Public Transit and the Law: Safeguarding Rights in the Aftermath of Accidents

Public Transit and the Law: Safeguarding Rights in the Aftermath of Accidents

Written by: Lindsay Charles, Partner, and Jamie Davison, Student-At-Law

Public transit services move approximately 1.7 million commuters every day to, from, and within Toronto and its surrounding municipalities. Something most commuters may not have thought about is, what happens if I am injured either on or by a public transit vehicle? For example, if you hurt yourself on a bus when it comes to an abrupt stop, or if you are crossing the street and are hit by a public transit vehicle. In Ontario, special rules apply to this particular context, and it is important to know your rights. In this article, we aim to break down the legal framework that applies to public transit vehicle accidents and provide helpful steps to prepare everyone for the worst.

Understanding Public Transit Liability

In Ontario, a public transit vehicle includes any vehicle used to transport the public for a charge on behalf of a municipality or local board. For example, a TTC bus is a public transit vehicle, but an ambulance is not.

As was explained previously by John McLeish, public transit drivers are held to a higher standard of care than an average driver as a result of the additional responsibilities they hold and their added training.

When suing a driver in a civil claim it has to be shown that the driver acted below the “standard of care”, or without the degree of attention, prudence and care expected of a reasonable driver in like circumstances. Ontario courts have confirmed that professional drivers have “a heightened standard” of care and the standard that should be met is that not just that of a reasonable driver but that of a “reasonable bus driver”.

– Public Transit Bigger Vehicles Come with a Bigger

Responsibility to Keep the Public Safe.

The higher standard of care is supposed to reflect the fact that public transit drivers are operating large vehicles with often high numbers of passengers. Therefore, Ontario Courts have held that speeding should be considered unacceptable, distractions, like eating or cell phone use, should happen at an absolute minimum and, particular attention and precautions need to be taken in inclement weather.

Special Rules and Regulations

While in a more typical car accident in Ontario, those injured in the collision may be protected pursuant to Ontario’s no-fault insurance plan. Under this scheme, injured parties may make a claim for accident benefits regardless of fault, that can cover expenses incurred for medical treatment, rehabilitation, attendant care, income replacement and more.

Another avenue of compensation for those involved in a non-public transit vehicle collision, is to bring a lawsuit for damages in tort. Claimants can pursue damages for pain and suffering, future costs of care, loss of earning capacity, and loss of housekeeping and homemaking, for example. Family members who have been affected by the collision may also bring a claim for the loss of care, guidance, and companionship.

While all this is true for collisions not involving public transit vehicles, this begs the question, what rules apply to accidents involving public transit vehicles? We will next break down how the accident benefits legislation and tort law applies to collisions involving a public transit vehicle.

“Accident” in this case refers to a public transit vehicle where the transit vehicle did not collide with any other vehicle – public or private – or any other object at the scene of the incident. For example, if the driver of a TTC bus slams on the breaks and a passenger falls and injures themselves.

Pursuant to section 268(1.1) of the Insurance Act, the injured victim is prevented from making any claim for accident benefits. However, pursuant to section 267.5(6.1), it is easier for injured victims in these circumstances to advance a tort claim against the owner and driver of the public vehicle. This is for two reasons:

  1. The claimant is not required to meet the minor injury threshold for their injuries. What this means is under Ontario law, owners and drivers of vehicles who are considered at-fault for an accident are provided with certain protections in a pain and suffering claim. Specifically, pursuant to section 267.5(5), to advance a claim for general damages – for pain and suffering – the injured party must meet the legal threshold of having sustained a “permanent serious impairment of an important, physical, mental, and/or psychological function” and/or a “permanent, serious disfigurement”.
  2. The claim need not be of a sufficient value. In Ontario, if a claim is not worth more than $46,053.20, a statutory deductible may apply where the owner/driver may not need to pay the full value of the claim.

In the situation of a public transit vehicle accident, these protections for drivers and owners from a lawsuit do not apply.

Steps to Take After an Accident

Regardless of what type of accident you are in, it is crucial that you take immediate steps to ensure your safety and well-being. Seek medical care as soon as possible. Next, regardless of how minor you may think the incident was, you should report the incident to your local transit authorities. The TTC, for example, now has a Safe TTC App which is a mobile app that offers TTC customers with a quick method for reporting harassment, safety concerns, or suspicious activity directly to the TTC’s Transit Control Centre. However, if you need emergency services, 9-1-1 should always be called.

Once you are safe and able, it is important to gather evidence at the accident scene. This can include contact information of witnesses, pictures of the scene and the conditions, and detailing the time and location of the incident.


To recap:

If you’ve been in an accident between a motor vehicle and a public transit vehicle:

  • Accident benefits are
  • To bring a tort claim for general damages, your injuries must meet the threshold of serious and permeant or a serious disfigurement and for your claim to be eligible to be fully paid by the defendant driver/owner, it must be worth more than $46,053.20.

If you’ve been in an accident between yourself, a public transit vehicle, and no other vehicles or objects:

  • Accident benefits are not
  • A tort claim for general damages may be brought without meeting the minor injury threshold and may be paid fully by the defendant driver/owner without being worth more than $46,053.20.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a public transit vehicle, it is important to contact experienced legal counsel for advice. You may be eligible to file a claim for your injuries against the driver and owner of the vehicle. While these types of claims typically need to be issued within two years of the accident, other timelines can also apply. Contact a personal injury lawyer at McLeish Orlando for a free consultation today.

Lindsay Charles


Book a FREE Consultation

To start your free consultation, fill out the form below.

Free Consultation Form