Common Carriers and Liability

A common carrier is defined as a private or public entity that transports goods or people from one place to another for a fee. A common carrier like a bus, train, commercial airplane or taxi offers their services to the general public.

A private carrier is employed to transport goods or persons for a specific need and on an individual case basis. Private carriers are also usually hired on a one-time basis whereas a common carrier usually runs on a schedule with designated routes.

Regardless of carrier type, all carriers have a responsibility to operate safely and mitigate risks for their passengers, as a car accident lawyer in Las Vegas, NV can explain.

When a common carrier is involved in an accident, they may be held liable for passenger injuries. Under the law, common carriers are generally liable for losses than may occur to property or persons entrusted to their care in the course of business unless the incident occurred due to:

  • An act of God
  • An act of public enemies
  • Fault or fraud by the shipper
  • A defect in the goods being transported.

Common Carrier Law

Many states use what is called a “common carrier law”, this means that common carriers owe their passengers a higher degree of care than the average person owes others.

When someone is injured by a common carrier, they will still have to prove that the carrier was negligent in order to collect damages, but in many states, a common carrier’s responsibility to take care of its passengers is greater than the average person’s responsibility to act reasonably.

It is important to note that some states only apply common carrier laws while the subject carrier is moving or operating, but other states extend common carrier liability to all circumstances like someone tripping and falling at a train station before boarding a train.

Proving Liability

Many common carriers are owned by a state or municipality and some states provide immunity from personal injury lawsuits by private citizens. This is not to say that a person will not be able to file a personal injury lawsuit, just that there may be special laws, usually called State Torts Claims Acts, to follow when filing a lawsuit against a governmental entity.

Each state has different rules that will need to be followed when suing a governmental entity but in most states, an injured person looking to file a lawsuit will only have a short window of time to notify the proper municipality of the incident and their intent to file a lawsuit. In some states, this period could be as short as 30 days. Most states require that this notice contains:

  • The name and address of the claimant
  • Specifics of the claim being brought
  • Time at which the incident occurred
  • Place at which the incident occurred
  • The circumstances giving rise to the claim.

In addition to the brief notice period, many states will also have a shorter window of time that a claimant can the lawsuit. This is often much shorter than the statute of limitations that applies when suing a private citizen. Failing to meet notice and filing deadlines can prevent a claimant from recovering compensation for their injuries. That is why it is important to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney who can ensure that all deadlines are met when filing a lawsuit against a governmental entity.

Thanks to Eglet Adams for their insight on common carrier laws and liability