Ridesharing services such as Uber, Sidecar, and Lyft have been in the news a lot in the past few years. These young companies have leveraged the power of modern smartphone technology to provide a cheaper, faster alternative to a traditional taxicab service. Users can quickly use a phone app to request service, track the arrival time of their ride, and pay by credit card. But this new industry may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Fast-Moving Ridesharing Industry Outpaces Regulations
Since ridesharing services are such a new concept, the law has had a hard time catching up to the industry. Not only have regulations and oversight been lagging behind this fast-growing industry, but Uber has even admitted to instituting a program called “Greyball,” designed to provide false data about the locations and availability of their cars to evade authorities who might seek to monitor or regulate the service, all under the guise of “protecting drivers.”
Addition, other legal issues with ridesharing services that should be of concern to consumers.
Ridesharing Services May Have Lax Background Checks for Drivers
Both Uber and Lyft claim that they perform extensive background checks of their drivers, yet both refuse to implement fingerprint checks—unlike traditional taxicab services, which are required by law to fingerprint drivers. Uber and Lyft have even abandoned large and potentially lucrative urban markets over the issue. When Austin, Texas passed a law requiring fingerprinting for ridesharing drivers in 2016, both companies decided to end service in the city, rather than comply with the new law. After the fingerprint law was enacted, the city reported that 86 drivers from existing transportation services were found to have disqualifying backgrounds. Offenses that may show up in a background check and disqualify a driver can include drunk-driving offenses, reckless driving, dealing drugs, engaging in prostitution, fraud, arson, violent crimes, and more.
Rideshare Negligence and Wrongful Death Lawsuits
More than one lawsuit has been filed against Uber related to crimes allegedly committed by its drivers. Two separate suits were filed in 2016, each from women alleging sexual assault. The company tried to disclaim responsibility since drivers are considered contractors, not employees, but a judge ruled that this was not enough to shield the company from liability. In fact, in many cities drivers have been filing their own lawsuits against the company over this same issue, seeking to be recognized as employees rather than contractors.
A third woman filed a suit against Uber last year, as well. Her suit alleged that the company’s negligence resulted in being raped by a driver, despite the company’s claims of being a “safer” way to get around. Her allegations include the claim that in 2014, an Uber driver drugged her with a tainted water bottle and then proceeded to rape her while she was unconscious. The driver was arrested and, after initially being charged with assault with an intent to rape and rape of an unconscious person, did not contest a reduced charge of criminal sexual battery; in addition to serving jail time, he is now required to be registered as a sex offender.
Lawsuits that stem from assaults or alleged assaults aren’t the only problems that ridesharing companies face. Uber and Lyft are both facing wrongful death and other lawsuits across the country. In one case, an Uber driver hit two children in a San Francisco crosswalk, which resulted in the death of a six-year-old girl. Lyft also faces two lawsuits in Florida for fatal accidents involving motorcycles.
What to Do After a Ridesharing Accident
If you’re involved in an accident with a ridesharing driver, it’s important to talk to an attorney to help you understand your rights. The laws and complex insurance issues surrounding ridesharing services are an ever-shifting patchwork of city and state regulations that can confuse someone who is already reeling from a serious accident, resulting in potential harm to a future legal case. Whether you’re a passenger in a rideshare or you’ve been struck by a rideshare driver, it can quickly become an overwhelming situation as multiple attorneys, insurance companies, and ridesharing company representatives attempt to contact you after the accident, possibly with conflicting information or agendas that protect the interests of other parties at your expense.
Wayne Wright is a top trial attorney in America, and has spent 40 years standing up for victims that have suffered due to corporate negligence and greed. Give him a chance to hear your story.