Jerk and Jolt – Bus Injuries in Pennsylvania
A woman who boarded a bus, walked down the aisle toward a seat and fell when the bus accelerated suddenly claimed that she was entitled to the benefit of the “jerk and jolt doctrine,” and should be compensated by the bus company for her back and neck injuries. On appeal, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court disagreed. Martin v. SEPTA, 52 A.3d 385 (Pa. Super. 2012).
Passengers injured in public transit must prove negligence in order to recover for damages for any injuries they suffer. An exception to the requirement that a passenger prove negligence by the driver or company is the “jerk and jolt” doctrine. That doctrine provides that a bus passenger can recover damages by simply proving that a jerk or jolt of the bus occurred that was so “unusual or extraordinary as to be beyond a passenger’s reasonable anticipation” or that the jerk and jolt “had an extraordinarily disturbing effect on other passengers.”
In the case involving the woman who fell in the bus aisle, the appellate Court noted that she failed to prove negligence and also failed to qualify under the jerk and jolt doctrine. No other passengers testified at trial, and no evidence was introduced that any passengers other than the injured woman were affected at all by the acceleration of the bus. The mere fact that the woman lost her balance and fell, without any other evidence, was insufficient to meet the jerk and jolt doctrine.
Bus passengers can’t observe the driver, the traffic and all the circumstances that can cause sudden movements of a bus. An injured bus passenger who is not able to prove negligence has a limited opportunity to recover damages if other passengers are “extraordinarily” disturbed by a jerk or jolt of the bus, or if the injured passenger can show that the movement was “beyond reasonable expectation.”