Lawsuits likely after fatal bus-train collision

Posted September 23, 2013

As investigations continue into an Ottawa bus crash that killed six and injured dozens, lawsuits are also likely to emerge, says Toronto personal injury lawyer Stacey L. Stevens.

The double-decker Ottawa city bus is alleged to have driven through warning lights and guard rails into the side of a crossing passenger train, the National Post reports, noting the corner had been on a “severe public safety issue” list for more than a decade.

The OC Transpo bus struck the Via Rail train that was pulling into Fallowfield Station, in the suburb of Barrhaven, southwest of Ottawa, the report says.

In these types of accidents, two different types of claims exist for those affected, explains Stevens, partner at Thomson Rogers.

“You have the statutory accident benefits claim, and then there’s the potential as to whether there’s a lawsuit,” she says.

A statutory benefits claim is made through a victim’s own automobile insurer, and for those without insurance, the claim would go through OC Tanspor insurer, says Stevens.

A lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the accident, and if a municipality is involved, it must be put on notice within 10 days, she adds.

“They don’t necessarily need to have a lawyer to put the municipality on notice, they must send a city clerk a letter saying they were injured in this accident and they may be commencing an action, ” says Stevens, noting Via Rail, OC Transpor, and the City of Ottawa could all potentially be involved.

Stevens says she expects news of lawsuits to emerge in the coming weeks, and says the process is important for victims and victims’ families.

“It’s important for a couple of reasons. One is to make sure their rights are secured, but more importantly, they need to be educated. This isn’t something that happens in their everyday lives, so regardless of the injury, they need to be educated on what they’re entitled to,” she says.

“For people who are in the more catastrophic injury category, those people will find they come under fire from all different sources. They have insurers, social workers, doctors and their daily lives to manage . . .  The benefit of getting specialized counsel right away is we take all of those administrative inquiries off their plate, so they can focus on the point important thing to them – their loved ones.”

While reports say there were no physical injuries suffered by train passengers, Stevens says it’s important to note that they would face a different legal process, since a train is not considered a motor vehicle.

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