-year statute of limitations, SEPTA accident claims have a special 6-month notice requirement under the law.  That is why hiring a qualified SEPTA injury lawyer near you as soon after the accident as possible is so important. Because, to file a claim against SEPTA, the injured party must give SEPTA notice of intent to sue within 6 months of the injury stating the details of the accident and medical information. Also, because Sovereign Immunity caps SEPTA’s payout or damages to $1,000,000 per accident no matter how many people were injured, it is important to file your claim quickly before other victims of a SEPTA accident have been paid out.

It takes time for a SEPTA accident lawyer to collect evidence and build a case proving liability for what happened. Contact us as soon as possible so that your case has the best possible chance for a successful outcome.

SEPTA Liability

When SEPTA is liable, then the victims are allowed to make a claim against the government for their injuries. Generally, the government has protection against negligence suits brought by private citizens. This is to protect the public funds from being taken by civil claims including auto accidents.

However, the legislature passed a law that also allowed for some civil lawsuits, and claims against SEPTA is one of these allowed. There are restrictions and additional requirements for a SEPTA cliam, and failure to follow the correct procedures and rules may mean that the victim loses the right to claim damages from SEPTA. At The Pearce Law Firm, P.C., we know these rules and procedures, and we have brought successful claims against PennDOT on behalf of our clients. Before you talk to anyone from the insurance company, talk to a Philadelphia SEPTA Accident Attorney.

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SEPTA Bus Bicycle Accidents

SEPTA buses crisscross the Philadelphia metro area on a daily basis providing transportation to hundreds of thousands of residents each day. These buses are often full of passengers and can cause significant damage and injury when they collide with other vehicles or bicycles.

Bicycles have a low visual profile, and they can be missed by many drivers even when right in the driver’s field of vision. Added to this is that weight and size difference between the average cyclist and a SEPTA bus, and the risk of serious injury is great.  SEPTA busses also frequently cross bike lanes to approach bus stops and make turns – this can lead to an increase bike lane accidents.

Causes of SEPTA Train Accidents

Septa trolleys operate where the people are often on tracks that run through heavy pedestrian areas. This is good for people who want to use the trolleys to get to shopping and tourist zones in Philadelphia.

A downside is that trolleys sometimes hit those pedestrians, and typically this isn’t good for the pedestrian. SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) operates buses, trains, and trolleys around the Philadelphia area in Pennsylvania., and they maintain over 450 miles of tracks for their trains and trolleys.

Over the past decade, there have been around 300 SEPTA train-pedestrian accidents resulting in 159 deaths. This means that 63 percent of the time, when a pedestrian tangles with a train, the pedestrian dies.

The majority of train and pedestrian accidents are caused by human error, either the trolley operator or the pedestrian. According to a SEPTA official, most of the pedestrian accidents happen away from designated crossing points.

Some of the most common reasons for a pedestrian v. trolley accident are:

  • Distracted Pedestrian: Wearing earbuds, and looking at phones or a map are some of the ways that pedestrians get distracted which can result in an accident.
  • Impairment: An impaired pedestrian or trolley operator can greatly increase the chance of an accident.
  • Simply not Looking: Look both ways, our mothers taught us, but many pedestrians don’t do that, and the results can be deadly.
  • Equipment Failure: It’s rare, but brakes can fail, warning lights don’t turn on or any other safety features can malfunction and increase the risk of an accident.

Support for Philadelphia Train Accident Victims and Their Families

When basic precautions aren’t considered in the design of public transportation and a tragedy occurs, city governments and departments must be held liable for their negligence.

These accidents can leave victims to heal from horrible injuries and can also rob a family of a cherished loved one.  The family can soon face ambulance expenses and funeral costs all coming due after an accident that wasn’t the victim’s fault. They can also have the financial support the victim provided the family through his or her job suddenly disappear.

Families facing a financial crisis while still grieving their loss are allowed to file a wrongful death claim against those responsible for a deadly accident. In the case of a SEPTA train accident, the city may have to accept liability for any death that results from one of their vehicles.

Proper safeguards and detection systems may not have been in place to alert train operators to someone in danger. A train operator can also be investigated to see if they made an error in judgment. If an accident happened as a direct result of security issues around a train station, then city governments can be held liable for injury or assault. All of these issues and more can be investigated by an attorney after a tragic accident.

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Who Can Claim a SEPTA Wrongful Death Claim?

Those who can claim financial losses are the spouse, any children, or those relying on support from the deceased. Usually, this is a family member living with the deceased. The survivors might have been supported by the victim or the victim’s spouse or parent. Each survivor makes a claim based on their individual relationship with the victim.

Contact A Philadelphia Transit Accident Attorney

SEPTA accidents can be complicated, especially when it comes to getting full compensation for injuries and damages. Don’t risk your health and well-being by overlooking important details.

If you have been in a Philadelphia SEPTA accident contact a Philadelphia transit accident attorney from The Pearce Law Firm Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers call our office at 215-557-8686 or submit the form at the bottom of this page to schedule a free case evaluation.

What Our Clients Have to Say:

“I could not be more pleased with the settlement Peace Law secured for my injuries suffered from a pedestrian/vehicle accident. Nicole Vitale was the consummate professional–responsive, kind, and guided me through every step of the process. I was so fortunate to have her on my side during a stressful and traumatic time.”

Rating: 5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Melissa Nevadomski
We have a 4.8 average and 78 reviews on Google!

Meet Our Attorneys

Edith A. Pearce, Attorney

Edith Pearce is an exceptionally smart (she is a member of MENSA) and gifted female personal injury lawyer.  Edith Pearce spent over 10 years working as a lawyer for an insurance company and defense firm before concentrating her practice on injured victims and starting The Pearce Law Firm.  Having grown up in the Philadelphia suburbs, graduating from Villanova University and Temple Law School, Edith is a true “Philadelphia lawyer.”  Edith Pearce has been practicing law for over 25 years and is a well-known woman personal injury attorney & legal expert who has appeared on various television programs, including ABC, CN8, NBC 10 News, and Fox 29 News and is a frequent invited guest on Who’s Who In PhillyLabor Radio Show on WWDB 860 AM Talk Radio. Edith has been listed by Philadelphia Magazine 10 times starting in June 2005 as a “Super  Lawyer”.


Nicole Vitale, Associate Attorney
Nicole Vitale is an associate at the Pearce Law Firm, P.C. She has been selected to Super Lawyer’s Pennsylvania Rising Stars for 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, an award given only to 2.5 percent of the lawyers in Pennsylvania who are under age 40 and have been practicing for ten years or less. Prior to joining The Pearce Law Firm, Ms. Vitale had substantial experience working vigorously on behalf of Plaintiffs. She worked for a high-volume Plaintiffs’ litigation firm, handling a large caseload of a variety of personal injury matters in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She also represented Plaintiffs in Lemon Law, Magnuson Moss Breach of Warranty Claims, and product liability claims. However, she chose to leave a high-volume setting in favor of providing her clients with very personalized, one on one attention, which is the practice of The Pearce Law Firm.




William J. Ringland, Associate Attorney

William J. Ringland is an associate at The Pearce Law Firm and has been practicing law for nearly a decade. Since 2013, Mr. Ringland has been selected over five times by Super Lawyers on the Pennsylvania Rising Stars List, an award only given to 2.5 percent of the lawyers in Pennsylvania who are age 40 and under. Mr. Ringland’s practice includes a broad variety of personal injury and employment matters, including the representation of plaintiffs in personal injury, disability, sex, gender, age, and race discrimination claims; representation at workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation hearings; and various other employment matters.

Prior to joining The Pearce Law Firm, Mr. Ringland served as a Staff Attorney at the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program as a Conwell Community Fellow. Mr. Ringland’s work at Philadelphia VIP included litigating divorce, custody and child support matters for low income Philadelphians, as well as acting as a liaison for Philadelphia’s pro bono hub.

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