Those who have been hurt on public transit actually have a more direct
route to legal recourse than had they been injured in a typical transportation accident.
Under California law, and in most other states, public transit entities
are considered “common carriers” under the term’s legal
definition. This designation means that transit operators have to uphold
a higher standard of care than an “ordinary” person. In fact,
California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 902 states that “common carriers must use the highest level of care
and the vigilance of a very cautious person.”
This strict legal test can make public transit accident lawsuits more straightforward
in many ways, but there are also many complicating factors and special
considerations to keep in mind.
Proving Negligence of a Common Carrier
All negligence cases require three primary showings:
That the defendant had a duty of care
That the defendant breached their duty through actions that can be construed
That the breach in duty was the direct cause of an injury that incurred
significant medical costs or personal suffering
Under “ordinary” negligence cases, the defending party is usually
understood to have an “ordinary” standard of care as an average
“reasonably competent” person would. As mentioned above, public
transit common carriers have an even higher standard of care, one that
expects them to “do all that human care, vigilance, and foresight
reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm of passengers.”
Combined with the expectation that transit operators will use the “reasonable
skill” they have acquired through training and experience, this
rigid care standard can enable public transit injury victims to allege
negligent behavior in a wider range of scenarios than a typical case.
For instance, if a bus driver travels through a freeway interchange at
a relatively fast speed and causes a bus to tip over, the average person
might not have been able to predict that the posted speed limit may be
too fast for a top-heavy vehicle. However, a bus driver should be both
familiar with the handling tendencies of their vehicle and with the needed
driving habits for sections of a familiar route.
In this way, what might have been a situation that is perceived as unavoidable
for an ordinary person becomes potential negligence under the common carrier’s
higher standard of care.
Other Legal Considerations After Getting Hurt on Public Transit
While common carriers have a higher expected standard of care, public entities
are also protected by strict procedural requirements for injury claims.
In the state of California, all claims must be filed within six months
of the injury incident, with limited exceptions.
You must also ensure that your claim reaches the correct governmental office
in order for your claim to be processed and responded to. If you were
hurt on the Monterey public bus system, for instance, you would file a
claim with Monterey-Salinas Transit.
To ensure that your claim is filed properly and that liability is assessed
under the appropriate legal lens, you may wish to have a
Monterey personal injury lawyer represent your case and assist you with filing your claim.
If you have been injured on public transit, you can contact the Dunnion
Law Firm to receive a free consultation and to potentially start your
injury claim today.