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Common Carrier Law in California

Bus travel is the main method of travel for many commuters in greater Los Angeles area. Have you or your loved one been involved in a bus accident in Los Angeles? Call us at 424-231-2013 and talk to a bus accident lawyer at The Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney for a free consultation. We have successfully represented hundreds of accident victims and obtained exceptional results in a wide variety of serious injury cases.

Who is a common carrier under California laws?

A common carrier can be defined as a company whose business transports property or people at a fee. Typically, it is any transportation company that has a contract to transport people, property, and goods across or around within state lines as public services. Before an entity is declared a common carrier, there are several factors to be considered under the law. These include:

  • The entity was established purposely to transport individuals or goods from one location to another
  • The entity introduced itself to the public as a transportation company
  • The transportation of goods and individuals from one place to another is done at a fee

Common carriers include buses, cruise ships, trains, taxis, and planes. In California, elevators, ski lift, escalator and amusement parks may be considered as common carriers. Compared to other motor vehicles, common carriers are held to a higher standard of care and therefore, in case of injuries to passengers and other individuals, it is easier to establish negligence and hold them liable.

California common carrier laws

California law is very clear on the duty of care that concerns common carriers. California Civil Code Section 2100 states that common carriers “must use the utmost care and diligence for their safe carriage, must provide everything necessary for that purpose, and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill”. This implies that common carriers must provide a safe place for passengers and other road users. Failure to follow this rule usually results in passengers being harmed. Simply put, buses as common carriers in California must:

  • Treat passengers with civility
  • Provide a safe vehicle fit for the duties it is set to perform
  • Give passengers a reasonable degree of attention
  • Warn passengers of known dangers that exist in the type of transportation they operate
  • Give passengers proper accommodation including a place for the disabled and the elderly
  • Not drive erratically or make sudden stops
  • Protect passengers from harm, including harm by other passengers
  • Screen and ensure proper training for their employees

Some of the common reasons that common carrier accidents occur include improperly trained drivers, tired or overworked drivers, and improperly maintained equipment. Common carriers should ensure that they terminate drivers who do not perform their duties as they should to prevent potential accidents. It is also their duty to maintain the safety of their equipment and vehicles through regular inspections and repairs. The equipment must be up to current safety standards. If the negligence or failure of common carriers results in passenger injuries, the involved parties can be held liable. The duty of utmost care begins when a person manifests the intent to board the bus company or driver manifests acceptance of the person to become their passenger. When an individual becomes a passenger he/she puts himself or herself under the bus company’s control and therefore, the bus company or driver has a special duty of care towards the passenger.

Proving negligence in a bus accident

When it comes to bus accidents, the main issues that surround the case involve injuries and related negligence. A bus as a common carrier has the responsibility to provide the highest degree of safety and care for its passengers whether on a short or long distance trip. These duties are regulated by the state government and all common carriers must abide by them when transporting members of the public. Failing to observe this law is simply termed as negligence and this is the major cause of most bus accidents in Los Angeles. In order to successfully bring a claim in California against a bus driver or other related parties such as the bus accidents and bus owners, you must be able to prove that negligence occurred and this is governed by four elements. You must be able to show that:

  • The defendant owed a duty of care to the injured party
  • The responsible party breached that duty of care for instance by driving passengers at a high speed or while fatigued.
  • The breach of the duty of care was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries
  • The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the defendant's negligence

Typically, the negligence of a common carrier can be proved by showing that there was violation of the law or by showing that the bus driver failed to act reasonably in using care and diligence expected of a prudent bus operator. The bus driver is therefore expected to exercise ordinary care that any reasonable person would take in any given circumstance to avoid an accident.

Bus accidents have the potential of causing severe and long-lasting injuries. In the process, the victim may end up with disabilities, loss of income, medical bills and rehabilitation costs. In unfortunate cases of wrong death, there will be medical, funeral and burial expenses to pay. In such a situation, what you need most is compensation to be able to pay all these bills and support your life after the accident. However, this cannot be possible if the negligent party is not identified and the necessary evidence put in place to prove their negligence. This is why you need to retain an experienced Los Angeles bus accident attorney who can examine all aspects of the accident and evidence. At Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, we have the commitment and resources that will help us recreate the scene, determine what the cause of the accident was, and parties responsible for the mishap. Most importantly, we will build a strong case to get you the best possible settlement. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

School bus accidents

Many school buses do not have seat belts and those that are well equipped do not require the children to strictly use them. In such cases, when a crash happens or the driver brakes suddenly, children are injured when they fall out of the seats. When such happens, children are left in potential danger of sustaining severe injuries and even wrongful death. The school bus drivers in most cases are held liable for accidents involving the children to whom they owe a high standard duty of care. However, since most of them are government employees, they may be protected by the doctrine of sovereignty immunity. This causes more complexity and confusion because now you will not have to deal directly with the driver but with the government entity responsible for the employment of the driver. As a claimant, you must comply with the statutory deadlines for making a claim, which in the case involving a government entity is only 6 months (180 days) from the date of the accident. Failure to give a timely notice will lead to loss of your rights to file a claim.

Liability in bus accidents

Determining liability in common carrier accidents can be quite complex there are numerous parties involved. First, let us look at some of the most common causes of bus accidents in Los Angeles:

  • Driver fatigues or sleeping behind the wheel
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Bus driver negligence
  • Distracted driving
  • Lack of adequate driver training
  • Defective or outdated equipment
  • Poor maintenance and servicing
  • Poor roads and bad weather conditions

This implies that there are other parties, apart from the driver that can be held responsible for the crash. These parties include the bus company, the bus owner, the maintenance company, the school board, manufacturer of the bus and its parts and local or state governments. A common carrier can be found liable for a boarding passenger’s injuries if it:

  • fails to maintain safe steps
  • starts the bus before the passenger is safely on board or before the passenger safely exits the bus
  • starts before the passenger is safely seated
  • closes the door on a passenger
  • attempts to load a passenger in an unsafe place

The duty of care of a bus ends when the passenger safely alights and is no longer exposed to risks of bus’s operation. Liability not only involves passengers on board since accidents could also occur at the bus station. This, therefore, means that a bus company is responsible for employing utmost care in maintaining their bus stops. The bus driver has a duty to stop the bus at a safe place for passengers to board and alight. They should also conduct their operations such as starting or stopping the bus in a timely manner to avoid injury to boarding or alighting passengers.

Exceptions to common carrier liability

There are exceptions that allow bus companies, owners, and drivers to be pardoned of their responsibility in the case of an accident. This, for instance, may be in the case where the accident occurred due to an act of nature such as bad weather conditions. No one can control an act of nature and this as well applies to common carriers. Other exceptions may involve incidents such as pirating, robbery, carjacking, shipper negligence or passenger negligence. These exceptions are rooted in the law and only apply in situations that were out of the common carrier’s regulations.

Reasonable duty of care to third parties

The utmost duty of care that a bus company must use is not only directed towards passengers on the bus but other parties that they share the road with. This could be other motorists, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. The same rule that applies to motor vehicles also applies to buses. For instance, the bus driver must use diligence if they know that there are pedestrians in the area. Such diligence and care could be in form of a slowing down and putting all their focus on the road.

Investigations in bus accident cases

In bus accident cases involving severe injuries, a comprehensive investigation is critical. A Los Angeles personal injury attorney will hire investigators to go to the scene of the accident as close in time to possible to the date of the crash. This is paramount because it takes a very short time for skids to fade and for debris to be blown away and the owner of the property whose dangerous conditions caused the accident may change the condition and tamper with evidence. However, if an accident reconstruction expert gets to the scene early enough, they may be able to gather evidence and also help the police officers create an accurate report. Other experts that could be hired to help build a strong case and also testify in a bus accident case include mechanical engineers, biomedical engineers, human factors experts and photogrammetry experts. Additionally, there is need for the plaintiff to be able to produce medical reports to show the extent and severity of the injuries.

Our Los Angeles bus accident attorneys understand what you are going through and can be able to help you get through this difficult time. Following a bus accident, your life may dramatically change and possibly forever. You deserve a fair compensation from the individuals who failed to exercise their duty of care toward you. California personal injury laws allow individuals wrongly injured in accidents to seek fair compensation for their injuries and losses. These laws also cover surviving family members of loved ones who died in these types of accidents. When working with Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, you are sure of working with a firm that has handled and won many similar cases. Act promptly to retain one of our bus accident attorneys to protect your rights. If you desire a free consultation with one of our experienced bus accident attorneys, please call our firm at 424-231-2013. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you only pay when you win.

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