A bus driver that transports the public for a fee owes a higher duty of care to make sure that passengers do not get injured.

A bus driver is considered a common carrier and is required by law to make sure passengers do not get hurt.

California law defines a common carrier as someone who transports the general public for a set fee. Examples of common carriers include taxi cabs, MTA buses, airline companies and railroad companies. Whether or not someone is considered a common carrier depends on the specific facts of the case.

General Rule to Qualify as a Common Carrier

As a general rule, the establishment of one or more of the following elements can be used to qualify someone as a common carrier:

  1. The company has a regular place of business for transporting the general public;
  2. The company in some manner advertises its business to the general public; and
  3. The company charges a set fee for its service of transporting people and/or property.

Exceptions to Required Elements

However, a carrier may be considered a common carrier even if it does not satisfy these elements. California courts have held ski lift operators, amusement parks and department stores with elevators or escalators as common carriers even though they may not advertise their business to the general public or charge a set fee to transport the general public.

Even someone who is transporting passengers for free is considered a common carrier and owes the utmost duty of care to his passengers. And, the designation of a “common carrier” does not require that the carrier have the required licenses or permits or have specific departure dates or times or routes.

A Bus Driver Must Make Sure That Passengers are Safe

California Civil Code Section 2011 states that:

And, a common carrier must …

Even the slightest deviation from the obligation to transport passengers safely can make a driver liable for injuries sustained by passengers.

This means that a bus driver must be very careful while driving the bus and serving its patrons. This duty is stricter than a duty imposed on an ordinary driver. Thus, even the slightest deviation from the obligation to transport passengers safely can make a driver liable for injuries sustained by passengers.

Example of Violated Duty of Care:

For instance, if the bus driver stops the vehicle abruptly and thereby causes a passenger to fall out of the seat, the bus driver may be held to have violated his or her duty of care. At the same time, a driver of a private vehicle in the exact same situation, might be found to have acted reasonably and therefore would not be held liable.

Additional Care to Certain Types of Passengers

A bus driver’s duty of care also depends on the type of passengers being transported. If the bus driver knows that a person is ill or disabled, then he must use “additional care as is reasonably necessary to ensure the passenger’s safety.”

A bus driver also owes a greater duty of care to a passenger who is a minor.

Passenger’s Responsibility

Passenger owes a lesser duty of care than a common carrier. Unlike a common carrier that must use the highest duty of care in preventing injury, its passengers only need to use reasonable care in preventing injury to themselves.

Duty To Provide And Maintain Safe Equipment

The bus company and its drivers have a duty to use the highest care in servicing and maintaining the buses used to transport the public in order to prevent injury. And they are responsible for all of the defects in the buses if they either created the defects or had actual or constructive notice of the defects.

Finally, a bus company is obligated to use and/or incorporate into their buses “commonly accepted safety designs and devices.”

Duty to Protect From Other Passengers

A bus driver owes a higher duty of care to protect passengers from assaults by fellow passengers. This duty is imposed if the bus driver knew or by using the highest care, should have known of the potential assault; and the driver – by using the highest care, could have prevented the assault.

Passengers Do Not Need To Be Inside The Bus

A passenger does not need to be inside the bus for the higher duty of care to apply. The duty is imposed at the moment a bus company or its driver agrees to accept a member of the public as a passenger. For instance, the higher duty of care applies even in situations where the passenger has not boarded a bus and is sitting in a waiting room of a bus depot. Similarly, the higher duty of care does not end when the passenger gets off the bus. It only ends when the passenger is dropped off in a safe place.

Free Consultation, No Obligations

If you were a bus passenger who’s duty of care was breached by the bus driver, operator, maintenance, bus company or manufacturer contact an attorney as soon as possible to preserve the value of your claim. The sooner you get in touch with an attorney, the more likely you are to recover just compensation for injuries, pain and suffering and bills.