Ride-Sharing Services Raise Thorny Issues for Car Accident Injury Victims
The evolution of the "peer-to-peer sharing economy" on the Internet has exploded since Uber launched its smart phone application six years ago. This alternative to traditional taxi services offers consumers a less expensive transportation service than cab companies. Consumers seeking car transport services are able to connect with private drivers who provide rides in their personal vehicles. Based on the success and growth of Uber, similar programs have emerged, such as Lyft and SideCar.
Uber currently operates in several hundred cities worldwide while Lyft services approximately 150 U.S. cities. Despite the popularity of these budget-oriented services, safety concerns have raised questions about liability for injuries caused by drivers working with these ride-sharing companies. This blog post answers a number of questions about potential liability related to collisions involving a driver for Uber and similar services.
How does the structure of the peer-to-peer car services make the issue of liability more complicated for users than taxi and limousine services?
A number of features complicate personal injury lawsuits based on injuries arising out of accidents involving peer-to-peer car service drivers. The drivers are treated as independent contractors to avoid liability based on the doctrine of respondeat superior, which allows negligence of employees to be imputed to their employers. The companies that provide these services will likely deny liability based on the premise that the drivers are not employees. For example, Uber denied liability for the death of a six-year-old in San Francisco since the driver was not transporting a fare at the time of the accident, according to the New York Times.
However, the mere fact the company chooses to classify drivers as non-employees does not necessarily foreclose the possibility of a judgement or settlement. The court might determine that the amount of control exerted over the drivers creates an employment relationship. Even if no employment relationship exists, the companies can still be liable for negligent hiring in failing to conduct an adequate background check. Further, the company might be liable for negligent retention if it retains a driver despite evidence that the driver is unsafe, such as a record of traffic violations or traffic accidents.
Do regulatory differences make these on-demand-for-hire services potentially less safe than conventional car services?
Cab, limousine, and car services are carefully regulated by government entities to ensure that drivers are properly trained and competent to safely transport passengers. In contrast to these cab-specific regulations, Uber and Lyft operate within a Wild West environment. Taxi regulations vary depending on the jurisdiction, but cab companies rates and minimum pre-hiring screening procedures typically are imposed by local authorities. Private drivers using their own vehicles for peer-to-peer car services are not subject to such regulations, which the taxi-cab industry contends endangers the public and creates an unfair pricing advantage.
What special insurance requirements apply to ride-share drivers and services in Georgia?
In May 2015, Georgia enacted House Bill 225 imposing a requirement that Uber, Lyft, and other ride-share services carry a minimum $1 million liability policy for drivers transporting passengers and $300,000 when drivers are not transporting passengers. However, these app-based transportation providers will argue that the driver's personal insurance must provide coverage for accidents when the driver is not carrying a fare or functioning as a driver "on the clock." Further, a fare injured in a collision where the Uber driver was not at-fault generally will result in the at-fault driver's insurance providing primary coverage with other insurance policies filling gaps in coverage. The uninsured motorist coverage of the ride-sharing service can provide coverage if the vehicle is hit by an at-fault driver who is uninsured or underinsured.
Can a ride-sharing service be liable for injuries caused by an intentional attack by a driver transporting a fare?
If Uber or similar companies fail to conduct a sufficient background check or disregard a driver's violent criminal convictions, the peer-to-peer ride service might be liable under a negligent hiring or negligent retention theory. Some cities have advocated requiring ride-sharing services to conduct fingerprint-based screening to mitigate the risk of passengers climbing into cars driven by violent felons.
Put Our Law Firm's Over 35 Years of Experience to Work For Your Claim
If you have been injured while riding in a cab or a ride-sharing service vehicle, our Georgia traffic accident injury lawyers aggressively pursue financial recovery for injury victims. Montlick and Associates has been representing those who suffer serious injuries in Atlanta and in the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.
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