A “common carrier” is a person or company that transports goods or people for another party and is responsible for any possible loss of the goods during transport. Common examples of common carriers are forms of public transportation including busing and trucking companies.

The Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. §14706, provides the shipper with a statutory remedy which preempts state law remedies. Subject to certain exceptions, if a shipper can prove that the carrier received the shipment in good condition and delivered it short or damaged, the carrier is liable for the loss, regardless of whether the shipper can prove the carrier was negligent. Thus, it is imperative for insurers of common carriers to obtain the services of West Virginia auto insurance defense attorneys committed to creating value for the insurance carrier while striving to achieve positive outcomes for their insureds.

What are exceptions to liability for common carriers?

Common carriers are subject to special laws and regulations, which differ depending on the means of transport used. For example, road, airline, railway and sea carriers are all governed by different rules and regulations. To make it more complicated, carriers may be governed by different jurisdictional requirements as well. A common carrier is liable for the goods it carries with the exception of:

  • An act of nature. This is also referred to as the “act of God” defense. It is applicable if a hurricane, flood, tornado, mudslide or other natural disaster beyond the carrier’s control is the proximate cause of the loss or damage claimed.
  • An act of the public enemies. The public enemy exception is rarely used because it applies to acts of military forces.
  • Fault or fraud by the shipper. An allegation of fault by the shipper is commonly raised when the carrier claims the goods were improperly packaged to withstand the ordinary risks associated with transport.
  • An inherent defect in the goods. A carrier will not be held liable for injuries to goods occurring because of the shipper's negligence or misconduct. Furthermore, when the nature or value of the goods to be shipped is fraudulently concealed or misrepresented by the shipper, whether to obtain a lower shipping rate or for any other purpose, the carrier is not liable for any losses incurred.

The defense of insurance companies of common carriers requires experienced trial attorneys. Whether the dispute involves liability for shipping cargo or a personal injury resulting from a vehicle in the common carrier’s fleet, West Virginia auto insurance defense attorneys provide the knowledge and skill necessary to successfully defend against claims.

The attorneys at Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe handle issues involving common carriers, including those related to coal, timber and natural resource hauling, interstate trucking, taxicabs and bus fleets. We understand the need to resolve claims efficiently and economically. Our attorneys continually take courses to keep them at the forefront of the profession so they provide you top-quality legal representation. We have four offices conveniently located in Beckley, Charlestown, Martinsburg and Morgantown, West Virginia. Call us today to schedule an appointment.