Bus Accidents — What is the Bus Company’s Duty to Passengers?

In the aftermath of continuing safety concerns with the Megabus, the coach line out of Chicago offering cheap fares to more than a hundred cities, federal investigators have been forced to take a close look at the company’s operations. It’s also important to understand that, from a legal perspective, the owners and operators of the Megabus have a greater duty to take measures to ensure the safety of passengers than does an ordinary citizen.

Under the law, the Megabus (and all other buses, light rails, taxis, ferries and commuter trains) are called common carriers.” A common carrier is defined as any individual or business that holds itself out to the public as available to transport individuals or goods for a fee. Common carriers must exercise the highest degree of diligence and care to maximize the safety of passengers and/or cargo for hire. Accordingly, a common carrier must exercise reasonable care to identify and fix any known safety risks, or to adequately warn passengers of safety concerns. In fact, if the common carrier should have known about a safety hazard through the exercise of reasonable care, the carrier will be liable for any injuries sustained, even if there was no actual knowledge.

Among the specific duties that courts have found to be reasonable for common carriers of passengers are:

  • A duty to provide coaches, vehicles or carriages that are reasonably well-maintained and regularly inspected
  • A duty to hire drivers/operators of appropriate skill, and to reasonably monitor and train drivers
  • A duty not to overload the carrier (with passengers and/or luggage) in such a way that it poses a risk to the safety of any passenger
  • A duty to take passengers to their destination

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