What is a Common Carrier? (And Why It’s Important After an Accident)

Common carriers have a higher duty of care when they are transporting people.

If someone goes into business with the purpose of moving passengers, they are taking on far more responsibility than the average driver does when they get behind the wheel.

If you carry passengers, you can expect that there is a greater chance that you can be held liable. However, many people do not understand the term common carrier.

It actually applies to a large number of potential defendants who could be legally responsible for accidents.

Common Carriers Owe Passnegers a Heightened Degree of Care

Common carriers owe passengers a heightened degree of care to keep passengers and others safe.

Who Are Considered Common Carriers

The term common carrier has nothing to do with the carrier itself being common. It is more than they provide common transportation services to people.

All passengers are similarly situated when dealing with the common carrier. Their tickets are first-come, first-served. Anyone can purchase a ticket.

An Example of a Common Carrier

A classic example of common carriers is an airline. Companies like Southwest Airlines or United hold themselves out to the public as being able to transport them to any destination in their route network.

Persons with the money can buy a ticket. Unless the passenger will not follow the airline’s rules, the airline cannot refuse the request to buy a ticket and must carry every person that wishes transportation.

Other examples of common carriers include:

The Duty of Care of a Common Carrier

The rules that apply to common carriers come from common law. The usual term that applies to common carriers is that they must use the utmost care, vigilance and diligence aimed at ensuring the safe transport of passengers.

This is a standard of care that goes beyond the negligence doctrine that will apply to the usual personal injury case.

While the same concept of negligence applies to a case, the common carrier doctrine means that a jury may be more likely to find that a carrier acted unreasonably under the circumstances.

In fact, they have the obligation to use more than just reasonable care. Utmost is considered more than reasonable.

In other words, things that may not be negligence when an ordinary driver does it in accidents can be negligence when a common carrier does it.

Common Carriers vs. Private Carriers

There is a difference between a common carrier and a private carrier. A common carrier holds itself out to the general public as being able to private transport.

A private carrier is another term for a contract carrier. They provide an individualized transport service as part of a special agreement with a passenger or a group of passengers.

This could also include transporting cargo from one destination to another.

The key difference between the two is whether the company holds itself out to the general public as potential customers.

If anyone can buy a ticket for carriage, they are dealing with common carriers. Private carriers are exactly that. They do not have to accept every customer that wants to do business with them. They can refuse business.

Private Carriers’ Duty of Care

A private carrier’s duty depends on what they are transporting. If they are transporting a person, they must use the same reasonable care as would generally be needed in any case.

If they are transporting freight, the duty is different. They must take reasonable care of their cargo and not take them for themselves.

If they did not take reasonable care when providing services, they could be made to pay in a lawsuit.

Regulations that Apply to Common Carriers

There are numerous government agencies that have the authority to regulate common carriers. The applicable agency depends on the type of transportation provides.

Some agencies with regulatory authority include the:

The Scope of a Common Carrier’s Liability

If you have been injured in a common carrier accident, the company can be made to pay for your damages. This is true whether the company’s employees were negligent or willfully violated the company’s rule.

In other cases, companies may not be liable when employees go beyond the scope of their job or their authority.

This is not the case with common carriers, who are legally responsible for all acts of their employees that cause injury.

Damages for Common Carrier Negligence

If you have been injured by negligent conduct, you may be entitled to the following damages:

  • Lost wages for time missed from work
  • Coverage for all medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Wrongful death damages if someone was killed

Does the Common Carrier Doctrine Apply to Trucking Companies?

The answer to this question depends on what the trucking company does.

If you see a truck that has Walmart or Amazon on the side of it, they are a private carrier because they are working for a specific company. They have a duty of reasonable care when transporting freight.

If they exist to serve whoever hires them to transport goods, then they are a common carrier. The key is that provide service to the general public.

Freight companies like Fedex or UPS would be considered common carriers. When a company transports goods for anyone who pays them a fee, they are a common carrier.

Internet Service Providers Are Also Common Carriers

According to the FCC, ISPs and telecommunications companies are also common carriers for purposes of enforcing net neutrality rules.

The regulatory body dictates that ISPs must treat all websites the same and cannot give anyone special treatment no matter how much money they have.

However, this is more of an issue of regulating telephone companies and ministerial authority as opposed to a facet of personal injury law.

Contact Us for Legal Help

If a common carrier did not have the proper regard for our safety when transporting you, we can help you recover financially.

Call the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers at (800) 424-5757 or fill out a contact form on our site. Whether it is an airline, semi-truck company, or a bus company, we work for you as you seek compensation for your injuries.

Our services come at no cost to you unless we win.

In other words, there is no fee until you receive a settlement or jury award. Then, we are paid a percentage of your proceeds.