The Tort Immunity Act was created in an effort to protect government entities from payment for claims resulting from negligent acts or omissions of their employees. This Act also applies to public transportation companies such as public bus services. However, public transportation vehicles such as buses are what is known as “common carriers.” A common carrier is anything or anyone that transports people or goods from one destination to another. There are common law and statutory duties imposed on public transportation services with regard to the safety of their passengers, and the law holds them to the “highest degree of care consistent with the type of vehicle used in the operation of that business.”
When a passenger on a public bus has been injured as a result of the negligence of the bus driver, which law prevails? Does the Tort Immunity Act shield the bus driver from his negligent act, or does the common carrier laws and duties hold the bus driver responsible, since he owes his passengers the highest degree of care?
The Tort Immunity Act does not apply to a local public entity based on its operation as a common carrier. The Tort Immunity Act states that “nothing in the Act affects the liability, if any, of a local public entity based on its operation as a common carrier.”
The question then becomes whether the public entity was acting as a common carrier at the time of the passenger’s injury. To be considered a common carrier at the time of the injury, the passenger must have been in the act of boarding, is upon, or is in the act of alighting from, the carrier’s vehicle.
If you have been injured while riding on a public bus please contact our offices immediately for assistance.