When you’re in command of a vessel like a truck, you feel like you are in control of the road. It might not be that way with a taxi or a cab – even something like an Uber is still a regular car – but at least a truck offers some illusion of control, right?
At least, until you hit something.
The operators of a common carrier (vehicles that offer transportation as part of a business) like a truck, bus or taxi have many considerations when they get into an accident, including how to take care of themselves. The problems that the injured have after any car accident are compounded when common carriers are involved. Let’s take a look at why.
Any individual or business that transports people, goods or services in exchange for money is considered a common carrier. They must offer their services to the general public and be licensed by a regulatory governmental body, but they can be private or public entities. So, if you think about it, they can include anything from a taxi to a school bus to a train to a ferry ship. Anything that crosses state lines is regulated under the Interstate Commerce Act, and individual states can regulate travel on a local level within state lines.
Because these businesses are offering their services to the general public and require a payment before boarding, they are held to a higher duty of care. Regular drivers, by contrast, are held to a standard of reasonable care. What would a driver in that similar circumstance do under similar circumstances? What would be considered reasonable?
Common carriers must use the highest degree of care for the safety of their passengers. Failure to do so is considered negligence. If someone is injured because of a bus driver’s failure to drive the speed limit or an Uber driver’s neglecting to stop at a red light, that higher standard of care will apply.
However, many common carriers are governmental entities, so a different statute of limitations will apply.
There might also be a special notice period to which the injured party must adhere prior to filing his or her lawsuit. This is why speaking with a personal injury attorney is imperative; if the statute of limitations is only 180 days, you have very little time both to investigate and to file a claim before your suit is barred forever.
Just like regular car accidents, a great variety of things can cause accidents involving common carriers. These can be instances like:
First of all, don’t panic. Make sure you aren’t physically injured. If you are, try to seek medical attention.
Help anyone else in your vehicle who needs medical attention, and get your vehicle out of the flow of traffic if you can. If you can’t, put on your hazard lights.
Even if you are the offending driver, you will still want to collect information for a police report. Being a common carrier in an accidents means that more likely than not, you and your company are going to be sued. You are going to be deposed at some point in time by an attorney, and you are going to need to remember what happened during this accident. So, if you haven’t printed out a post-accident incident report to keep in your glove compartment, here is the vital information you should try to write down:
If nothing else, get the contact information for the other driver and for witnesses. They might leave town, they might be from out of state, who knows.
Because you are employed with a common carrier, your employer will likely be held responsible under the theory of respondeat superior, or “let the employer answer.” This means that a person’s boss is responsible for whatever the employee does wrong during work hours, essentially. So, if you injured someone while on the clock, your employer is potentially responsible for that victim’s medical bills.
This can get confusing with Uber services and other ride-sharers. They are technically Transportation Network Companies, or TNCs, and do not have livery licenses or the same insurance that taxi cabs do.
Each state has the potential to handle this differently, but in Colorado, for instance, a bill was passed that says while the Uber ride-sharing app is turned on, the driver’s primary liability coverage shall cover the passenger. TNCs in Colorado must carry $50,000 per injured passenger and $100,000 for all injuries arising per accident.
Meanwhile, is the Uber driver an independent contractor or an employee? Respondeat superior only works if someone is an employee. Independent contractors have much more control over their schedules and determine their own hours. This issue is currently in flux in the state of Florida (as of December 2017).
In terms of insurance for bus accidents, depending on the state, it might be a single pool of money that covers all injured passengers (this, of course, presents limitations if injuries are considered significant or catastrophic), or it might be individual policies.
If you are a common carrier who injured your passengers, you should speak with a Florida attorney as soon as possible. The rules are constantly evolving for ride-sharers, and even dealing with something “straightforward” like a bus accident can be insanely complicated, considering how many individual claims there might be. Let a lawyer help you sort it all out.