W. Chad McLain

The personal injury attorneys of Graves McLain law firm volunteer their time to various community and charitable organizations like “Lawyers Against Hunger” and “Tulsa Lawyers for Children”. TLC handles deprived children’s cases at the juvenile bureau where the Public Defender’s office has a conflict. They represent minors who are adjudicated, deprived, and are in the custody of the Department of Human Services.

Although Tulsa city buses generally provide a safe ride for residents, an accident in November 2023 resulted in serious leg injuries for two motorcyclists, who were rolled by the bus into two cars waiting at a light. The accident raises questions about liability and if the city is responsible for compensating the motorcyclists for their injuries. 

Sovereign immunity is a legal concept shielding government entities from certain types of lawsuits. In simple terms, individuals generally cannot sue the government or its agencies for damages from their actions. This doctrine traces its origins back to English common law and has been adopted in various forms by the legal systems in the United States.

The idea behind sovereign immunity is to protect the government’s ability to carry out its functions without the constant fear of litigation. The immunity is not absolute and does have exceptions. Understanding these exceptions can be crucial when dealing with cases involving government entities.

In essence, sovereign immunity sets the legal framework for individuals seeking compensation when harmed by government actions or negligence. It’s a fundamental concept in personal injury law, especially concerning accidents involving government-owned entities, such as public transportation systems.


How Does Sovereign Immunity Apply to Public Transportation?

Public transportation, like buses and trains, is often operated by government agencies. Understanding how sovereign immunity applies is significant when it comes to accidents involving these services. Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that protects government entities from certain lawsuits, making it essential to grasp its implications in the context of public transit.

Public transportation agencies generally enjoy some degree of protection from liability due to sovereign immunity. Individuals might face unique legal challenges when seeking compensation for injuries or damages when an accident involves a government-operated bus or train. Exceptions to sovereign immunity exist but can be limited and complex, adding complexity to these cases.


When Can You Hold Public Transit Agencies Liable?

Determining when individuals can hold public transit agencies accountable for accidents requires an understanding of specific legal principles. Public transit agencies often enjoy legal protections, which can make it challenging for victims seeking compensation.

In general, public transit agencies may be held liable under certain circumstances, such as when negligence or wrongdoing can be proven. This might involve demonstrating that the agency failed to uphold its duty of care, leading to injuries or damages. Additionally, exceptions to sovereign immunity can apply in cases involving gross negligence or intentional misconduct.


Proving Negligence: Key Steps in Overcoming Sovereign Immunity

To overcome sovereign immunity and hold public transit agencies accountable, individuals must follow a specific legal path. Proving negligence becomes paramount in these cases.

Firstly, establishing a duty of care is vital. This entails demonstrating that the public transit agency owed a duty to the injured party, such as ensuring passenger safety. Next, victims need to prove that the agency breached this duty, typically by showing that their actions or inactions fell below the accepted standard of care.

Furthermore, causation must be established, linking the agency’s negligence directly to the injuries or damages suffered. Lastly, victims must demonstrate the extent of their losses, including medical expenses, property damage, and emotional distress.

Successfully proving negligence within the confines of sovereign immunity can be complex. However, it’s a necessary process for individuals seeking compensation after accidents involving government-operated transit systems.

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Filing a Claim: The Statute of Limitations and Your Rights

Understanding the statute of limitations is vital for individuals looking to file a claim against public transit agencies. This legal timeframe dictates how long they have to take legal action after an accident.

In the context of transit accidents, victims need to be aware of their rights and the specific statute of limitations that applies to their case. Failure to file within this prescribed period can result in the forfeiture of their right to seek compensation.


Exceptions to Sovereign Immunity: Cases Where You Can Seek Compensation

In certain scenarios, exceptions to sovereign immunity allow individuals to pursue compensation for injuries or damages resulting from accidents involving government entities, including public transit agencies.

One common exception is when the government agency’s actions can be proven as grossly negligent or intentional misconduct. This means that if it can be demonstrated that the agency’s conduct went beyond ordinary negligence and involved reckless or intentional wrongdoing, victims may have a legitimate claim. Another exception involves cases where the government entity has waived its immunity. This can occur through specific laws or agreements, permitting legal actions against them.


Investigating the Accident: Gathering Key Evidence

Collecting pertinent evidence is pivotal when dealing with accidents involving public transit agencies and sovereign immunity. This evidence plays a vital role in establishing the foundation for legal claims.

To begin, individuals should focus on obtaining incident reports from the transit agency, if available. These reports can offer valuable insights into the circumstances surrounding the accident. Additionally, seeking out witnesses and their statements can corroborate the events as they unfolded.

Photographic evidence, such as pictures of the accident scene and any visible damages, can support the case substantially. Medical records detailing injuries sustained are also integral pieces of evidence. Finally, preserving any communication records with the transit agency, including correspondence regarding the accident, can further strengthen a potential claim.

Collecting these key pieces of evidence is a fundamental step for accident victims seeking recourse in cases involving government-operated transit systems.


Settlement Negotiations vs. Going to Court: What to Expect

Public Transportation Accidents

When individuals pursue claims against public transit agencies in cases involving sovereign immunity, they may face two distinct paths: settlement negotiations or litigation in court.

Settlement negotiations typically involve discussions between the injured party, their legal representative, and the transit agency. In these talks, both sides aim to agree on compensation without going to court. Negotiations can be efficient and less time-consuming, but the outcome may involve compromises.

On the other hand, going to court means presenting the case before a judge or jury. This route can be lengthier and more complex, with each side presenting evidence and arguments. The final decision rests with the court, which can lead to uncertainty regarding the outcome.

Understanding the differences between settlement negotiations and going to court is important for individuals seeking compensation in transit accident cases. It helps them make informed decisions about how to pursue their claims effectively.

If you are have been involved in a public transportation accident, contact us or call us at 918-359-6600 today for a free consultation. 

When injury victims need a law firm with a reputation for excellence, turn to Graves McLain Injury Lawyers. We are a top-rated personal injury firm determined to be the best. With decades of award-winning representation, our clients recover the compensation they need to put their lives back together.

  • I knew my auto accident wouldn’t be worth much and they knew it too but worked as if it was a million dollar case and kept me informed hope I never need an attorney again but if I do it’ll be graves mcclain I brag on them to everyone

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  • My orthopedic doctor recommended Graves McLain Injury Lawyers, PLLC, to me following the need for revision hip surgery due to a hip from Stryker that was putting poison into my system. The doctor took care of the hip, and Graves McLain Injury Lawyers, PLLC, took care of the legal case. They were very thorough, professional, courteous, and always ready to answer the questions I had throughout the length of the case. In a word, the entire office is fantastic. I’m sure they were tired of my inquiries on the case’s progress, but they did not show it. They were always willing to respond and were very positive. If I ever have a claim in the future, they will be the first group to whom I reach out.

    Robert S.

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