The various forms of public transportation provide a convenient and relatively inexpensive commute for many people. This convenience invokes an inherent risk, however, because passengers must place their safety and well-being in the hands of the operator of the form of transportation. Although operators are held to a high standard of care, accidents can still occur, whether through their own actions or circumstances out of their control.
A mass transit accident recently occurred in New York when a commuter ferry collided with a pier. The ferry was carrying 326 passengers at the time of the accident, in addition to five members of the crew. Of those people, at least 85 were injured in the collision, two of them critically. The accident is currently being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board to determine its cause. The ferry is estimated to have been going around 16 mph at the time it collided with the pier, possibly too fast for a boat ready to dock. The front of the ferry suffered a large gash as a result of the accident, the second time in four years that the ferry was involved in an accident that resulted in a gash being present on the vessel.
A common carrier, such as a bus or ferry, is a business that makes itself available to the public for the transport of people or goods. When transporting people, they have a responsibility to their passengers to exercise the highest degree of care in their actions. Although this duty applies to the operator of the common carrier, it also extends to the operator’s employer under the legal theory of respondeat superior. This form of vicarious liability allows an employer to be held liable for accidents caused by an employee while using a company vehicle. To hold an employer liable, an employment relationship must exist between the operator and the company, and the operator must have been acting within the scope of their authority at the time of the accident.
Due to the number of passengers that use a form of public transportation at any given time, accidents involving such carriers typically involve numerous injuries and significant damages. It is important that victims of mass transit accidents are aware of their rights to compensation and all possible defendants that they may be able to hold liable.