What Is California’s Common Carrier Law?

Posted on
Under common law, those who transport the public have a “great responsibility.” When someone is providing transport, it is not at all a stretch to say that they have many people’s lives in their hands.
If that person (and their employer) takes any shortcuts, it can cause a large number of injuries or even fatalities. Therefore, the law expects more from that person as a way of protecting you. Even a slight mistake might mean the transport business must pay you if you suffer an injury.
If you have a potential case against a transportation company, contact the Beverly Hills injury lawyers at One Law Group in California.

Definition of a Common Carrier Under California Law

California law makes any company that makes an offer to the general public to transport the following for money a common carrier:
  • Persons
  • Property
  • Messages (except for “telegraphic messages”)
Thus, the following can be considered common carriers under California law:

Common Carriers in California Have a Higher Duty of Care

One that falls under the common carrier rules has a heightened duty of care towards their passengers. In a “regular” personal injury case, the potentially responsible party has the legal duty to act as a reasonable person will under the circumstances. For a normal individual, their actions will have to rise to a certain level to be considered negligence, and not everything that they do will be considered wrongful.
It is much easier to find a common liability in a personal injury case. While a normal person must use reasonable care, a common carrier must do the following:
  • Use the utmost care and diligence for the safe carriage of passengers.
  • Provide everything necessary for safe care and passage (presumably including a vehicle or craft in proper and working condition).
  • Exercise a reasonable degree of skill.

You Must Still Prove that a Common Carrier Was Negligent

These are much higher duties — utmost is more than just “regular” care. To be clear, a common carrier is not strictly liable for all injuries that passengers suffer. You will still need to prove negligence, albeit with a somewhat easier test than the one used in a regular car accident.
You are not guaranteed to win a case involving a common carrier, and you are always better off hiring a lawyer to handle your case. In addition, if you have been involved in an accident with a common carrier vehicle, the standard duty of care in a personal injury case will still apply.
Here are some examples of what may be a breach of the common carrier’s duty of care:
  • Hiring a driver who has a checkered safety record
  • Not properly maintaining a vehicle that transport passengers
  • Not protecting a passenger from dangers caused by other passengers or third parties
Common carriers stand in contrast to contract carriers. The main dividing line between the two is the right to reject a potential passenger. Common carriers are open to the public and cannot turn away a passenger under most circumstances. Contract carriers are under no obligation to accept a request for transport.

Can Rideshare Drivers Be Considered Common Carriers?

California courts have recently expanded the definition of common carrier to include an Uber or Lyft driver since they are giving rides to the public for a fee. It does not matter that the driver is an independent contractor transporting the public in their own personal vehicle. Thus, the Uber driver owes their own passenger a heightened duty of care while owing a normal duty of care to other drivers on the road.
If someone is giving another a ride or doing something else as a favor, they are not considered a common carrier. However, they cross the line when they collect compensation and hold themselves out to the general public as a transportation service available to transport people.

You May Have a Corporate Defendant in a Common Carrier Case

If you have suffered an injury in a common carrier accident, there is a chance that a company may be involved in your case. Unless the company somehow manages to categorize the driver as an independent contractor, they will be liable for the damages that the employee causes.
These common carriers may have large insurance policies, especially knowing the potential cost of a large-scale accident. Thus, there can be a large potential pool of coverage to pay for your injuries, as well as corporate assets.
You should contact an attorney right after your accident to begin the legal process. If the common carrier was a public bus or train agency, you might have a reduced amount of time in which to provide the agency with notice of the claim and file it. California has a six-month time limit to file the claim, which acts like a statute of limitations.

Contact a Beverly Hills Personal Injury Attorney Today

One Law Group fights for injured accident victims to receive compensation, no matter who the responsible party is. We are not afraid to take on the large corporations that are often common carriers. We do not shy away from a tough fight on behalf of our clients.
You can speak with one of our attorneys when you schedule an initial consultation. You can reach out to us online or call us at (844) 563-1641. We offer free consultations to prospective clients.

Common Carrier Injury Case FAQs

Can I get punitive damages in a lawsuit against a common carrier?

It depends. If you are suing a public agency, you cannot get punitive damages, but you can receive them from a company (although they are rare).

How much is my common carrier lawsuit worth?

Everything depends on your own specific facts and how you have suffered in a personal injury claim.

Do I need a lawyer for my case?

When you sue a common carrier, you are often taking on a large company with its own sophisticated attorneys. It is not advisable to take them on by yourself.

Get Help Now

(310) 273-2733

Either call us today or fill out the form below to speak with a lawyer about your case.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
100% Secure and Confidential