While public transit can be a convenient way to travel, incidents of bus and train accidents remind us of the fact that these forms of transportation can also be dangerous. The law does impose safety regulations on these public transit systems, but unfortunately, accidents still occur. However, the law does allow victims of public transit accidents to recover for injuries that they suffer as a result of the transit agency’s negligence. In fact, the law holds public transit providers to a higher standard than ordinary transportation providers because they are part of a legal class known as “common carriers.”
What Common Carriers Are
A common carrier is a business that makes money by transporting people or property. This includes obvious things like buses, taxi cabs, and subway systems, but many other things also qualify as common carriers.
Common Carrier Liability
Common carriers are an important legal class because they are subject to a heightened “duty of care.” A duty of care is the standard used when an injured party sues someone else for negligence. The duty of care determines just how careless the defendant had to be before the jury finds them responsible for the victim’s injuries. Ordinarily, people are subject to a “reasonableness standard.” No one has to go through life being as careful as they can possibly be. Instead, they only have to be as careful as a reasonable person would be. This is not true for common carriers.
Common carriers have a duty to exercise the highest duty of care consistent with the practical operation of their conveyances. This means that courts will be much less forgiving of any carelessness on the part of a common carrier. In fact, common carriers may even have a duty to protect passengers from criminal acts while they are under the carrier’s care.
The purpose of this high standard is fairly straightforward. Unlike ordinary people going about their lives, common carriers ask the public to place their trust in the company that it will get them where they need to go safely. That trust is then safeguarded by this increased legal duty.
Of course, this standard has limits. The common carrier liability only applies to its passengers, not to anyone else that the common carrier or its vehicles may interact with. Additionally, the duty only applies to passengers during their trip or when they are boarding or disembarking from the vehicle. Generally speaking, this means that the duty applies from the time the passenger is waiting to board the conveyance to the time when they have disembarked and reached a place of safety away from the vehicle.
Let a Virginia Attorney Fight for You
If you have been injured as a result of an accident with a common carrier company, contact an experienced Virginia accident attorney to find out what legal recourse you may have to collect for the damages you have suffered because of that injury. Call Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to schedule a free and no-obligation consultation and learn what kind of financial compensation you may be entitled to.
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