Common Carriers include taxi, Uber, Lyft, bus, and limousine drivers.
PASSENGERS ENTRUST HIRED DRIVERS WITH THEIR SAFETY
Common Carrier law enforces a duty on for-hire drivers to protect passengers
A common carrier is anyone who engages in public transportation of persons for hire. This law applies to business serving the public that transport people. This includes motor carrier buses, trolleys, street cars, taxis, Uber drivers, Lyft drivers, limousines, party buses and trains. Common carriers are subject to a heightened duty to protect passengers. This duty has been in existence before motorized vehicles. The courts were concerned that passengers that surrendered control over their safety and well-being to for-hire drivers needed additional protections and assurances.
Certain common carriers like bus companies require and/or provide special training to their drivers to understand the heightened common carrier duties. Uber and Lyft have connected millions of commercial drivers with customers. The insurance coverage for those injured in an Uber or Lyft car accident is usually larger than the coverages selected for personal policies. These companies have insurance coverage for passengers that is well beyond the minimum limits of coverage required by Maryland.
The duty as summarized by the Civil Maryland Pattern Jury Instruction is that “[a] common carrier is required to use the utmost degree of care, skill and diligence in everything that concern’s its passenger’s safety.” This duty is not a guarantee but a prescription for the care that a common carrier must exhibit. The scope of this duty has been explored in cases where one passenger assaults another passenger on a bus. The duty for the bus driver to act is only triggered if the bus driver knew or had reason to know that an attack might be imminent. The driver has no duty to prevent a random and unpredictable assault by a fellow passenger.
COMMON CARRIERS HAVE A DUTY TO RETURN PASSENGERS TO A SAFE LOCATION
Injuries that occur upon exiting a bus or other common carrier may be actionable
A common carrier’ duty to protect passengers arguable continues until the passenger is dropped off at a safe location. This duty may be triggered by a simple premises’ liability analysis. For example, if major road repairs are being performed at a bus stop, the driver of the bus should not drop a customer off at a location with deep holes in the pavement or access routes to sidewalks that are blocked by barriers. This would also apply to dropping a passenger off in the middle of a violent protest or other dangerous settings.
SAFE DRIVING AND ROUTE SELECTION ARE REQUIRED
A Common Carrier should not unreasonably expose passengers to danger
Common carriers should take steps to avoid dangerous trips. Imagine, your family has purchased tickets on a bus to take a trip to Boston. Weather reports indicate a high risk of freezing rain to hit interstate 95 in the next hour. The bus company decides to send the bus into the path of the anticipated storm. The heavy bus encounters freezing ran but does not show any signs of losing traction on the road. A passenger car traveling southbound on interstate 95 loses control on the ice and crosses into northbound lanes. The driver of the bus tried to avoid the car, but the evasive maneuver coupled with the icy roads caused the bus to lose control and slide off the road and fall on its side. The passengers were badly hurt and traumatized by the crash.
Admittedly the bus driver did not have an opportunity to avoid the car and arguably did the best that he could under the circumstances. The driver and the bus company failed to comply with common carrier law (and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act Regulations) by taking these passengers on a trip that was fraught with danger. A commercial bus company knew or should have known that freezing rain would likely result in other cars losing control and endangering the safety of the bus. The bus company should have delayed or rerouted the bus trip. Also the driver should have pulled the bus off the roadway to a safe location once he detected that he was in freezing rainstorm.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation with appendixes is nearly 500 pages with fine print. The industries most widely used commercial tractor-trailer driving manual is nearly 500 pages. Commercial Motor Carriers rely heavily on an industry produced Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act compliance manual that is well over 1,000 pages. These regulations and rules have one overriding purpose, your safety.
Every legal case starts with identifying the rules. Does your lawyer have these manuals? Has he read these manuals? The National Board of Trial Advocacy with the assistance of the American Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys recognized that a certification was needed for the public to know whether their lawyer knew these materials. They created a rigorous program to test lawyer’s knowledge in this field and criteria that demonstrated substantial experience and education in the field. Successfully completing the program that requires the passing of a board exam results in the Board Certification as a Truck Accident Attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.
Patterson Law helps truck accident clients to recover. A Board-Certified Truck Accident Lawyer is available for your case! Your recovery is our focus.
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