Overview of Taxicab Liability

blurred image of top of taxi cab, las vegasTaxicabs are subject to special insurance and liability rules. Taxicabs, even independently operated cabs, are part of a class of business defined as “common motor carriers.” Common motor carriers are any person or operator that advertises to the public that he or she is willing to transport passengers or property by vehicle to various locations. The law specifically mentions taxicab motor companies as examples of a common carrier. Common carriers are subject to several special rules including insurance requirements, safety regulations, and liability rules.

Insurance Requirements

All taxicab companies must possess liability insurance. Mandatory insurance is required to ensure that taxi companies cannot declare bankruptcy or under-capitalize their businesses to avoid liability in the event of an accident. The State of Nevada delegates the job of imposing specific insurance standards to the Nevada Transportation Authority which requires taxicab companies to maintain these minimum insurance rates:

  • Personal injury or wrongful death coverage requirements for one passenger must cover at least $250,000.
  • Bodily injury or death coverage insurance coverage for two or more passengers must provide at least $500,000.
  • Finally, property damage coverage must be at least $50,000.

Safety Regulations

Taxicab companies must undertake to install safety features to limit the risk of criminal activity. Typically this includes security cameras or perhaps safety glass. Moreover, drivers and passengers are required to wear seat belts.

Driver Regulations

Drivers are required to pass fitness, medical and training certifications before they can obtain their taxicab license. Drivers cannot have been:

  • Convicted of any felony in the past five years.
  • Been found guilty of driving under the influence within the previous three years.
  • Been convicted of any offense involving the sale of controlled substances, dangerous drugs or narcotics.

Moreover, the Nevada Transportation Authority may deny a taxicab driver’s permit application if:

  • The driver was found to be responsible for a crash that resulted in the death or injury of another.
  • If the driver’s record shows a consistent history of reckless or negligent driving.
  • The driver committed an offense in another state, which if the offense occurred in Nevada, would result in license suspension.
  • The driver failed, on two or more occasions, to appear in court.
  • The driver was convicted of any crimes involving moral turpitude or any sexual offenses. Moral turpitude crimes refer to serious crimes like homicide and robbery.
  • The driver was convicted of any offense involving the possession of controlled substances, dangerous drugs or narcotics.

If any of the top factors apply to the driver, then his or her application must be denied however the bottom factors are subjective. The Transportation Authority reviews the entire driver’s record and the circumstances of the relevant events to determine if a license may be issued.

In addition to this fitness test, drivers must obtain a medical certification attesting to his or her fitness to drive. Drivers must pass a defensive driving, orientation and safety course approved by the Transportation Authority. Taxicab drivers must also attend and complete an annual safety course.

Liability Rules

In Nevada, taxi companies must use the utmost care  and diligence to ensure the safety of its passengers. Utmost care requires taxicabs companies to do everything they can to minimize the risk of injury to their passengers. Nevada places the onus of liability on the cab company which requires the companies to comply with all of the above regulations and to do what is necessary to protect their passengers.

The “utmost care” standard is a significantly higher standard of safety and care than that which is required by private drivers. Nevada holds taxicab companies liable for even the slight negligence which could have been prevented; that results in an injury. Utmost care is a much higher standard of care than that required by the average driver which is only to act “reasonably” under the circumstances.

How these standards are expressed in a particular case will largely depend on the facts. The more that taxicab companies ignore or drop safety regulations, the more likely that it will be found liable for a passenger’s injuries.

Litigation Issues

A common problem among plaintiffs that sue taxicab companies is that they also bear some responsibility for their injuries. Nevada law requires everyone in a taxicab to wear a seatbelt. Many taxi companies use the passenger’s failure to wear the seatbelt as contributing to their injuries.

Contributing to injury or liability is typically insufficient to relieve a cab company of 100 percent of liability, but it will result in a reduction in liability. The judge tasks the jury with assessing the relative responsibility between the plaintiff and taxicab company. For example, a jury may arrive at a 60/40 split, therefore, any award the plaintiff receives is reduced by 40 percent.

All passengers, regardless of the situation, should always wear their seatbelt. Seat belts save lives.