How safe is your Uber ride?
Rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft have completely transformed the transportation industry with their convenient ride-hailing apps. The dominant force, Uber, operates in more than 300 cities and 60 countries. According to expense management company Certify, 29 percent of travelers used Uber in 2015, whereas 35 percent hailed a taxi. In 2014, Uber only occupied 9 percent of the market.
Before you jump on the rideshare bandwagon, understand that these services pose significant safety and liability risks—much more than the heavily regulated taxi industry does. Consider the following issues before you “Uber” your next ride to the airport.
Misleading background checkIn 2014, taxi and limo drivers had to undergo fingerprint-based background checks to operate in Palm Beach County. On April 19, the County Commission approved new rules that would allow taxi and limo companies and rideshare companies to conduct their own background checks.
In the suit, California regulators said they found evidence that Uber had failed to weed out 25 drivers with criminal records, including those with kidnapping and murder convictions. Would you want a convicted murderer driving you home from a party?
Murky insuranceCollisions that involve Uber drivers raise complicated and serious insurance coverage issues. Most Uber drivers carry a personal auto insurance policy, which usually does not cover them when they drive for Uber.
Uber’s $1 million insurance policy, which reportedly covers driver liability, kicks in when the driver accepts a trip request through the Uber app. It stays in effect through the life of the trip. When a driver has the Uber app turned on, but isn’t engaged in a trip, a lesser level of supplementary coverage applies.This sounds like an adequate complement to a driver’s policy, but not if Uber denies responsibility, which is has done several times in court.
The most noteworthy case occurred in 2014, when the family of six-year-old Sofia Liu sued Uber and one of its drivers after the driver hit Liu, her mother, and her brother as they passed through a crosswalk in San Francisco. Young Liu died from her injuries. Even though the driver had the Uber app turned on, Uber claimed that its insurance policy was not available.
If you’re involved in an accident with an Uber driver, take the same precautions as you would with any auto accident:
- Get names and contact information of everyone involved and all witnesses.
- Take multiple photos of the accident scene and cars involved.
- Call the police.
- Call a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Ambiguous user reviews Riders rate their experience at the end of every trip. These ratings show up next to the driver’s photo and other information at the bottom of the app. Uber claims this feature creates a “safe environment” for both parties and ensures that “only the best drivers stay on the road.”
When rating a driver, the Uber app prompts riders for feedback on the car’s cleanliness, the driver’s attitude, and the efficiency of the driver’s route choice. These feedback categories give extremely little indication of driver safety. Hence, though Uber emphasizes the high ratings of its drivers, five stars don’t equate to a respect for the rules of the road.
Rideshare companies are so new that the courts are still trying to determine various legal liability issues. If you’ve been injured in an accident that involves an Uber driver, call a personal injury attorney who knows how to navigate this new territory.
Based in West Palm Beach, Florida, Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey &Fronrath has more than 30 years of experience with auto accidents, personal injury, wrongful death, and other practice areas. Its lawyers have extensive backgrounds in interpreting complex insurance policies, medical documents, and contracts. They also know how to argue assertively on your behalf to ensure you receive the best possible outcome from your personal injury claim.
Call Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath today at (800) 654-2024 to schedule a free consultation.