Transport for London (TfL) has recently come under fire from frustrated commuters over a ‘mistimed’ safety alert, designed to prevent passengers falling over on board its buses. The broadcasts of the warning – “please hold on, the bus is about to move” – are claimed to be being played after the bus pulls away from the stop.
The alert is currently triggered by a computer that sends out the message based on the average amount of time a bus would spend at each stop. So, if the bus pulls away ahead of schedule, the alert will not sound until it is already in motion.
With this in mind, in the event of an accident, Bede Finnigan, Personal Injury Trainee Solicitor at national law firm Roythornes Solicitors answers the question where does liability lie?
Bede said: “Following the recent complaints to Transport for London, it is evident the new system is not to everyone’s taste. However, the question remains on where individuals stand if injury occurs due to a bus driving, and specifically pulling off, negligently.
“Although the system is clearly not without its teething problems, it must be lauded for its attempt to reduce accidents and injuries occurring whilst travelling on buses; particularly as TfL’s figures for injuries by slips, trips and falls on London buses is currently at 3,000 people each year.
“The law surrounding this matter is case specific, depending on the individual facts of each incident, but it is evident that the courts are reluctant in awarding compensation for such injuries.
“This has been illustrated in previous cases such as Phillips-Turner v Reading Transport Ltd  whereby the courts expressed claims will only be successful for elderly or infirm claimants. This provides a level of protection to drivers.
“We’ve recently acted on two cases where the claimants have sustained injury because of this issue. One claimant suffered a blow to the head – resulting in concussion, headaches, memory loss and confusion – after she showed her bus pass to the driver and, before she had any time to find a seat, the driver pulled away. The claimant had nothing to hold onto and fell.
“Similarly, another claimant suffered a fracture in her right forearm from a fall on board a bus, also caused by the driver pulling away immediately after she had paid her fare and before being able to find a seat.
“In the first case, liability was initially denied, however we successfully argued that the claimant was disabled and the driver should have given extra consideration to her mobility issues before pulling away instantly.
“TfL has acknowledged such teething issues and reiterated that “safety is our number one priority”. It remains to be seen whether TfL will overcome these problems and persevere with their plans, a perfect example of what is a great idea in theory but problematic to put into practice.
“If they do and the announcement proves to be an effective and efficient warning for passengers, “please hold on” may not only become as iconic as the underground’s “mind the gap” but limit the risk of injury.”