Duty of Common Carrier
Under California law, a common carrier (also referred to as “carrier”) is a business entity, which offers to transport people or property from one location to another for profit. See California Civil Code § 2168. If you have been on a taxicab, commercial airplane, cruise ship, train, tram, or trolleybus – that means you have been a passenger on a common carrier. Buses are considered to be common carriers as well, and victims of bus accidents can use this legal principle against bus companies. In some circumstances, even an amusement park can be classified as a common carrier. Additionally, in case of Uber & Lyft accidents, attempts have been made to characterize these rideshare service providers as common carriers.
In order to establish a common carrier’s liability for the injuries suffered by passengers, it is necessary to prove that the carrier was negligent. Compared to regular drivers, common carriers are held to a higher standard of care. The common carrier’s duty of care rises above the standard obligation to use “reasonable care” to avoid causing injury to others. Even a slight or minor negligence on the part of a common carrier will be sufficient to impose liability. The public policy behind this heightened standard of care applicable to common carriers is based on the following principle: serving the public is a privilege that involves a great responsibility.
Under California law, the elevated duty of care requires that common carriers:
- must use the highest and utmost care, vigilance, and diligence aimed at providing safe transportation of passengers;
- must provide everything that is needed for safe transportation; and
- in providing safe transportation, must exercise all care, skill, and foresight that can be reasonably exercised under the circumstances in order to avoid causing injuries to passengers.
See California Civil Code § 2100 and California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 902.