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A common carrier is a provider of transportation of freight or passengers that promulgates rates and routes and accommodates all paying customers within its capabilities. Interstate bus companies such as Greyhound are examples of common carriers, but the definition includes public taxicabs, airlines, passenger ships, railroads, and trucking companies.
Common carriers are burdened with a higher standard of care to prevent harm than other entities engaged in transportation or other public business. A finding in Scales v. Boynton Cab Co. (1929) established that “[i]t is conceded that a common carrier owes its passengers the highest degree of care consistent with the transaction of its business.”
Res Ipsa Loquitur
The Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School defines res ipsa loquitur as “a principle that allows plaintiffs to meet their burden of proof with what is, in effect, circumstantial evidence. The plaintiff can create a rebuttable presumption of negligence by the defendant by proving that the harm would not ordinarily have occurred without negligence, that the object that caused the harm was under the defendant’s control, and that there are no other plausible explanations.”
Meaning “the thing speaks for itself,” res ipsa loquitur provides for a lower threshold of proof to show negligence on the part of a common carrier in cases in which the plaintiff has no way of knowing exactly what the common carrier or its employees have done or failed to do in conjunction with harm caused. For example, this principle can be invoked in a situation in which a collision occurs between two vehicles operated by the same defendant.
Not only collisions but any form of harm suffered while aboard the vehicle of a common carrier or at the hand of a common carrier is actionable pursuant to the imposition of a higher standard of care. Slip and fall circumstances arising in a public shop that would allow no recovery can allow recovery if they occur on a common carrier’s vehicle.
In one case, a female plaintiff was left with no choice but to exit a train at a subsequent stop after her intended stop, which was part of the train’s usual route, was missed by the conductor. After disembarking the train and while on foot in a high crime area surrounding the later stop, the plaintiff suffered harm while being assaulted. The plaintiff was awarded damages for the failure of the train to allow her to exit the train at her intended stop.
Get legal representation to demand just compensation
If you or a loved one has suffered injury or property damage as the result of an incident or accident while aboard a common carrier, the law provides protection for you and allows recovery with a lower burden of proof. However, liability for negligence and resultant harm is not absolute, but rather must be demonstrated by a skilled and experienced attorney. Contact the skilled and experienced accident attorneys at The Kamerow Law Firm, PLLC , for a free and confidential consultation by calling 703-370-8088.