CBS Austin story gets results for woman after MetroAccess incident
A blind, quadriplegic woman is getting the help she needs after a CBS Austin story aired last week. Rachel Watkins was injured and her wheelchair totaled on a MetroAccess bus in April. Five months later no one was accepting responsibility or helping her get a new chair.
The surveillance video from the bus is hard to forget. Rachel Watkins is on the right side of the screen riding a MetroAccess bus when one turn sends her and her 400-pound wheelchair toppling to the ground. She was injured and her wheelchair was totaled.
Watkins' lawyers at Justinian & Associates say insurance companies bickered over the blame for months while Watkins suffered in a chair that didn't meet her needs. However, days after the CBS Austin story aired a new chair is on the way.
"I wish they had done it sooner, but I am very surprised and grateful," says Watkins.
In a statement MV Transportation, the company contracted to run Capital Metro's MetroAccess buses, says they "…actively investigated the matter in an attempt to determine its cause," and "...will step up and front the cost of a replacement chair and continue its investigation."
Watkins' new chair will drive more easily and recline to relieve pressure on her back. "I will be able to raise my legs up for circulation control," she adds.
Watkins' lawyer is relieved to see progress.
"This is one of those cases that reminds you of why you wanted to become a lawyer in the first place. To really reach out and help somebody who needs help," says Leslie Nadelman, Watkins' attorney. "It wouldn't have happened had that story not aired," she adds.
There was also support from the community. Less than 48 hours after Watkins' story aired on CBS Austin, strangers donated nearly $2,000 for her needs.
"It was heartfelt and I really appreciate the help," she says.
A lawsuit is moving forward to see if MV Transportation or the wheelchair securing system manufacturer, Q'Straint, is at fault. Either way Rachel won't be the one paying $40,000 to get back in the chair she had before.
Read the full statement from MV Transportation here:
In an effort to lessen the mobility challenges Austin paratransit rider Rachel Watkins has faced since her wheelchair was damaged in an incident on a Capital Metro MetroAccess vehicle, MV Transportation, Capital Metro's contractor, will replace Ms. Watkins' wheelchair.
Since the time of the April accident, MV has actively investigated the matter in an attempt to determine its cause. This has included conversations with the manufacturer of the restraint system on the bus. No agreement could be reached and the restraint manufacturer would not agree to contribute toward repair or replacement of Ms. Watkins' wheelchair. Consequently, MV will step up and front the cost of a replacement chair and continue its investigation, keeping CapMetro appraised of all findings and reserving all our legal rights to pursue parties who may be found responsible for this incident.
"Our company motto is 'We Provide Freedom' and every single employee at MV Transportation understands that means we provide the freedom of mobility and independence to people who are transit dependent," said Brenda Fernandez, MV's Regional Vice President and General Manager for the Capital Metro contract. "MV is committed to doing what's right by our riders."
On or before October 1, 2017, payment will be made by MV Transportation to Travis Medical in Austin for the replacement chair.