Here in Chicago, as in other major cities throughout the country, the prevalence of transportation services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar has revolutionized how we get around town. These companies operate on iPhones and Androids, allowing riders to beckon a car at the click of a button. Riders are then charged the meter fare and a small service fee. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm take a closer look into what would happen if one of these cars got into an accident that seriously injured the rider or a pedestrian.
The extent of the company’s liability is hotly contested, most recently by a Forbes contributor who argues that Uber, Lyft and the like are clear targets for liability, both direct and indirect. For direct liability, injured plaintiffs would have to prove that Uber did not sufficiently screen the driver, directly causing the accident and injury.
One lawsuit currently pending illuminates the possibility of indirect liability. In that case, both Uber and the driver are being sued for an accident that left a pedestrian severely injured in San Francisco (*note: California is the only state that regulates these types of ridesharing services, so this case is a bit of an outlier). Uber considers the private taxi its partner, not an employee, and as such the driver is required to have his or her own insurance in addition to the policy Uber provides.
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Since this case involves a pedestrian and not an Uber passenger, it is possible Uber will shift liability exclusively onto the driver, who may not be covered by his own insurance plan for the accident since he was driving for a private company. Unfortunately, this is probably what will happen. Uber has repeatedly maintained that its “partner drivers,” and their actions, are not its responsibility. Needless to say, cases like these only breed more confusion.
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Similarly, Lyft drivers have their own qualms with insurance policies and coverage. It is difficult for many Lyft drivers even to get auto insurance because the average insurance company does not cover commercial use. Lyft, for its part, asserts that it has extensive coverage in case of a driver accident, though it is unclear whether this policy would actually pay for any damages.
Many legal experts believe that Lyft’s insurance is limited to liability but would not cover any damages, including personal injuries, if an accident occurs. This means that, in the event of a crash, the driver and his or her insurance (if they could manage to get any) would be personally responsible for the property and personal damages.
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Some point to the Communications Decency Act as a way for transportation services to escape liability. Through this Act, Uber and its peers may be able to argue that they are merely tech companies, providers of information, and nothing more.
Wherever liability lands, it is hard to imagine a scenario where a severely injured plaintiff is denied damages. The question now concerns who, exactly, will be paying. Currently, if a regular taxi injures a rider or pedestrian, that person is likely to sue both the individual driver and the cab company (same goes for pizza delivery drivers and the like). It is too soon to know how these types of car accident lawsuits will play out in state courts, but it will be very interesting to see it happen.
Car accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experienced working with victims of all types of vehicular accidents. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a car, truck, bus, motorcycle, or taxi crash, contact our firm immediately. We will guide you through the legal process and deal with insurance companies and all other involved parties so you don’t have to. Our case reviews are always free of charge, and we do not charge a dime unless we are victorious on your behalf.