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Attorney asks, “What other city budget line item of $200 million is completely preventable?”

At a time when many cities across the Bay Area are tightening their budgets, San Francisco spends millions to pay for legal claims against it. Most of these lawsuits are personal injury or property damage claims which many legal experts say are wholly preventable.

The majority of the claims filed are against the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, or MUNI, which has about 700,000 passengers every day. About 5,000 claims have been filed against MUNI in the last five years and 2,400 of these claims were paid for around $82 million total.

Overall, the city of San Francisco paid out over $212 million in 8,600 lawsuits and another $53 million was spent fighting the claims during the last five years. Personal injury attorneys say that most of the lawsuits against the city can be prevented with better employee training.

“On a weekly basis, I see a MUNI operator doing some unsafe movement in a vehicle that surprises me and it makes me upset,” noted personal injury lawyer Doug Saeltzer said in a recent interview with ABC News.

“What other city budget line item of $200 million is completely preventable?” Saeltzer asked.

Source: ABC News, “San Francisco losing millions annually to payouts,” Dan Noyes, Feb. 28, 2012