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  • Writer's pictureGregory Sandler


Let’s start with what a “common carrier” is. A “carrier” is someone who transports people or goods. Examples include taxis, ferries, airplanes, and buses. There are two types of carriers, common and private. A common carrier may be thought of as a public carrier, in that it must accept a passenger or delivery if the fee is paid. It cannot pick and choose.� A private carrier, on the other hand, can choose its passengers and deliveries.

Under the American system of law, common carriers owe their passengers a very high duty of care. If a passenger is injured due to the negligence of a common carrier, the passenger only needs to show the absence of even slight care to recover damages, whereas with any other injured person, one need show the absence of reasonable care. It may sound like semantics, but it is a very real difference in the burden of proof that the injured person bears.

A 1964 opinion from the Supreme Court of Virginia illustrates this principle in action.� Terminal Cars, Inc. v. Wagner, 205 Va. 214 (1964). In that case, a woman engaged a cab in Norfolk to take her home. The cabdriver was following a truck closely. When the truck driver started to turn, the cabdriver cut the cab to the left, applied the brakes, and stopped the cab suddenly.

The passenger was injured, having been thrown from her seat. She sued the cab company, the cabdriver, and others to recover damages for her injuries. In its opinion, the court held that the cabdriver, as a common carrier, was liable for “slight negligence.” In contrast, the truck driver could only be held liable if he failed to act reasonably under the circumstances.

Because of the nature of their businesses, common carriers have to be especially careful with their passengers.� Passengers entrust their safety to common carriers, companies that benefit substantially from the financial support of their passengers.

What’s more, the “relationship of carrier and passenger does not terminate until after the passenger has [exited] . . . and has had reasonable opportunity to reach a place of safety.”

At The Sandler Law Group, we’re skilled in presenting cases against individuals and corporations, including common carriers. We know how to help prove your case and get you the recovery you deserve. Not sure where to turn next? Call us toll free at 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900 to schedule an initial FREE consultation. You may also contact us online at or email us at

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