An MBTA bus is pictured by the Boston Shore, Public Transportation Accident Injury Lawyer Boston

Massachusetts has multiple public transportation options, the most popular being the MBTA system, which most locals call “the T.” The MBTA system includes subways, buses, commuter rails, and ferries.

In fact, Boston leads as the best U.S. City to live in without a car. Public transportation is used by 28% of Boston’s population. The transportation system is the third-largest in terms of ridership nationwide. Most of the time, MBTA passengers and riders get to their destination safely. Sometimes, however, injuries on the T do happen. 

Injuries on the MBTA are usually caused by unsafe conditions at the T stations or on the trains and buses. Riders need to know how to stay safe when using the T and their options if they are ever injured on a T bus or train.

An injury claim against the T can be tricky, and you will need a skilled injury attorney with experience pursuing injury claims against the MBTA. If you were injured on Massachusetts public transportation, call or text our office for a free consultation at (617) 889-5000. We will review your case for free, explain your legal options, give you advice, and explain how we can help you recover compensation for your medical bills and injuries.   

An Uptick in T Ridership: More People Using the T After the Pandemic & During Winter Months

The Commuter Rail ridership hit a pre-pandemic peak of 90%, the MBTA reported in November 2023. The MBTA General Manager stated that this return and growth of the use of the Commuter Rail “demonstrates that safe, reliable, and more frequent service can bring riders back to mass transportation.”

The T stated that three main factors – on three lines – drove the increase in ridership.

From September to October, the Franklin Line saw a 20% boost, attributed to a new fall and winter schedule that included increased services. While the Red Line Ashmont Branch and Mattapan Line were shut down for construction, the routes diverted to the Fairmount Line, which saw a 35% increase in ridership. The Newburyport/Rockport Line reached a record ridership high with Halloween travel to Salem.

The hope is that these numbers will continue to grow, but in any case, they show tremendous growth for public transit, which hit incredible lows during the pandemic. During the COVID-pandemic, MBTA ridership was as low as 10% of the typical number of riders.

The MBTA also attributes increased ridership to more service options and more flexible fare options for riders. 

MBTA Use Increase in the Winter

For the most recent Winter 2024 MBTA schedule, view the MBTA services changes here. You can find the Green Line, Red Line, and Orange Line subway schedules and all the bus route and commuter rail service changes. 

People rely on the MBTA for transportation even in Massachusetts’ extremely cold winter weather. With T ridership continually rising since the pandemic and increased service schedules, more people are expected to use the T for transportation in the winter months. 

The MBTA has a cold weather plan to keep all public transit on track in cold weather so all trains and buses stay warm and operational.  

Common Types of MBTA Accidents: Crashes, Collisions, and Safety Issues on the T

Over the past three decades, Spada Law Group has seen many different types of accidents involving the T, and T-owned and T-controlled vehicles. According to the National Transit Database, the MBTA was responsible for 38% of all light rail collisions in the US between 2017 and 2021 and 94% of the injuries from those incidents.

The MBTA has also experienced higher derailment rates ever since 2015 compared to its industry peers, with a sharp increase in derailment in 2020. 

Short stopping

One of the most common injuries we’ve seen is what we call “Shortstop” injuries. A shortstop injury is when a T train or T bus stops abruptly or speeds up suddenly and causes passengers to be thrown about the vehicle. Usually, the injured passenger stands in the crowded bus or subway, and the driver jams on the brakes or starts off too quickly before the passengers can get settled and secure.

Stopping or accelerating too quickly could be caused by traffic conditions beyond the driver’s control, or they could be caused by the bus or train driver’s negligence. 

Technological and Mechanical Failures

A failure in technology or mechanics of bus or train system portions can cause public transportation injuries.

For example, when a street-level train approaches a crossing, there should be warning bells and crossing gates designed to warn people to get out of the way until it is safe to cross. If these systems malfunction, it can lead to injuries for drivers and pedestrians. 

In January 2022, a woman was killed by a commuter rail while driving. The train struck her car, but she was only in the train's path because the gates blocking the train crossing were not activated at the time of the crash.

More minor malfunctions, such as malfunctioning doors on trains and buses, can injure passengers as they board the train or bus or exit the T.

As another technical and mechanical failure example, an escalator malfunction in 2021 injured nine people and sent each of them to the hospital. The escalator malfunctioned and appeared to reverse directions and the stairs flattened out so the escalator became more like a downward slide. 

T Platform Injuries

In many injury cases, we’ve found that a passenger's injury occurs before they ever board the T. The MBTA also owns the bus stops and subway platforms where you wait to board the T, so if you are injured on the platform, the MBTA may be responsible for your platform injury. Platform injuries can be caused by broken walkways, broken or missing handrails, or snow and ice not being removed.

Slips and falls are common platform injuries, especially with slippery wet conditions that are common in New England. Snow, ice, and slush present additional dangers in the winter. Slips and falls can be severe, as the platforms are often concrete, are elevated, and have staircases and elevators. 

Safety Incidents

During the course of a 2022 federal investigation alone, safety incidents included four train derailments, two runaway trains, and two train collisions. Both Orange and Red Line cars were removed from service more than once for braking issues, and an Orange Line car was also removed after a battery failure caused an explosion. 

These safety incidents injured MBTA workers and some contractors. After the investigation ended, additional safety incidents included the Orange Line train catching on fire over the Mystic River and another runaway train incident.  

For 2023, MBTA Deputy Chief Safety Officer Nancy Prominski stated that the number of formally counted safety incidents exceeded the MBTA's benchmarks on some major modes in 2023. 

In total in 2023, the T has had:

  • 104 bus safety incidents (81 were anticipated by this point in the year)
  • 31 light rail incidents (22.5 anticipated) 
  • 22 heavy rail incidents (20 anticipated)

A timeline of MBTA safety incidents from 2021 to 2022 included:

  • Green Line trains colliding on Commonwealth Avenue in June 2021.
  • A man died after falling through a Red Line staircase in September 2021.
  • A Back Bay escalator malfunction sent nine injured people to the hospital in September 2021. 
  • A Red Line train derailed near Broadway Station in September 2021.
  • A woman was killed when a commuter rail struck her car in January 2022. The woman was on the tracks because the gates blocking the train crossing were not activated at the time of the crash. 
  • A man died after being dragged by the Red Line in April 2022. The accident involved a train's faulty safety feature. 
  • In May 2022, construction vehicles derailed three days in a row during planned maintenance. The MBTA didn’t disclose the derailments to the public until nearly 10 days later.
  • Braking systems failed on Orange Line cars in May 2022. 
  • Trains collided at Government Center Station in June 2022 and sent four MBTA workers to the hospital.
  • The Orange Line caught fire over the Mystic River while transporting about 200 passengers, one of which jumped into the river in June 2022. Incredibly, no injuries were reported, according to the T.  
  • A bus caught fire in Jamaica Plain in August 2022, sending two MBTA transit workers to the hospital for smoke inhalation. 
  • Overhead wires fell from the ceiling at Park Street Station and caused sparks and loud noises in September 2022. 
  • About one week after the overhead wires fell and shut down part of the Green Line, a Green Line train derailed near Park Street station. 

What Causes MBTA Safety Issues? 

According to the federal report, interviews and on-site MBTA inspections found that safety issues on the T were caused by:

  • A lack of staffing 
  • A lack of supervision
  • A lack of enforcement of safety rules
  • A lack of track access for critical repairs
  • Excessive overtime
  • Neglecting maintenance of the MBTA system in favor of larger, long-term projects. 

According to the report, the MBTA dismissed these factors as “inevitable and normal work conditions,” with many of the safety incidents viewed by the MBTA as one-time “freak accidents” and not systemic failures. 

Ultimately, the report found that the MBTA has been neglecting day-to-day operations and safety to focus on capital projects instead. As a result, the T’s workforce is short-staffed and strained, the MBTA trains and buses are aging, and its infrastructure continues to fail. 

Common Injuries on the T

The severity of MBTA incidents continued to escalate since 2019, according to the federal report. Over four years, safety incidents steadily increased at the MBTA, prompting a federal investigation. The safety events also got more severe over time – beginning with minor property damage and minor injuries in 2019, then escalating to significant property damage and more severe passenger injuries, which required hospitalizations in 2021. 

Common injuries from accidents on the T include:

  • Head injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Fractured bones
  • Neck and shoulder injuries 
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Sprains
  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Internal organ injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Wrongful death 

Pedestrian Injuries

Serious injuries happen when a bus or train strikes a pedestrian or another commuter.

Many pedestrian injuries are the same as the common injuries listed above. However, pedestrian injuries are often more severe as they can involve a pedestrian being hit by a bus or train, which is typically more serious as the pedestrian is less protected and more vulnerable to injuries.

Fatal Accidents on the MBTA

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) launched its safety investigation into the MBTA in 2022 after a fatal T accident. The deadly accident took place in April 2022, when a passenger was dragged to death by a train. The investigation was only the second of its kind for a U.S. subway system.

Another fatal accident before the investigation began involved a platform injury. At the JFK/UMass Red Line station, a 40-year-old Boston University professor died after he fell about 20 feet through a rusted staircase at the station. 

Other platform injuries and deaths can also be caused by the high-voltage rail. In Spring 2022, a man died after he fell onto a Red Line high-voltage rail at the Park Street station. Here, no negligence of the MBTA was reported. 

What Happens if I Was Injured on the T? 

Suing the T (or any other public state agency) is a different and much more specific process from suing a private individual or business. This process is partly governed by Massachusetts General Law Chapter 258, Section 4.

If you were injured on the T, you can work with a personal injury attorney to file a claim for your injuries against the T. For a successful claim, Spada Law will prove that the T was negligent in some way and that their negligence is what caused your injury.

The MBTA has a broad responsibility to make sure passengers are as safe as reasonably possible on their trains and buses. Part of that responsibility to keep passengers safe includes having adequately trained employees. The MBTA could be responsible for injuries resulting from an employee’s negligence or lack of training. The MBTA could be found negligent in how they hired or trained employees.

For example, in 2021, a collision between two Green Line trains injured 27 people. An MBTA trolley operator faced two charges of gross negligence for contributing to the accident. The operator’s train accelerated to 31 miles per hour when it crashed into another train near Boston University’s Agganis Arena. The speed limit for that section of the track was only 10 miles per hour.  

The MBTA also has a responsibility to keep their premises safe. This includes ensuring that any slippery surface, especially due to weather conditions, is cleaned up or marked so passengers and commuters know the risk.  Busses, trains, stations, and facilities open to the public must be maintained so they are safe for the public.   

To have a successful injury claim against the MBTA, hiring an experienced MBTA injury attorney is essential. If you were injured by the T’s negligence, you have two years from the date of your accident to notify the MBTA of your claim by sending a notice to the MBTA’s executive officer. This notice must be in writing. The written notification is called a “presentment.” The presentment letter must be executed correctly, or you may forever lose your right to sue the MBTA for your injuries. Because the stakes are so high, we encourage anyone injured on the T to contact and consult an injury attorney to ensure the presentment letter is done correctly and on time. 

Injured on the MBTA? Contact our Accident and Injury Attorney for a FREE Consultation if You Were Injured by the T in Boston or Massachusetts 

You have options and legal rights if you were injured by the MBTA, whether as a passenger or as a pedestrian. 

Being injured is hard enough. You have doctor’s visits, possible surgeries, and physical therapy to manage so you can heal. But navigating the legal process and dealing with insurance companies doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful.

If you or a loved one were injured by the T in Massachusetts, you have rights and may be able to get compensation for your medical bills, time lost from work, pain and suffering, and more. Our MBTA accident and injury attorneys are here to guide you every step of the way. 

Over the last three decades, we’ve helped thousands of people in Massachusetts get the recovery they need after an injury. Recently, Boston Magazine named Attorney Spada one of Boston’s Top Personal Injury Lawyers. As personal injury lawyers, you never pay us a penny until we win your case. We’re here and ready to help.

We have three offices but proudly serve the entire state with the ability to meet with you remotely from the comfort of your own home. Contact us for a free consultation so we can learn more about your MBTA accident and injuries and see how we can help you get the recovery you deserve after your situation occurs.

Call or Text Spada Law Group for a Free Consultation Today: 617-889-5000

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