Taxi & Ridesharing Collisions: Who Is Liable?
For those who are familiar with the new transportation trend and phenomenon of ridesharing, companies like Uber and Lyft have similarities with taxi companies but are much cheaper and convenient. This is certainly the experience for customers when the ride goes well. Sadly, accidents involving rideshare vehicles do happen. Collisions involving an Uber or Lyft driver show the significant differences between these services and more traditional taxi companies, and riders should understand the possible risks before choosing to hail a ride home.
Taxi Company & Accident Liability
There are specific sets of laws already in place to regulate traditional taxi companies. Cabs are classified as “common carriers,” meaning that they are available to the public use for transportation, even though they are operated by a private entity. There is a much higher standard of care in place for common carriers, including regular maintenance inspections and criminal background checks for drivers. Commercial vehicle insurance is also mandatory for all taxi services to make sure that anyone who is injured due to the negligence of a driver or a vehicle malfunction is able to obtain fair compensation. Although, from experience, many taxicabs are incredibly underinsured.
No business is eagerly waiting to accept liability, and in the event of a crash, attorneys from the taxi company and its insurance provider may respond to the scene with alarming speed and start searching for any other party who might be partially at-fault for the accident. This could include the taxi passenger if it can be contested that he or she was “distracting” or “difficult” and somehow contributed to the crash. If you are riding in a taxi cab that is involved in an accident, provide your statement to the police as soon as you can and gather contact information from potential witnesses who can possibly support your version of events. It’s advised that crash victims seek the aid of a qualified New Jersey personal injury lawyer immediately after the collision to help you recover the compensation you need for your injuries and to protect you from any potential efforts by the taxi company to deflect possible blame for the accident.
Crashes Involving Uber & Lyft Drivers
Despite these concerns, accident claims involving taxi cab companies are rather predictable. The company is liable for the actions of their employees while they are on the job, as well as for the maintenance of their company vehicles. However, according to ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, they are not transportation companies. They argue that they provide a communication service that allows freelance drivers to connect with customers who are looking for rides. Drivers are not considered direct employees of these companies, and the vehicles used to transport passengers are not owned by the ridesharing service. However, those vehicles are still being used for a commercial purpose, meaning that your Uber driver’s personal car insurance policy will not cover you in the event of a crash. Lyft and Uber drivers are supposed to tell their insurance providers that they use their cars for commercial purposes and obtain appropriate —and expensive— insurance coverage. The lack of oversight usually means that his requirement is not always met. Some insurance providers have reacted to this new reality and are now offering insurance policy riders for these drivers.
Ridesharing services go to great lengths to protect themselves from any liability relating to crashes involving their drivers. The driver contract for Uber specifically states that the driver is responsible for any damages sustained to his or her passengers during a ride. Simultaneously, the user agreement for Uber passengers renounces any liability for damages that happen relating to the services provided by Uber. Due to the high number of people who fail to read the Terms of Service on their smartphone apps, this has the chance to result in many passengers who think they are protected in the event of an accident and who will be completely unprepared when their Uber driver is involved in a collision.
New Jersey Rideshare Laws
In New Jersey, we have fortunately recognized the possible threat to public safety posed by a transportation system with no oversight or regulation and has implemented strict rules on ridesharing companies through legislation. The new law mandates that these services conduct background checks on prospective drivers in accordance with standards set by the state’s Attorney General and reject any applications with a history of reckless driving, DUI, or sexual assault. Also, companies like Uber and Lyft must maintain commercial auto insurance policies at a minimum of $1.5 million to cover damages resulting from car crashes involving their services. It should be noted that this coverage is only applicable in certain cases, such as when a passenger is actually riding in the vehicle.
While this new bill, deemed the Transportation Network Company Safety and Regulatory Act, takes many crucial steps to protect ridesharing passengers, any law is only as capable as its enforcement. Also, there still is some confusion concerning liability in crashes that don’t involve a passenger in the rideshare vehicles, such as when a driver is en route to pick up a passenger. Passengers should always ride with caution and, in the event of a crash involving a rideshare vehicle, consult with a qualified New Jersey Uber/Lyft crash attorney about recovering medical compensation.
Uber/Lyft Accidents in New Jersey
While rideshare services like to claim they are making the roadways safer, recent studies have found that this may not be the case. A study found that there has been as much as a 3 percent increase in roadway fatalities since Uber hit the roads. This means as many as 1,100 more people are dying each year due to rideshare crashes.
Injured parties may be unsure of how to recover compensation after a crash, but a New Jersey rideshare accident lawyer can help. Brady, Brady, & Reilly, LLC understand the law and how these rideshare companies try to avoid liability for an accident. Contact our offices today at (201) 997- 0030 to discuss your case.