Usually it takes the news media's spotlight on a serious injury or accident to get government bureaucracy to do their jobs. Also the reality of a potential costly personal injury lawsuit serves as a motivation for municipalities to take steps to reduce the possibility of injuries to its citizens.
Los Angeles's transit agency, the MTA is in the process of installing safety barriers on all light rail platforms to prevent people from accidentally walking between train cars. Last year the MTA purchased new rail cars that had gaps between the cars. At the time, the Federal Transit Administration, as part of its safety certification, raised concerns about the spaces between the cars.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the MTA has been testing new barriers over the past few months. In the meantime, however, just last week, a visually impaired man, Cameron Cuthbertson, of Compton California, was killed when he walked off the light rail platform, thinking he was going into a train door. Instead he fell onto the tracks between the cars. When the train left the station he was killed.
In response to Mr. Cuthbertson's death the MTA's Chief Executive Roger Snoble ordered that the barriers be immediately installed on all light rail platforms. I salute the MTA for taking this action.
I assume the MTA is acting in a responsible, humanitarian, matter to prevent such an accident from happening again. But at the same time it is important to remember that the threat of litigation from a personal injury attorney is also a potent motivator.
Statistics show that cities, states and countries which limit the right of injured to sue governments have lower safety standards than cities, states and countries where the right of citizens to sue municipalities in the case of injuries caused by governments and their employees. For example, we see in the news every day disturbing stories of other countries where substandard building and safety codes cause injuries and deaths to people of all ages, including children who have been crushed in poorly constructed school buildings. For the most part, in those countries, you will find severely restricted rights of citizens to sue their governments for personal injuries and death caused by their lax or non-existent safety laws.
Personal injury attorneys play an important role not only in defending their clients, but by motivating municipalities, thorough threats of lawsuits, to provide safer conditions for citizens in general. That is why we must remain vigilant and not let legislation diminish the rights of citizens to sue their government for personal injuries.
Too often it is only the threat of costly lawsuits that puts safety regulations in place that saves peoples lives. These regulations have the potential to save countless lives, perhaps even yours.