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Duty of Common Carrier in California

According to California Civil Code Section 2168, a common carrier is everyone who offers the public to carry persons, property, or messages, excepting only telegraphic messages. Typically, a common carrier is transportation company that has a contract to transport property, people, and goods across or around within state lines as public services.

Requirements of Being Labeled as a Common Carrier

A transportation company which wants to be labeled as a common carrier should meet the following requirements:

  • The transportation company was established for transporting goods or people from one place to another
  • The company sets itself out to the public as a transportation company
  • The transportation company charges a fee for transporting good or people from one place to another

Examples of Common Carriers in California:

  • Railways
  • Buses
  • Streetcars or Cable Cars
  • Taxicabs
  • Elevators Escalators
  • Airlines
  • Ski resort chair lifts
  • Cruise ships

Elements Plaintiff Must Establish Under a Negligence Cause of Action

Here are the elements which the plaintiff must establish under a negligence cause of action:

  • Defendant owed a duty of care is to the plaintiff
  • Defendant breached his duty of care to the plaintiff
  • Defendant was the proximate and actual cause of the plaintiff’s damages
  • As a result of the defendants’ negligence plaintiff actually suffered some psychological or physical harm

Standards and Guidelines for Common Carriers in California

Common carriers in California are subject to a higher standard of care than other automobile operators. Under California Civil Code Section 2100 a common carrier “must use the utmost diligence and care and for the safe carriage, must provide everything necessary for that purpose, and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill”.

Typically, common carriers must follow the below-mentioned guidelines:

  • Common carriers must provide a safe vehicle to all passengers that are fit for the duties it was hired to perform
  • Common carriers must treat give the passengers a reasonable level of attention and treat them with civility
  • Common carriers must warn the passengers of any dangers, protect them from the dangers, including dangers caused by other passengers
  • Common carriers must carefully choose employees and provide them with adequate training
  • Common carriers regularly perform maintenance on the vehicle, safety inspections and make sure all equipment is up to current safety standards

Who Can Be Liable for an Accident Involving a Common Carrier?

Here are some examples of unseen parties that can be liable for an accident involving a common carrier:

  • Owner of common carrier
  • Company of common carrier
  • Operator of common carrier
  • Manufacturer of common carrier
  • Maintenance company
  • State government
  • Local government

Filing a Lawsuit Against a Common Carrier in California

Normally a plaintiff has two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury cause against the common carrier.

There is a six-month deadline to file a claim for plaintiffs who have suffered injuries while on-board common carriers owed by public entities. Failure to file a claim within the six-month period will bar the injured person from recovery. In some cases, California civil courts allow exceptions for this rule:

  • Physical or mental incapacitation of the victim.
  • Minor status of the victim. Victim under the age of 18 has two years from the 18th birthday to file a personal injury claim.
  • The injury manifested itself a later time after the accident.

Compensation for Injuries Involved With Common Carriers in California

Victims suffered from the common carrier’s negligent conduct have a right to monetary recovery for all their losses, including:

  • All present and future medical expenses
  • Cost of rehabilitation
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Loss or reduction of income

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