What is a Common Carrier?
A common carrier is a means of mass transportation of the public from one destination to another in exchange for a fee. These carriers include airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis, ferries, cruise ships, elevators, escalators, and ski lifts. Generally, a transportation company will issue time schedules and set rates for specified routes.
Causes of Common Carrier Accidents
Statistics from the National Safety Council (NSC) show that common carrier accidents are far less likely than passenger vehicle accidents. When they do occur, however, they are often catastrophic. Victims of such accidents sustain severe injuries or, unfortunately, do not survive. The increased likelihood of fatalities holds true for airplane crashes or train accidents in particular. Typical reasons for common carrier accident cases include the following:
1. Failure on the part of the common carrier to follow proper safety practices.
Federal and state laws set out safety protocols. Federal administrators, such as the Federal Transit Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, and Federal Railroad Administration, enforce regulations and investigate serious accidents.
2. Failure to properly maintain transportation units.
Common carriers have a duty to regularly service, inspect, repair, and maintain their equipment. For instance, if brake failure on a bus causes an accident, the common carrier is responsible for injuries and losses.
3. Driver or crew error.
The majority of common carrier accidents are due to operator error. Operators are subject to the same high degree of care as the common carrier itself. Mistakes made by employees that resulted in the accident are also the responsibility of their employer.
Common carriers are responsible for a patron from the moment they are accepted as a passenger (i.e., check-in at an airline's ticket booth). This responsibility continues throughout travel until the carrier has delivered the passenger to a safe place at their appointed destination.
Who is Liable for a Common Carrier Accident?
The Department of Transportation is the primary regulator of common carriers. Federal and state regulations bind a common carrier to operate under the following rules:
- They must comply with safety laws.
- They must provide transportation units with competent and qualified drivers, flight, or vessel crews and in reasonably safe conditions.
- They must use their utmost care in transporting passengers and provide any necessary safety warnings to travelers.
These carriers, however, are not insurers of the lives of passengers. They are required to exercise the highest degree of care reasonably possible to avoid accidents but are not a guarantor for passengers' safety. In the event of passenger injury, the carrier remains liable for damages for those injuries if negligence on the part of the provider can be proven.
There are some exceptions to negligence liability, and the carrier may not be held responsible for compensation in certain situations. Therefore, it is crucial to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you navigate this type of injury case as soon as possible.
After a Common Carrier Accident
Transportation accident claims are complex because of the number of parties involved, and liability limits are different for these types of accidents. For example, if any parties are government agencies, the time limit can be especially short. No matter what, lawsuits must be filed within a specific time after the accident, or they will not be permitted.
If you have sustained an injury or lost a loved one in a transportation accident, you must speak to an experienced common carrier accident attorney as soon as possible. The Connecticut accident attorneys at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh rigorously fight for their clients and have a proven track record of success.