Many accident attorneys in the state of California are not specialized in limousine law and the large amount of legal issues that come along with it. These attorneys may not have the experience necessary in cases like this and leave a lot of money on the table for the clients while attempting to settle in a type of case that they are not familiar with.
Ehline Law is different. Our head attorney, Michael Ehline owned a limo business before he was an attorney. He not only knows the law codes and precedents, but knows the business inside and out. He had to know it to comply with state and federal livery laws– a large advantage for any client facing such an injury.
More About this Specialized Area of Tort Law
Limousines, limo buses, and charter party carriers are usually treated the same under the law and are legally allowed to provide alcohol to their passengers, even while the vehicles are moving. Often, charter limos have full wet bars in the back of their transports– which can be a severe problem when hired for a high school prom or Quinceanera where minors have access to that booze. Recently, an intoxicated woman jumped out of a moving limo on the freeway. In another case, several were killed in the Philippines in a limo rear passenger compartment fire.
Limo companies and other common carriers have a higher duty of care beyond what a normal, non-licensed person would when driving a friend home. These companies have a special duty to prevent issues, such as:
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 accidents, which can be caused by blind spots on a limo, causing severe injury or death to the cycle rider.
- Bicycle accidents, which are very similar to motorcycle accidents and could also cause deglove injuries or amputation.
- Car accidents, as the sheet metal in a passenger car can break apart and sliver in a collision with a heavy limo. This can cut victims’ bodies in lacerations or cause passengers to be tossed out of the vehicle if not buckled.
- Pedestrian accidents, with victims being hit in a crosswalk, leading to friction burns, road rash, or worse.
- Limo overcrowding accidents, as seen in more detail below. A too heavy vehicle with too many people inside can cause increased accidents.
- Limos operating within California are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, or PUC and the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Interstate transportation is governed by the federal Department of Transportation, or DOT.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a limousine crash, a specialized attorney is needed for the complexity of the case. This deals with California livery law dealing with vehicles carrying multiple passengers. Livery law applies to limos, as it did include the boarding and care of horses in the past. Today, it deals with larger vehicles, including limos, buses, and boats. (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.”
Multiple types of vehicles, including charter buses, sightseeing buses, limos, airport buses, mass transit buses, school buses, and others all have the potential to be held to higher standards of care when transporting passengers. Our attorneys have the experience in the field to assist the injury victim work through the medical and legal issues that commonly follow an accident of this type. The DMV can check on particulars of the law 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 is able to sidestep a common refrain from insurance companies that a limo case is a junk lawsuit. According to the California Supreme Court, even the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland is subject to common carrier liability, as seen in Gomez v. The Walt Disney Co., WL 1404420 (Cal. June 16, 2005). 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. As quoted from the Cal. Civ. Code Sec. 2100, 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 a “carrier of persons for reward.”
Under state law, common carriers including limo companies may be required to have physical damage coverage, general liability coverage, worker’s compensation coverage, garage liability coverage, garage keeper’s legal liability coverage, excess/umbrella liability coverage, property coverage among others.
As of 2006, except in the case of Class C charter-party carriers, limousine businesses must have insurance coverage of at least $750,000 for 7 passengers or less, $1,500,000 for 8 to 15 passengers, and $5,000,000 for 16 passengers or more. The minimum coverage for Class C charter-party carriers is $750,000, regardless of vehicle seating capacity. For additional information see General Order 101, as applicable to PSCs or General Order 115, as applicable to TCPs.
Common Carriers must file evidence of insurance coverage in the state of California. Minimum limits vary by type of carrier and other factors. Evidence of coverage must be filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, or PUC. Any for-hire passenger carrier that has employee limo drivers or chauffeurs must also file evidence of worker’s compensation coverage by filing either a certificate of insurance (Commission form TL-938) or 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, for example, General Order 115.
California Limousines are Regulated By Several Government Agencies Depending on Intrastate or Interstate Regulations
The DMV and PUC differentiate between ìPSGî and ìMTRî classes. Motor carriers of passengers are known as PSG regs, while 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 can be seen on vehicle bumpers and helps the CHP keep track of these differing types.
In most cases, passenger transport for hire must be approved and properly permitted by the PUC. Only several companies are exempt from this, including taxi and ambulance services, which are locally regulated, as seen in the Public Utilities Code Sections 226 and 5353. The PUC issues PSC permits/certificates and charter-party carrier/TCP permits/certificates. These are different from each other 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 regular schedule, such as airport shuttles. TCP charters, as most limos are, are usually prearranged and are exclusive and akin to a private party. These are also round trip, such as in wine tasting tours.
An MC number is required for interstate transportation. Federal law mandates such a permit be issued before a limousine carrier can leave the jurisdiction of California, as often seen in trips to Las Vegas.
Aftermath of a Limousine Accident
When faced with a limo accident leading to injury, you must understand that you may be entitled to recover lost wages, mental anguish, physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical bills, and even punitive damages. First, the police must know to create a recorded statement. You must avoid doing so with an insurance company, which will try to use it against you and twist your words into saying that you were not actually hurt or that you were actually responsible. Take an ambulance to the hospital to get x-rays, an MRI and full physical examination. Don’t wait for the situation to get worse. Getting a swift checkup will also create firm evidence.
If faced with assault or sexual assault, make sure that you get a full police report and contact an attorney immediate, such as the skilled lawyers at Ehline Law at (888) 400-9721. No matter what the injury, when faced with a limousine accident, contact experienced trial attorneys. Our lead attorney, Michael Ehline’s experience owning a limo company brings the knowledge necessary to take your claim to victory. We fight for our clients to help right this terrible situation.
There’s a reason that many of our clients and peers consider us California’s best limousine accident attorneys. These accidents take place coming back or forth from proms, parties, weddings, or other events and the knowledge of the laws and regulations from the Public Utilities Commission and Department of Transportation is vital in getting your life back on track. Call us for a free consultation today at 1-888-400-9721.