A car accident involving a St. Joseph Transit bus and a passenger car raises some important questions about how Missouri’s personal injury laws handle claims against the city.
St. Joseph Transit Bus Collides With Car
The accident happened around 7:20pm on Monday, January 27, 2020, near the intersection of the North Belt Highway and Sherman Avenue. Little information was made available for initial reports. However, pictures of the incident show a silver sedan in a head-on collision with the bus.
Police have not said what caused the accident.
However, if it was the bus driver who was driving negligently and caused the crash, the victim in the passenger car may have a difficult time recovering compensation for their injuries.
Public Transit Systems are Run by the Local Government
The reason why accidents like these are far more complicated than a typical car accident is that public transit systems are run by the government – usually the city or local municipality. Because the government’s money is technically taxpayer money, cities like St. Joseph are usually protected by sovereign immunity from lawsuits by people who get hurt.
Exceptions to Sovereign Immunity Under the Missouri Tort Claims Act
There are, however, two important exceptions to sovereign immunity in Missouri. Under Missouri Statute 537.600, part of the Missouri Tort Claims Act, victims can file lawsuits against the state or a Missouri city for:
- Motor vehicle accidents caused by an on-duty government employee, and
- Slip and fall accidents that happen on public property.
In either one of these cases, the state or city will be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees and will be made to pay for the victim’s damages.
Damage Caps in Claims Against the City of St. Joseph
The waiver of sovereign immunity that comes from the Missouri Tort Claims Act, however, is not absolute. It only allows victims to recover up to a certain amount of compensation. Under Missouri Statute 537.610, those limitations cap a single victim’s damages to only $300,000. Furthermore, only $2 million can be paid to compensate all of the victims from a single accident.
For example, if a bus accident hurts 20 people, no one can recover more than $300,000, and the total amount received by all 20 victims cannot exceed $2 million.
The statute also prevents punitive damages from being awarded in lawsuits against the state or local government. Punitive damages are rare in normal cases, though, so this limitation only affects especially egregious conduct by government employees.
St. Joseph Car Accident Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
If you have been hurt in a car accident that was caused by a government employee, you will have to sue the government to recover the compensation that you deserve. This is not easy to do. The personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph can help. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373.