Martin, Harding & Mazzotti:
Your Rideshare Accident Lawyers

Commercial DrivingRidesharing services like Uber and Lyft have only been around for about ten years, but they’ve made a huge impact on how people all over the United States, and the world, get from Point A to Point B.  At one time, a person without transportation would call or hail a taxicab, take a bus or a commuter train, or perhaps ask a friend for a ride.  Nowadays, a fleet of privately-owned, privately-driven automobiles are widely available in most areas through the use of a smartphone app, often arriving quicker and charging less per ride than a traditional taxi.  Because passengers pay via the mobile app, it’s not even necessary to have physical cash anymore.  It’s made it more convenient than ever for people to get where they’re going, whether it’s to work, to the airport, across town to a restaurant, or home after an evening out.

However, the rise of ridesharing services has also brought with it new issues and problems.  Of those, the safety of rideshare drivers, passengers, drivers of other vehicles, as well as pedestrians and cyclists, are of primary concern to us at Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. We’re here to help.

What is Ridesharing?

Ridesharing is a transportation option in which the user/rider places a request for a ride via a mobile app operated by a company such as Uber or Lyft.  A rider can specify when and where they would like to be picked up and choose their destination, all within the mobile app.  The user will then be presented with a list of drivers ready and able to provide them with transportation and the user chooses among those available.

A rideshare driver is an ordinary person, usually without a special driver’s license required by taxi, limousine, and bus drivers, driving their own personal automobile.  They have registered with one or more rideshare companies and passed some form of background check and provided proof that they have insurance on the vehicle they are driving.  These drivers also operate via the mobile app provided by the company and can respond when someone requests transportation.

A successful rideshare trip begins when a driver connects with someone requesting a ride, drives to their location to pick them up, and ends when they drop the person off at their requested destination.  Payment for the trip is accomplished through the mobile app, and passengers can rate the quality of the trip after the fact.

How is Ridesharing Different?

In most cases, if you are hurt in an accident by a driver who is operating a vehicle as an employee, such as a taxi, it is the company, (in other words, the employer), who will be held responsible for their driver’s actions.  Because of this, taxi and limousine companies vet their drivers carefully, often examining their driving records and performing a criminal background check.  This is usually an ongoing process for as long as the individual is working for the company, and helps to prevent costly insurance increases.  In addition, taxicab companies maintain their vehicles regularly to prevent safety problems.

However, in most states, rideshare drivers are not legal employees of the companies they drive for but are instead classified as independent contractors.  They drive and maintain their own, personal vehicles, maintain their own insurance coverage, must pay their own income and other taxes directly, and aren’t entitled to other benefits such as health care.  Rideshare companies themselves don’t even operate as commercial businesses, but rather classify themselves as “software companies” that facilitate ridesharing.

Taxi vs Rideshare

Thus, an accident involving an Uber or Lyft often results in a situation where it is more difficult to determine who was at fault and who pays when someone has been injured versus other types of motor vehicle accidents.

BE AWARE

Accidents involving taxicabs have their own unique legal challenges.  For example, in Upstate New York, it is a common practice for taxicab companies to comply only with the state’s minimum insurance protections, ($25,000 per injured person/$50,000 per accident), which may not be enough to cover your injuries.  In addition, most taxicab companies create a separate business entity for each vehicle, thereby limiting the amount that can be recovered by an injured person, after insurance is exhausted, to the value of the vehicle alone.

What About Rideshare Insurance?

Commercial vs Rideshare InsuranceAll drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft must provide proof that they have insurance coverage that meets their state’s minimum requirements to drive for the service.  But this minimal coverage will not protect passengers, other drivers or pedestrians, and cyclists while the driver has the company app turned on and is either waiting for a passenger request or is actively driving passengers to their destination.  This is because personal auto insurance policies have a coverage exclusion when driving a vehicle for “commercial purposes.”  Driving passengers or other cargo for money is considered a commercial activity.

Both Uber and Lyft provide some insurance coverage when a driver has the app turned on and is waiting for a passenger.  However, this coverage may not be enough to protect the driver, their passengers, or others in the event of an accident.  Most, if not all, drivers for Uber or Lyft would benefit from having rideshare insurance, which is a kind of “gap insurance” that provides better coverage for rideshare drivers, their passengers, and others.  Rideshare insurance is available through some insurance companies.

Insurance provided by Uber increases for the period beginning when a driver accepts a passenger’s request and ending when the passenger exits the vehicle at the end of their trip.  Then, if the driver keeps the app turned on, the lower-coverage Uber insurance is in effect.  The same is true for Lyft.  When the driver turns the app off, only the driver’s personal insurance policy is covering them.

Is Ridesharing Safe?

While both Uber and Lyft claim to have increased their screening of drivers working for them, there have been many cases where passengers have been criminally assaulted by drivers.

From a driving safety perspective, it has been shown that the increased use of automobiles over safer forms of transportation has resulted in an increase in traffic fatalities and pedestrian deaths.  What’s more, rideshare drivers often obstruct bicycle lanes in cities when picking up or dropping off passengers, causing an increased risk of injury to cyclists.

And, because the rideshare driver relies heavily on the mobile app, often having to tap their phone within 15 seconds of receiving a passenger’s request, there has undoubtedly been an increase in distracted driving by Uber and Lyft drivers.  At least 33% of all traffic accidents are caused by distracted driving.

Why Do I Need A Rideshare Lawyer?

You need a qualified, experienced Uber lawyer if you have been injured in an accident involving a rideshare driver.  This is true whether you were an Uber passenger, a rideshare driver, the driver or passenger of another vehicle, or if you were a pedestrian or cyclist.

Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft will try to settle any claim for injuries with you as soon as possible, hoping that you won’t get an attorney of your own.  And if you accept a lowball offer before speaking with a lawyer, you will never get to bring a lawsuit for that injury, even if it is worse than you first thought.

MHM – qualified, experience rideshare lawyers

The Uber lawyers at Martin, Harding & Mazzotti are well-versed in how rideshare companies work and the intricacies of insurance coverage for the various “phases” a rideshare driver can be in while driving for Uber or Lyft.  We can legally demand the company turn over all of its records, including online data that can pinpoint where the driver was when the accident took place, and even the behavior of the Uber vehicle and driver before and after the accident.  For example, records obtained by our attorneys might show that the at-fault driver was using their phone at the time of the accident.  This can help immensely with accident reconstruction.

Our attorneys can also demand information about the at-fault driver’s driving record with the company, along with any other information held by Uber or Lyft on the driver who injured you.  To help you understand why this is important, in 2017, Uber was fined $8.9 million by the State of Colorado after it was discovered the company had 57 drivers working as “independent contractors” who had traffic and criminal violations in their background checks, including one escaped felon who was using an alias, and others who were driving without a valid license.

Articles About Ridesharing

Please read the articles below for further facts and information on ridesharing, and don’t hesitate to contact us today if you or someone you love has been injured in an accident involving a rideshare company like Uber or Lyft.

Rideshare Insurance in New York
What If I’m in a Crash with an Uber or Lyft Vehicle?
What Happens If I’m Injured in an Accident as an Uber or Lyft Passenger?