Injured riding Metro Transit? Don't expect no-fault benefits - KMSP-TV

Injured riding Metro Transit? Don't expect no-fault benefits

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One local attorney is warning those who use Metro Transit to get around that if they are ever injured in a crash, they shouldn't expect the transportation agency to pick up any of the medical costs without a fight.

Attorney Sharifa Elaraj is fighting for several clients who were hurt on their commutes with Metro Transit, but she says a loophole in the way Minnesota law defines motor vehicles exempts buses from registration -- and that's why Metro Transit claims it is exempt from paying out no-fault benefits.

Many of the thousands of riders who board a Metro Transit bus daily would probably assume that if they were injured, they'd be entitled to some sort of benefit under state law. Elaraj says they would be wrong.

"Whether I'm at fault or not, under the law and under the no-fault statute, I am allowed to claim my benefits, which is up to $20,000 in medical and up to $20,000 in wage loss," she explained.

Yet, Elaraj's most recent no-fault case involves a woman who was injured in a bus accident -- but Metro Transit claims that, because of how their buses are defined by the state, they don't have to pay out a dime.

More than 233,000 people board Metro Transit buses every single day. So why is a 40-foot bus not considered to be a motor vehicle? Elaraj says it goes back to a decision the Metropolitan Council made in a closed-door meeting in 2011.

Citing Minnesota Statute 168.012, Metro Transit claims that since they are exempt from registering as buses, they are not technically considered a motor vehicle under state law.

In a statement to Fox 9 News, a Metro Transit spokesman wrote, "It is our position that the law does not apply to transit buses under the definition."

"They decided they're not a motor vehicle and therefore they don't have to pay any medical bills or wages under the no-fault statute," Elaraj said.

In two of her cases, two Hennepin County judges actually ordered Metro Transit to pay out the benefits -- but Metro Transit filed appeals. Elaraj says a ruling in favor of Metro Transit could be disastrous for her clients.

"Ruin their credit to potentially bankruptcy," she estimated.

Metro Transit notes that people do submit claims outside of the no-fault law, but most of the people who use public transportation can't afford a vehicle let alone an attorney to file such claims.

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