Muni & Cable Car Accident Attorneys in San Francisco
Callaway & Wolf have handled San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) accident claims involving cable cars, buses, and streetcars, which the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency calls “LRVs,” or light-rail vehicles. Claims against San Francisco’s Muni agency are actually claims against the City and County of San Francisco, and are subject to California’s Government Code Claims provisions, which require any claim to be filed within six months from the date of the accident. This is much shorter, than the two-year limit on other personal injury claims, which are against private entities and individuals.
San Francisco Muni & Cable Car Accidents: A History
There is a long history of San Francisco Muni injury accidents which have cost San Francisco dearly. Channel 4 news reported in a story that Muni paid out $56 million over a five year period–2005-2009. In addition to electric and diesel busses, SF’s Muni operates streetcars or LRVs, and cable cars. Both the streetcars and the LRVs have long stopping distances, resulting in higher accident rates. For cable cars, the primary brake is a pine wood block. LRVs have a more sophisticated braking system, but there is a delay between the time the operator hits the brake and the time the car begins slowing down.
Muni & Cable Car Accident Cases
San Francisco’s Muni agency owes its passengers the highest duty of care, as California law holds “common carriers” to a higher legal standard than individuals transporting others. As San Francisco taxpayers, we all end up footing the bill for Muni accidents, one way or another. This in turn provides a challenge in bringing Muni accident cases before juries, as jurors realize that determining that the victim is entitled to a large sum will come from San Francisco city funds, which will detract from the San Francisco’s ability to provide services.
Claims Against Muni
Another challenge in San Francisco Muni injury cases is that there is no insurance for these claims. San Francisco is “self-insured,” meaning that the City simply pays any claims, rather than buying insurance. While San Francisco has the funds to pay all claims, it handles injury claims much differently than an insurance carrier would. Insurance companies, even non-profit ones, are much more responsible for the “bottom line,” and try to cut their losses. The insurance companies have an incentive to avoid incurring attorney’s fees and litigation costs. But the city of San Francisco has no profit/loss responsibility, and has an office full of attorneys on salary. These lawyers have a remarkable degree of discretion in which cases they wish to settle, and which they want to fight, so whether or not any given SF Muni accident case settles may be heavily influenced by which “deputy city attorney” happens to be assigned to the case.
Muni Settlement Approval Period
Once a settlement is reached in a San Francisco Muni accident case, there is a waiting period for that settlement to be approved by the Board of Supervisors. Board approval is routine, but this phase can take months. After Board approval, it can take additional weeks or months for the City to issue payment.
Contact a Muni Accident Attorney
If you or someone you know has been injured in a Muni accident, request a free consultation by calling 415-541-0300 to speak to a San Francisco Muni & cable car accident attorney at Callaway & Wolf.