The Westboro bus crash sparked many questions regarding public transit liability and how victims receive compensation.
In January 2019, an OC Transpo bus hit two snowbanks and a rockface before crashing into Westboro station. Judy Booth, Bruce Thomlinson, and Anja Van Beek lost their lives in the Westboro bus crash, and 23 other victims sustained injuries ranging from minor to catastrophic. The bus driver, Aissatou Diallo, was charged with three counts of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts causing bodily harm and is currently awaiting a ruling.
Public transit accidents aren’t prevalent, but when they happen, they can result in devastating outcomes. After the Westboro bus crash, many people have questions about how liability is determined and how victims receive compensation in public transit accidents.
Civil liability vs. Criminal liability
When determining liability in an accident like the Westboro bus crash, there are two litigation processes: civil and criminal. In a civil trial, one person or party (the plaintiff) files a civil action against another individual or party (the defendant) for damages. Civil proceedings have no legal implications, meaning the defendant would not face fines or jail time if they lose. On the other hand, criminal proceedings are brought forth by the government towards an individual who is accused of committing a crime. If found guilty, the defendant may be sentenced to time in prison or a combination of other penalties.
For public transportation – and specifically in the case of the Westboro bus crash – victims of the accident file civil action to receive compensation for damages. Victims cannot file a civil action against the driver individually; they must file against the city. Whether or not the vehicle’s driver is liable for the accident is irrelevant in this case because city policies protect them. However, suppose the accident resulted from criminal negligence. In that case, the government can then choose to pursue criminal action against the driver or municipality.
Compensation for victims of the Westboro bus crash and other public transit accidents
The City of Ottawa was cleared of any criminal liability but accepted all civil liability in the Westboro bus crash; therefore, they’re responsible for compensating victims. Generally speaking, any passenger or pedestrian injured in an accident is entitled to compensation, regardless of who’s at fault. The outcome of any criminal proceedings does not affect the civil lawsuits or the victims’ abilities to receive compensation either. At the end of the day, passengers and pedestrians injured in a public transit accident are innocent bystanders and have done nothing wrong – they get total compensation no matter what.
Determining liability in bus accidents
Determining liability in a bus accident isn’t always as straightforward as this particular case. For instance, a passenger could distract or assault the driver, causing them to lose control of the vehicle, or another motorist could be at fault. After a bus accident (or any accident), it’s crucial to obtain help from an experienced personal injury lawyer. The process of determining liability can be complicated and very lengthy. A personal injury lawyer can help you file your claim and narrow down liability so that you can receive the compensation you deserve.