The Rise of Ridesharing – Uber and Lyft
Today, travelers across the entire United States are abandoning traditional taxi services in droves. Instead, they pick up their smartphones and use a ridesharing app like Uber to hail their next ride.
Though Uber’s popularity has spread like wildfire over the past few years, it has not been without its fair share of legal controversy. If you’ve been in an car accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, contact The Doyle Law Offices, P.A. today.
While the taxi industry wages legal battles in efforts to level the playing field, other legal questions have arisen as well, most notably:
Who is Held Responsible in Uber and Lyft Car Accidents?
With a huge fleet of loosely qualified and lightly trained drivers cruising the streets, accidents are bound to occur.
- What happens if someone is injured or killed by an Uber driver?
- What if you are a passenger in an Uber car and you get hurt?
- What if you are an Uber driver and hurt someone else?
There are many scenarios to consider. In the beginning, when these accidents happened, the cases were without precedent. Unfortunately, a tragic accident is what put the wheels in motion to better define the laws.
In San Francisco on December 31st, 2013, a 6 year old girl was killed when an Uber driver collided with her and her family while they were walking across the street. The driver of the car was not transporting a paying customer at the time, but he was logged in to the Uber app and was in between rides. Uber’s insurance company denied coverage to the victims, claiming it did not cover drivers between rides.
In addition to unbearable pain and suffering, the victims racked up over half a million dollars in medical bills. In California, drivers are only required to carry bodily injury liability coverage of $15,000 per person or $30,000 per accident. This was clearly insufficient coverage to pay the victims’ expenses, so the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming the driver was distracted when he hit the victim.
This sparked the debate about what these companies can even call themselves.
When is Uber or Lyft Liable for Damages?
The laws surrounding TNC’s continue to be contested and changed, but at the time this article as written, there are three different scenarios when transportation network companies’ insurance provide coverage.
- If you are an independent contractor (driver) and have logged in to the app, but you haven’t accepted your first ride, you have what is called contingent coverage. This means that your personal insurance coverage is the first line of defense in an accident, but the TNC will provide coverage if your personal insurance is nullified. Your insurance company wants to take on as little risk as possible, so it is very possible they will deny coverage when they find out you drive for Uber as a side job. Your TNC must provide a minimum of $50,000 per person or $100,000 per accident for injuries and an additional $30,000 for property damage.
- If you have accepted a ride, but have not picked up your passenger yet, the coverage is still contingent, but the amount of coverage goes way up. TNC’s must provide $1 million in coverage for bodily injury or death, and an additional $1 million for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
- If you have picked up your ride and your passenger is in the car with you at the time of an accident, the coverage is the same as #2.
Can the Use of the Uber or Lyft App Contribute to Negligence?
This is a question that will continue to be played out in the courtroom. Think about it. Drivers must keep their phones nearby and visible at all times. Ridesharing apps often alert drivers with push notifications and sound effects when a potential customer nearby requests a ride. Competing drivers are all trying to make money.
What do you think happens when a customer suddenly becomes available? You jump on the opportunity, of course. You take your eyes off the road, see where they are on the map, and claim them as fast as you can so the next guy can’t - all while driving through populated streets and intersections. Do you think this could potentially be dangerous? We all know the perils of texting and distracted driving.
What To Do If You Are Injured In An Uber or Lyft Accident
If you or a loved were injured in an Uber or Lyft related automobile accident, there are several steps you should take after the accident. The first step is to seek medical treatment. Now is not the time to tough it out.
First of all, some injuries are not immediately apparent. Waiting to get treatment may cause additional harm that could have been prevented with prompt treatment. Second of all, pain and suffering that is addressed long after an accident is harder to tie directly to the accident.
Getting injured in a car accident, even at someone else’s fault, does not automatically entitle you to compensation. You can only fight for what you can prove. What do you think would be stronger evidence in court: your medical bill from the day of the accident, or your medical bill from 3 months later?
The laws surrounding Transportation Network Companies are constantly changing. In order to navigate the complexities of an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, it is important to contact a dedicated Cary personal injury law firm.
For over 20 years, The Doyle Offices, P.A. has been helping injured clients in Cary, Raleigh, Apex, Holly Springs, Wake Forest, and across North Carolina get the compensation they deserve.
Why is Uber and Lyft so popular?
As any rightfully grouchy cab driver will tell you, one of the main reasons that Uber has been so successful is that Uber drivers face far less government regulation than taxi drivers. Almost anyone with a car and a driver’s license can quickly become an Uber driver, while taxi drivers are required to obtain permits, get special licenses, and carry more expensive commercial auto insurance.
With less red tape, lower operating costs, an ever expanding fleet, and ultra-convenient apps for their customers, ridesharing companies are positioned to dominate the market.
Are Uber and Lyft Transportation Companies or a Technology Companies?
Of course, Uber argued that it is a tech company and not a transportation company. They offer an open marketplace, and should not be held responsible for the actions of 3rd parties that use their service, invoking section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
This is the same law that prevents CraigsList from being held responsible when a seller decides to attack a buyer that agrees to meet them in a dark alley; and prevents eBay from being held responsible when someone sells a buyer fake sports paraphernalia.
The debate continues, and Uber and Lyft currently have their own classification. They are classified as Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s), and the laws governing TNC’s are still being shaped.