Earlier this month, a stretch limousine crashed in upstate New York while transporting a bridal party after a wedding. The driver, two pedestrians, and all 17 passengers were killed in the tragic accident. Preliminary reports indicate that the limousine involved in the crash may have failed a safety inspection weeks earlier.
This piece of information has sparked conversations nationwide about limousine safety laws. New York does not have particularly strict limousine safety regulations in place. California, however, is a different story. Limousine companies and drivers are held to high standards in California. When limo services and/or their drivers are negligent, it’s easier for victims (and their families) to hold them responsible for any damages that may occur.
Causes of Limousine Accidents in California
Limousine accidents can happen for a lot of different reasons. Common causes of limousine accidents in California include:
- Improperly modified vehicles
- Failure to maintain limousine vehicles
- Driving in bad weather
- Dangerous road conditions
- Driving while fatigued or in violation of state restrictions
- Distracted driving
- Limited visibility, and more.
A thorough investigation into an accident can help to pinpoint the cause of the crash. It’s important for victims to determine to precise cause of an accident. Why? Determining the cause is the first step in identifying fault.
Shared Fault Following a Los Angeles Limousine Accident
Limousines in California must be equipped with seatbelts for each passenger. Unfortunately, many passengers do not wear a seatbelt in the back of a limo. This increases the risk of a serious or fatal injury in the event of a crash. In fact, studies have shown that passengers who do wear a seatbelt in the back of a vehicle are 8 times more likely to suffer a serious or fatal injury in a crash.
In California, not wearing a seatbelt in a limousine could have serious consequences if you want to recover compensation following an accident. The state follows the rule of comparative fault. This basically means two things. First, fault does not automatically bar you from recovering compensation. You can get money as long as someone else is also to blame. Second, your damages can be reduced if you contribute to your accident or injury. If it’s determined that you weren’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of an accident, you may not be entitled to recover all of your damages.
Here’s an example. Sam is injured in a Los Angeles limousine accident. An investigation finds that he was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. A jury finds that he could have significantly reduced the extent and severity of his injuries had he been wearing a safety latch. As a result, they find that he is 50 percent at fault for his injuries. The jury also finds that the limousine company is 50 percent responsible for his injuries. If he decides to file a personal injury lawsuit, he will only be entitled to recover half of his damages from the limo company. So, if he had $50,000 in damages, the most he could recover would be $25,000.
Limousines Are Common Carriers in Los Angeles
In California, common carriers are businesses that transport people from one place to another in exchange for a fee. Limousine companies are classified as common carriers in the state. Why is this important? Common carriers are held to a heightened standard of care. This means that they must take extra precaution to protect the health and safety of passengers. Specifically, limousine companies must “must do all that human care, vigilance, and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to passengers.”
In other words, limousine companies have to do everything that is reasonable to protect passengers from harm. This can include:
- Buying safely modified limousines for the fleet
- Performing regular inspections and maintenance
- Complying with all applicable state and federal laws
- Hiring competent and properly licensed drivers
- Ensuring drivers comply with driving restrictions (i.e., maximum of 10 consecutive hours behind the wheel), and
- Equipping limousines with necessary safety equipment.
Any deviations from the required standard of care can be considered negligence. Negligence is often the leading cause of motor vehicle accidents.
Have you been injured in a Los Angeles traffic accident? Contact Glotzer & Leib, LLP to speak with our experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorneys. We’re here to help you recover the money you deserve when you need it most.