An analysis of King County public records shows that over the past three years, the county and its taxpayers have paid out more than $50 million to settle lawsuits – most of which has come from King County Metro.
Bus Accident Lawsuits Hurt Taxpayers
A recent KOMO news “Problem Solvers” investigation found that there have been almost 60 total lawsuits over the previous three years and that more than $53 million in taxpayer dollars have been paid out to settle them.
In one particular case in West Seattle, a female pedestrian was crossing the street when a Metro bus went through the intersection and crashed into her. The bus then ran her over and left her with severe injuries, and she was hospitalized for a month before being transported to a nursing home afterwards.
That case settled for $5 million. A similar case, another pedestrian bus accident, involved a woman hit by a bus in front of the downtown waterfront. The woman injured in that accident sustained a traumatic brain injury and now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. The county settled that case for $4.5 million.
Metro Lawsuits Eat Up Public Funds
The public records data shows that Metro’s settlements last year alone accounted for 70 percent of all of King County’s payouts. Naturally, that has taxpayers upset over having to pay for the negligence of the public transit organization.
“Metro Transit takes passenger and pedestrian safety very seriously,” reads a statement issued by a Metro spokesperson. “We deeply regret these unfortunate accidents and worked in each case to resolve them. We carefully study all incidents looking for ways to improve safety, and have taken steps through training and changes in bus zones to make operations as safe as possible.”
Mistakes happen, and statistically speaking less than 60 accidents in a three-year period is a very small percentage when you consider that more than 400,000 people utilize the Metro system every day in King County.
But when those mistakes add up to $53 million in public funds being paid out to accident victims, it means that a majority of those cases are serious and involve severe injuries or even death.
But according to Matt Rosenberg, editor of watchdog website Public Eye Northwest, the issue here is something that comes with being in the public transportation business. And choosing to settle a case actually saves the public money, because it avoids additional costs like legal fees that come into play when a case goes to court.
“These payouts are a business transaction and a necessary evil,” Rosenberg says.