Personal Injury Considerations of Ride-Sharing Apps

May 22, 2019 | Via Law Techology Today

Ride-sharing apps have changed the way people think about and use transportation around the world. Indeed, Uber now operates in 260 cities and 45 countries. Many fans of these apps tout the ease of use of ride-sharing services as well as some decreases in drunk driving accidents and increases in accessibility for certain populations.

But ride-sharing services do not come without risks to passengers and to the environment. Uber and Lyft, the two most popular ride-sharing apps, have been linked to a rise in traffic deaths. Moreover, the increases in traffic congestion and environmental pollution have some concerned. As a personal injury attorney, I have witnessed ride-sharing services pose the following problems for passengers:

  1. Drivers who have not been screened or trained: Unlike taxicab drivers, the background checks of Uber and Lyft drivers seem to be minimal at best. In many cities, taxi drivers must undergo FBI background checks and complete specific taxicab training. While ride-share companies purport to conduct background checks, there have also been dozens, if not hundreds, of reported incidents of assault by ride-share drivers. In my firm alone, we have several cases involving sexual assault as well as simple assault. My children and their friends have reported their own experiences where ride-share drivers offer to sell them drugs and after the ride start texting underage girls.
  2. If the driver of a ride-sharing service assaults a passenger, the driver and the ride-share company could be liable for civil, and possibly criminal, charges. Determining civil liability can be tricky. Ordinarily, an employer has a duty of care to hire employees in a non-negligent manner. An employer is generally held responsible for the actions of an employee during the course of their employment. But for ride-sharing services, drivers are currently considered independent contractors who bring their own equipment and set their own hours. This position is being challenged by lawsuits in California and Massachusetts. Independent contractors are not employees, so the ride-share companies could possibly escape liability for their failure to properly screen drivers.

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