The legalities of a bus crash

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By Kelvin Lee

Question of Law

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


THERE has been a lot of news about buses, the accidents that occurred and the fatalities of such accidents. For instance, in Taguig, a speeding bus skid and fell off the skyway and then landed on another vehicle. Around 18 people, perhaps more, were killed. There was also a recent bus accident in Cebu, where a number of people were likewise killed.

The law on transportation is quite clear on the diligence required of bus companies, which are considered, by law, common carriers. To be clear, "a common carrier is a person, corporation, firm or association, engaged in the business of carrying or transporting passengers or goods or both, by land, water, or air, for compensation, offering their services to the public." (Article 1732, Civil Code). Obviously, bus companies are common carriers.

It has been held by the Supreme Court that "the business of common carriers is imbued with public interest and duty, and the law governing them imposes an exacting standard." (China Airlines v. Chiok, 407 SCRA 432 [2003]).

Hence, "in a contract of carriage, it is presumed that the common carrier was at fault or was negligent when a passenger dies or is injured. Unless the presumption is rebutted, the court need not even make an express finding of fault or negligence on the part of the common carrier." (Victory Liner, Inc. v. Gammad, 444 SCRA 355 (2004))

Thus, an argument can be made that the bus companies involved in the recent accidents could be found at fault and held liable. In fact, under the law, in such accidents the common carrier/bus company is even presumed to be at fault, absent any evidence to the contrary.

Whether or not such findings of liability or fault can actually push through, remains to be seen.

***

The opinions expressed herein are solely of Atty. Lee. This column does not constitute legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship with any party. You can reach Atty. Lee at lvlawoffices@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 19, 2013.

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