Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 19 Nov 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about a personal injury while travelling on a Transport for London bus. This is because the complaint is late, and it is reasonable for Ms X to use the legal remedy available to her.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Ms X, complains about injuries she suffered while travelling on a Transport for London (TfL) bus which was involved in an accident.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
- The law says the Ombudsman cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, she may decide to investigate if she considers it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c))
How I considered this complaint
- I considered Ms X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and the information she provided. I also gave Ms X the opportunity to comment on a draft statement before reaching a final decision on her complaint.
What I found
- Ms X was travelling on a TfL contracted bus in January 2019 when it was involved in an accident with another car. Ms X was injured and says the accident led to her suffering from various health problems. Ms X wants compensation, but TfL and its contractor have rejected her claim. Ms X has been referred to the insurers of the other vehicle involved in the accident.
- The Ombudsman normally expects people to complain to us within twelve months of them becoming aware of a problem. We look at each complaint individually, and on its merits, considering the circumstances of each case. But we do not exercise discretion to accept a late complaint unless there are good reasons to do so. I do not consider that to be the case here. I see no reason why Ms X could not have complained much earlier, and so the exception at paragraph 3 applies to her complaint.
- But even if Ms X’s complaint was not late, it is not one we would investigate. This is because it amounts to a claim of negligence against TfL. Adjudication on questions of negligence usually involves making decisions on contested questions of fact and law. These require the more stringent and structured procedures of civil litigation for their proper determination.
- If Ms X’s claim for damages is rejected by TfL’s insurers, it is open to her to make a claim in court. Only a court can decide if TfL, or another party, has been negligent, and what damages, if any, must be paid. The Ombudsman has no powers to enforce such an award. Our involvement is not therefore appropriate.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint. This is because the complaint is late, and it is reasonable for Ms X to use the legal remedy available to her.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman