In major cities, public transportation has always been a popular way to get from point A to point B. With the proliferation of ride-sharing apps such as Lyft and Uber, the landscape of available transportation methods continues to constantly evolve. Most people are aware of the steps they should take and the processes which occur following a car accident. However, if you or someone you love has been injured while using public transportation, the process can be different and many legal theories might come into play.
Negligence in Hired Transportation Accidents in Maryland
If you suffered an injury while using any form of hired transportation in Maryland, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Transportation providers generally owe their passengers a duty of care; that is, to operate any given mode of transportation in a safe manner which minimizes the risk of harm. If the provider breaches this duty in any way and does not take a step necessary to safeguard passengers from harm and an incident occurs which causes an injury, the provider may be liable to the passenger.
Common Carriers and Liability
Under the general principles of personal injury law, individuals and entities owe others a certain duty of care; that is, individuals and entities should behave in a manner that does not create undue risk for other people (if they do, this is deemed to be 'negligent behavior' or negligence). The standard of care that one person owes to the general public may not be incredibly complex. For example, setting off fireworks during a children's school play would be a behavior that does create undue risk for others, and would probably be deemed negligence.
However, transportation companies are held to a much more rigorous standard. Companies who transport persons or goods are known as "common carriers". Common carriers generally owe their passengers a duty to operate in a safe manner which minimizes any undue risks to travelers. Depending on the nature of the carrier and the equipment used, this duty may include adherence to federal and state regulations (for example, an airline will be required to adhere to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines for the maintenance and inspection of airplanes).
The Theory of Respondeat Superior
Imagine that a person is injured while riding in a taxicab. The taxi collides with a truck, causing the passenger to break several bones. This requires hospitalization, additional orthopedic services, and physical therapy, totaling in the tens of thousands of dollars. Imagine further, that upon investigation, the victim learns that the taxi driver (who has a long history of DUI convictions) was intoxicated while driving on the day of the accident.
The victim in this hypothetical case would require significant compensation in order to finance medical treatment. While it may be easy to demonstrate that the taxi driver was negligent in operating a vehicle while intoxicated, bringing a claim against the driver would probably not be a fruitful endeavor as he or she would not likely have the personal funds to cover all potential damages.
The law recognizes this fact and two important legal principles can often come into play when someone is injured on public transportation: respondeat superior and vicarious liability. Respondeat superior is a legal doctrine which holds that an employer can be responsible (liable) for the actions of an employee if an incident occurs while the employee is carrying out his or her work-related duties.
In our cab example, the taxi company would probably be liable for the actions of their intoxicated employee, as operating a cab to ferry passengers would fall squarely under a work-related duty. To contrast, an employer probably would not be responsible if the driver snuck into the company garage after hours and took a cab out for a joyride, as such an action is unauthorized and would not fall under a work-related duty.
Why is this important to someone who has been injured? This theory is important because it helps you to get the compensation you deserve. An individual probably does not have the funds personally or as part of a standard auto insurance policy to cover medical bills, which can rise to staggering heights. However, a common carrier not only would have much greater financial resources, but also such companies are required to have a much higher insurance policy in order to operate.
If You've Been Injured on Hired Transportation in Maryland
These cases can be complex, and tracking down the exact party responsible can be difficult. At Gilman & Bedigian, our team of personal injury attorneys has extensive experience aggressively pursuing compensation for injury victims and their families. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury on any form of hired transportation, please contact our law offices as soon as possible.