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The Definition–and Duty–of “Common Carriers”


Legally, a “common carrier” is any person or company that transports passengers or goods at standardized rates along regular routes. In simpler terms: any taxi, bus, train, airline, or trucking company is a common carrier, as is any other company (or individual) that performs a similar, regular service on a professional basis.


Under California law, common carriers are liable for any negligence, and must take all reasonably possible steps to prevent injury or damage to passengers (and, in certain circumstances, to people in the waiting areas who will become passengers upon purchase of a ticket or arrival of the transport on which they are ticketed).

The duty, and legal relationship between the carrier and the passenger, arises at the time of ticket purchase, and remains in force until the carrier has arrived at the destination and discharged passengers. Moreover, the carrier has a duty to discharge passengers in reasonably safe locations.

California law has statutes–and significant case law–governing the actions of common carriers. While carriers may be able to minimize certain kinds of liability by posting proper warning notices and providing disclaimers (for example, on tickets and receipts), California law does not allow common carriers to escape liability for negligence entirely. Although the scope of common carriers’ duties and obligations is more extensive than a single article can address, it’s important for passengers to remember that carriers do have an obligation to comply with their legal obligations, and that if a passenger is injured while in the care of a common carrier, (s)he should consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible for an evaluation of rights and potential claims.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Negligence claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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