California’s Common Carrier Law

California’s Common Carrier Law

When you get on a bus, ride a train or hire a private driver, you put your trust in the transportation company. You have no way to know if they put safety first. You must rely on them and their promises to keep you safe.

California law recognizes this reality. California law holds transportation companies to a higher standard when it comes to safety. The law applies to common carriers – public or private – that transport passengers for a fee and offer their services to the public.

If you’re hurt while using common carrier transportation, common carrier law in California may impact your claim. The Century City personal injury attorneys at LA Century Law explain what you need to know about the California common carrier law.

What to Know About California’s Common Carrier Law

  • Transportation companies classified as common carriers are held to a higher legal standard regarding their duty of care.
  • Common carriers must exercise the utmost care and vigilance for the people they transport.
  • The standard of utmost care that applies to common carriers is higher than the standard of reasonable care that applies to others in other negligence claims.
  • A common carrier is not an insurer. Liability is not strict.
  • Common carriers must provide safe vehicles. (Cal Civ. Code § 2101).
  • Additional duties apply when a passenger is disabled, ill or a minor. The carrier must show regard for the person’s needs and use the highest care for their safety. (Cal. Civ. Code § 2103).
  • If an injury occurs, you may apply the elevated standard of care to evaluate the actions of the common carrier and prove your right to compensation.

What is the California common carrier law?

California Civil Code § 2100 is the California common carrier law. The law says that a carrier of persons for reward must use utmost care and diligence for safe carriage. They must provide everything necessary for safe carriage and exercise reasonable skill.

In addition, California Civil Code § 2102 prohibits a common carrier from overcrowding or overloading their vehicle.

What Are Common Carriers?

A common carrier is a company or party engaged in transporting persons or property for hire, who offers their services indiscriminately to the public.

Examples of common carriers are:

  • Airlines
  • Taxis
  • Buses
  • Trains (commuter trains and metro systems)
  • Cruise ships
  • Ferries
  • Trollies
  • Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare

A common carrier may be publicly or privately owned. If they accept a fee and generally accept any person wishing to travel, the elevated duty of care applies.

Common Carriers and the Elevated Duty of Care

The common carrier elevated duty of care means:

  • A common carrier must carry passengers or property safely.
  • The standard is the highest care and vigilance of a very cautious person.
  • A carrier must do all that they reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to persons or property, exercising foresight.
  • Duty required of the common carrier accounts for the nature of the transportation and the practical operation of the business.
  • Elevated duty doesn’t apply as it relates to ordinary and incidental dangers that a person might encounter in a station or terminal. Churchman v. Bay Area Rapid Transit Dist., 39 Cal.App.5th 246, 251 (2019).
  • Common carrier standards apply to those accepting a fee for services. It doesn’t apply to gratuitous services.
  • Duties include keeping up on advancements and updates in safety trends for the mode of transportation involved.
  • Liability may attach where the carrier fails to prevent or reduce harm from other passengers, including assault.

Even the slightest negligence makes a common carrier liable for causing an injury. For a victim, this means proving that the carrier was negligent in any manner, rather than showing negligence based on a reasonable person standard. Acosta v. Southern California Rapid Transit Dist., 2 Cal.3d 19, 27 (1970).

See California Civil Jury Instructions, 902

Common Carrier Law and the Impact on Accident Cases

It’s a privilege to serve the public as a common carrier. (Squaw Valley Ski Corp. v. Superior Court (Bowles), 2 Cal.App.4th 1499 (1992)). Because common carriers are not blanket insurers in all situations, the claimant must still prove some level of negligence. Huang v. The Bicycle Casino Inc., 4 Cal. App.5th 329, 338 (2016).

For the victim, the common carrier law may make it easier to prove the liability of the defendant and the right to compensation. You must prove that their negligence was the cause of your damages and the amount of compensation you deserve. It is important to cite liability under common carrier law and ask for the appropriate jury instructions.

The California Tort Claims Act may apply

Remember that California has a Tort Claims Act to address negligent acts and omissions of government units. Many common carriers are publicly owned and operated. The California Tort Claims Act may apply, creating a short window to present a notice of claim. While similar laws in many states limit government liability, California doesn’t limit damages except that punitive damages are not available.

Get Legal Help

If you are hurt in an accident, the California common carrier law may impact your claim. As your attorneys, LA Century Law investigates whether the defendant qualifies as a common carrier.

We identify the legal standards and take the needed steps to make your claim.

LA Century Law is a recognized leader in personal injury litigation, having collected millions in compensation for our clients. To discuss your case and begin today with an injury lawyer, call or message us online now.

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