The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates the nation’s second largest public transportation system. CTA Facts at a Glance. In 2017, on an average weekday, 1.6 million rides were taken across CTA. Id. CTA has 1,864 buses that operate 129 routes and 1,536 route miles. Buses make about 19,237 trips a day and serve 10,768 bus stops. Id. On the rapid transit system, CTA’s 1,492 rail cars operate eight routes and 224.1 miles of track. CTA trains make about 2,318 trips each day and serve 145 stations. Id. The fact of the matter is that CTA contributes significantly to Chicagoan’s daily lives. And this does not even include the Metra, an efficient commuter rail system servicing Northeast Illinois. In addition to CTA, the Metra rail system estimated nearly 80.6 million passenger rides in 2016. 2017 Metra Fact Book. Due to the copious amounts of rides taken daily, injuries are inevitable. When can CTA and Metra be held responsible for such injuries?
An Illinois court will decide whether a company is a “common carrier,” as opposed to a “private carrier,” on a case-by-case basis, but several factors are highly relevant in a court’s determination. As noted by an Illinois Appellate Court, a common carrier "undertakes for the public to transport from place to place such persons or the goods of such persons as choose to employ him for hire," meaning that it takes on all customers who seek its services. Illinois Highway Transportation Company v. Hantel. 323 Ill. App. 364, 373 (1944). Once distinguished as a common carrier, the safety of the people or goods which it carries must be ensured; therefore, it will be liable for all injuries to or loss of its cargo. Id.
Common carriers in Illinois are subject to the Common Carrier Liability Act (the “Act”), which holds the carriers to strict safety standards, and imposes a duty to provide the highest degree of safety for its passengers. 740 ILCS 25/. The Act provides that “whenever any property is received by a common carrier, to be transported from one place to another, within or without this state, it shall not be lawful for such carrier to limit his common law liability,” which is to provide the highest degree of safety for its passengers. Id. In contrast to the ‘ordinary or reasonable care under the circumstances’ standard that applies to other persons or entities, the CTA is held to a much higher standard of care.
Although CTA and other common carriers in Illinois operate with a low rate of injury, severe personal injuries can be caused by train and bus accidents. This duty applies not only to passengers while they are aboard a public transportation vehicle, but also while they are boarding or exiting from such vehicles. This duty continues until the passenger has had a reasonable opportunity to reach a place of safety. There are unique challenges when filing a claim against CTA and other common carriers. On June 1, 2009, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn repealed Section 41 of the Illinois Metropolitan Transit Authority Act (70 ILCS 3605/41), which had imposed a special 6-month notice requirement in lawsuits against the CTA. Although the notice requirement was repealed, the one-year statute of limitations will still apply in all CTA cases. This means a cause of action against the CTA must still be brought to court within 12 months after an incident occurs.
Injuries on mass transit systems are inevitable. Whether the injury is caused by an abrupt stop or sudden acceleration causing a fall, or something more catastrophic as a train derailment or collision, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain & suffering, and other damages proximately caused because of the crash. Contact the attorneys at Sherwood Law Group at 312-627-1650 for a free consultation and case review.