Public transportation companies in Massachusetts are subject to what is called the “Common Carriers” Law. This means they owe their passengers a higher degree of care than the average person does to avoid Public Transportation Accidents. The injured person must still prove that the public transportation company was negligent in order to win the case.
The Common Carriers Law
Carriers, such as tour buses and passenger jets, offer their services to the public under the authority of a regulatory body, which sets standards for safety and other passenger concerns. Common carriers generally include public buses, trains, and trolleys, as well as taxis.
Though the common carrier may owe this higher duty of care, the injured person must always prove negligence.
For example: Say that you are standing on a public bus, the bus stops short, and you get thrown to the floor and injured. Just because the bus swerved or stopped short and you got hurt does not mean that the bus driver was negligent. If a child had run into the street unexpectedly, and the bus driver had been driving at a reasonable and safe speed beforehand, the bus driver may well be found not to be at fault. But if the accident occurred because the bus driver had been talking with a passenger, the bus driver will likely be found negligent. This higher duty of care means that bus drivers cannot talk with their passengers. They cannot be even a little bit negligent.
A common carrier also has a duty to warn its passengers of known dangers that exist in the type of transportation they operate – such as, standing in an aisle of a moving vehicle liable to sudden jolts in motion. If a passenger reasonably could see that such a problem may occur, the carrier may not be liable or may be subject to only partial liability, depending on the nature of the danger and the age/experience of the passenger.