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Can Ridesharing Companies Be Held Liable for Hiring Unsafe Drivers?

Hiring Unsafe DriversHave you been injured in a crash with an Uber driver? Were you injured while riding as a passenger in a Lyft? Was your ridesharing driver acting unsafely? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you may be wondering if the ridesharing company is liable.

Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, ridesharing companies try to evade liability for accidents based on the concept that their drivers are independent contractors. In spite of that fact, these companies have a responsibility to keep their customers and other drivers on the road as safe as possible.

By extension, ridesharing companies may be liable for damages caused by hiring unsafe drivers. Here’s what you need to consider.

The Need for Due Diligence When Hiring Drivers

Ridesharing safety can vary depending on the driver, local safety requirements, and other factors. For example, in Massachusetts, laws require ridesharing drivers to be over 21, have at least a year of driving experience (three years if under the age of 23), hold an in-state license, and pass a background check. To ensure drivers meet these safety requirements, they undergo two background checks — one done by the ridesharing company and another done by the state.

In 2018, 15% of applicants failed the secondary state background check for reasons including a history of violent crimes, insufficient licensing history, or multiple driving offenses. The fact that these 30,000 applicants passed the initial background test indicates that the ridesharing companies may not be doing adequate screenings on their own. In cases where you can establish that the ridesharing company did not do its due diligence when bringing on drivers, you may be able to hold them liable for your damages.

Uber’s History with Marketing About Safety Issues

In 2014, Uber implemented a safe-ride fee that brought in about a half a billion dollars in revenue in a two-year period alone. Ostensibly, this fee was designed to ensure passengers were as safe as possible, but the company failed to live up to that promise. In the wake of a 2016 lawsuit, the company changed the name of this fee to a booking fee.

Uber also paid out a $25 million settlement for not being as safe as it claims, and at the same time, the company backed away from some of the safety language used in its marketing campaigns. For instance, prior to this lawsuit, Uber claimed its background checks were the best in the industry, but lawyers proved that the ridesharing company’s background checks were subpar to what most taxi companies do, so Uber stopped marketing from that angle.

Ridesharing Liability Coverage

Both the main ridesharing companies, Uber and Lyft, have liability coverage in place that can help to protect passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers, financially in the event of an accident. The coverage includes the following:

  • When the driver is not logged into the app — no coverage
  • When the driver is logged in but hasn’t accepted a ride request — $50,000 per injured person and up to $100,000 total injury liability per accident
  • When the driver has accepted a ride request — $1 million

Ridesharing drivers are also required to carry liability policies. In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, ridesharing drivers are required to notify their insurers that they are driving professionally. This rule helps to ensure that the driver’s insurance company doesn’t reject claims related to ridesharing accidents. Usually, the ridesharing policies kick into effect after the liability limits on the driver’s coverage have been exhausted.

Establishing Liability

Whether the accident is covered under the ridesharing liability policy or not, the ridesharing company may still be held liable. In any personal injury or automobile accident case, you must establish the following four elements:

  • The liable entity has a duty of care to the victim
  • They breached that duty of care by acting negligently
  • Their negligence caused the victim’s injuries
  • The victim suffered damages as a result of the injury

When you use a ridesharing app, the ridesharing company essentially accepts a duty of care for your safety. Similarly, if a ridesharing company puts a driver on the road and the ridesharing company stands to profit from that driver, the ridesharing company also has a duty of care to the other drivers and pedestrians on the road.

If a ridesharing company fails to screen its drivers properly, it arguably breaches that duty of care, and if you suffer damages, the ridesharing company may be liable. Damages include medical bills, damage to your vehicle, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other economic or noneconomic damages suffered as a result of the accident.

If you have been involved in an accident with an Uber driver or while you were a passenger in a ridesharing vehicle, you deserve fair compensation. At the time of writing, Uber is projected to be worth $69 billion, while Lyft is valued at about $23 billion. These companies should be held responsible when their unsafe hiring practices lead to your injuries.

To set up a no-cost case evaluation, contact us today. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we represent clients in all kinds of personal injury cases including against ridesharing drivers and companies.

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