Many so called California limousine accident attorneys are unaware of limousine law, and the plethora of potential legal issues involved in litigating a limousine related personal injury case, and some lawyers could be leaving a lot of money on the table at the end of the day, when attempting to settle or mediate the case; or when taking the case before a jury. Intelligent attorneys experienced in the public transportation industry and its many nuances, are essential in deconstructing liability defenses of its representatives.
Attorney Michael Ehline Owned a Limo Business Before He Was a Lawyer
You heard right, we know more about this area of law, because our lead advocate used to have to comply with the plethora of state and federal livery laws. This puts us at an advantage right off the bat. Wouldn't you agree?
More About this Specialized Area of Tort Law
Limousines, limo buses and charter party carriers are almost always treated the same under the law, are legally able to provide alcohol to their passengers even while the vehicles are in motion. Many charter limousines have full wet bars in the back of their limos. This can pose a problem when a limousine is hired for a high school prom, or Quinceanera where minors are also in the back of the limousine partying. Recently a drunken woman jumped out of a limousine at high speed on the freeway. In other news, a group of Filipinos were killed in a limousine rear passenger compartment fire. This is serious stuff.
Common carriers owe a heightened duty of care beyond what a normal, non licensed person would, who is just driving a friend home. Limo companies owe that heightened duty of care, or a "special duty" to prevent things like:
- Motorcycle personal injury accidents; often the blind spots on a limousine can cause a limo to take the lane and kill a motor cycle rider; other injuries include although contusion, head injuries, bruising and road rash, sometimes it can result in a tearing of the skin off both your knees, shoulders, hands, elbows and feet;
- Bicycle accident; a fall from a bicycle is almost the same as far as injuries are concerned as the motorcycle claims discussed above; these often involve deglove injury assuming the limb was not amputated;
- Car Accidents; the sheet metal in a passenger car can break apart and sliver during the impact of a heavy limousine. When this happens, it can cut your body, involve lacerations; an un-seatbelted passenger or vehicle operator can be thrown through a window and this can peel back the skin resulting in exorbitant plastique surgery bills and extended hospital stays, or death.
- Pedestrian crosswalk accidents; being run over by a limousine in a crosswalk often results in friction burns, road rash, and degloves;
- Overcrowding of a limousine accidents; discussed in more detail below, some limo companies put profits over people by puting too many people in the limousine. This results in too little insurance, too heavy an vehicle, less braking power and more accidents in limousines.
- Limousines involved in intrastate transportation of passengers are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Interstate transportation is governed by the federal Department of Transportation (DOT)
If you or a loved one were injured as the result of a limousine crash, a typical personal injury lawyer will simply not understand California livery law as it relates to the duties owed by common carrier livery businesses like limousine businesses. What is livery? Limousines are livery vehicles. Livery as it applies to limousines, historically involved the boarding and care of horses for a fee, the hiring out of horses and carriages and livery stable. Modernly livery means a business that offers vehicles, such as automobiles or boats, for hire. (Free Dictionary.)
What the California Legislature and DMV say About Limousine Law & Regulations
Relevant California limousine law:
"SECTION 1. Section 27315 of the California Vehicle Code is amended to read: 27315. (a(2) The operator of a limousine for hire or the operator of an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 165, shall not operate the limousine for hire or authorized emergency vehicle unless the operator and any passengers four years of age or over and weighing 40 pounds or more, in the front seat are properly restrained by a safety belt. . ."
"(f) Every owner of a motor vehicle, including every owner or operator of a taxicab, as defined in Section 27908, or a limousine for hire, operated on a highway shall maintain safety belts in good working order for the use of occupants of the vehicle. The safety belts shall conform to motor vehicle safety standards established by the United States Department of Transportation. This subdivision does not, however, require installation or maintenance of safety belts where not required by the laws of the United States applicable to the vehicle at the time of its initial sale."
Charter Buses, sightseeing buses, limousines, airport buses, transit buses, school buses, shuttle vans and van pools are all potentially subject to heightened standards of care when they are actively engaged in the transportation for hire of passengers. Our experienced limousine attorneys will help the injured victim sift through the regulatory quagmire of legal issues to determine whether or not your injury case involves a common carrier duty of care. Motor carriers of property, other than household goods, shall get motor carrier permit through the DMV. Contact the DMV at (916) 657-8153 or visit its Web site at www.dmv.ca.gov.
More About Common Carrier Liability and Its Significance
Under ordinary negligence principles, a person is only negligent if it owed a duty of "reasonable care", and that duty had been breached causing damages like broken bones, a type of orthopaedic injury. Sometimes a "reasonable" duty of care is hard to prove. But if a person is a common carrier, it owes a heightened duty of care, beyond an ordinary, "reasonable" duty. This makes it harder for the negligent tortfeasor to escape liability at summary judgment, which allows a jury to hear the matter.
Common carrier liability also avoids the shifty insurance company argument that the limousine case is really just a "junk lawsuit." According to the California Supreme Court, even the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland is subject to common carrier liability. (See Gomez v. The Walt Disney Co., 2005 WL 1404420 (Cal. June 16, 2005).) In fact, anyone who is a “carrier of persons for reward,” “must use the utmost care and diligence for their safe carriage, must provide everything necessary for that purpose, and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill.” (Cal. Civ. Code Sec. 2100.) Also, the carriers must “provide vehicles safe and fit for the purpose to which they are put, and is not excused for default in this respect by any degree of care.” Cal. Civ. Code Sec. 2101. In short, a common carrier is “carrier of persons for reward.”
Under California law, common carriers, such as limousine businesses may often be required to have, physical damage coverages, general liability coverages, workers' compensation coverages, garage liability coverages, garage keeper's legal liability coverages, excess/umbrella liability coverages, property coverages.
As of 2006, Except Class C charter-party carriers, limousine businesses must have insurance coverages of at least: $750,000 for 7 passengers or less, $1,500,000 for 8 to 15 passengers, $5,000,000 for 16 passengers and up. The minimum coverage for Class C charter-party carriers is $750,000, regardless of vehicle seating capacity. For additional information see General Order 101 (applicable to PSCs) or General Order 115 (applicable to TCPs).
Common Carriers must file evidence of insurance coverage to in order to stay in business. Minimum limits vary by type of carrier and other factors. Evidence of coverage must be file with the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on their forms. Any for-hire passenger carrier that has employee limo drivers.chauffeurs, must also file evidence of workers' compensation coverage by filing either (1) a certificate of insurance (Commission form TL-938) or (2) a certificate of consent to self-insure issued by the Department of Industrial Relations. Minimum insurance limits are available in the PUC general orders and can be seen in the General Orders (e.g., General Order 115).
California Limousines are Regulated By Several Government Agencies Depending on Intrastate or Interstate Regulations
The DMV and PUC differentiate between "PSG" and "MTR." Motor carriers of passengers are known as PSG regs. Motor carriers of Property are called MTR. Common Carriers go by the designations PSC (by passenger stage corporations), TCP (by charter-party carriers) or Cal-T (by household goods carriers). This is that strange set of numbers located on their bumpers and in ads websites and business cards. It also helps the CHP and other agencies know what rules the vehicle is subject to.
In almost every situation, transportation of passengers for hire and compensation in California must be approved and permitted by the PUC. California law only excludes a few. Examples requiring no PUC permit are taxi services, which is locally regulated, and ambulance transport also regulated locally (See Public Utilities Code Sections 226 and 5353.)
The PUC issues PSC permits/certificates and charter-party carrier/TCP permits/certificates. They are different from eachother in many ways. A PSC allows transportation services to the general public on a fare basis. The PSC operator usually works a "fixed" route, with a regulary schedule, like airport shuttles as an example.
TCP charters, like most limousines,are usually prearranged. These are exclusive and akin to a private party. They are also round-trip, like wine tasting tours for example.
An MC number is required for interstate transportation. Federal law mandates such a permit be issued before your limousine carrier can leave the jurisdiction of California into Las Vegas for example.
What Do I Do If I Was Injured in a Limousine Accident, or If I was Otherwise Harmed due to Limousine Recklessness Such as Overpacking? You must understand that you may be entitled to recover for lost wages, mental pain and suffering, physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical bills, lost wages and even punitive damages. The first thing you must do is tell the police (even if you are embarrassed that you were raped, drunk, etc.) You must not give a recorded statement to any insurance company. The only real purpose of this is to try and trick you into admitting you weren't hurt, or that you are really the one responsible.
You must take an ambulance to the hospital and get x-rays, an MRI and physical examination. You must not wait and see. If you do that, your case becomes less valuable, because the insurance adjustor will claim you made it all up! If you are a victim of sexual assault by a limousine company, or charter part carrier, or if you are a raped girl raped on a Girls Gone Wild bus or limousine, you must contact the experienced experts at the Ehline Law Firm PC injury attorneys. (888) 400-9721.
If you suffered a limousine mishap during a high school prom, Quinceanera, or as a tourist in California, you need experienced trial attorneys. Our trial counselor, Michael Ehline, was a limousine company owner, operator and has special knowledge in this area of law, such as the rules and regulations from the Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Transportation. We want our clients to feel that we the best champions for their interests when they get slammed in a freeway, highway, or surface street catastrophe due to an errant flaw in operations.
We are considered by many clients and peers as California's best rated limousine accident attorneys. Limousine smash ups and side collisions happen at high school proms and nights on the town. Many charter companies allow minors to drink and do drugs while riding as passengers in their vehicles. Some limousine operators overpack the stretches to get more business. Limousine renters, such as parents who entrust their children for charter party service, and the children themselves, are owed a special duty of care. These companies and solo operators, are common carriers with common carrier liability. If you or someone else was hurt in a chartered transport, the law is not without a legal remedy. Contact Ehline Law Firm PC to discuss your legal rights, duties and obligations now. 1-888-400-9721.