Uber and Lyft Accidents Are on the Rise, What’s Being Done?
In our first series of articles related to ridesharing apps such as Uber and Lyft, we went into great detail regarding the requirements that need to be met to be employed by ridesharing platforms as a “driver-partner”. Within this writeup, we’re providing our Uber and Lyft readers what they need to know should they find themselves in an accident. We’ll also provide important information ridesharing drivers need to know whether or not they’re transporting passengers.
This article will answer the following important questions:
- What requirements have recently changed in ridesharing?
- What requirements have stayed the same in ridesharing?
- How are Uber and Lyft being held more accountable?
- What rights are Uber and Lyft riders entitled to?
- What do those using a ridesharing service need to remember?
What requirements have recently changed in ridesharing?
In April of 2018 the DMV updated their requirements for those who wish to drive for ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft. Although state DMVs specified Uber in their updated requirements for the service, we know that one would have to meet similar requirements for Lyft and any similar ridesharing app that transports passengers as well.
It’s a well documented fact that Uber is not the traditional taxi service in any sense of the word–and that’s why many riders swear by it. One of the things riders love about ridesharing apps like Uber, is that “driver-partners” use their own vehicles to take their passengers where they need to go. This provides the comfort of a clean, private vehicle as opposed to a taxi service that may not provide the cleanliness or safety riders are looking for.
As we now know, using one’s own vehicle has its own set of rules and regulations that must be met before a driver can transport passengers. While Uber employs its drivers, it’s the driver’s sole responsibility to maintain their vehicle so it continues to meet the requirements laid out by the service. Drivers should also be aware that these requirements may change at any time as the ridesharing services see fit–be it for passenger or driver safety.
What requirements have stayed the same in ridesharing?
As of our first ridesharing writeup in April 2018, there were basic requirements that still remain the same at the time of this July 2019 publication: the 21-years-old age requirement and a minimum of (1) one year of driving experience. These requirements have remained permanently in place and are there to maintain the safety of both driver-partners and the riders who need to get where they’re going safely.
Uber has specifically stipulated that if a potential driver is under the age of 23 they must have at least (3) three years of driving experience under their belt. There is no exception to this rule as of this writeup, and again, the regulation was put in place specifically to protect both the driver-partner and rider from reckless or inexperienced drivers who may be the cause of a serious accident (due to lack of experience that comes with the length time behind the wheel) that results in bodily injury or wrongful death.
How are Uber and Lyft being held more accountable?
Due to the rise in ride-share related accidents, Uber enforced new rules that hold every driver-employed by the service accountable for their own vehicle, abiding by the rules of the road, and for providing legally identifying information. Back in April 2018, the following criteria was issued and as of July 2019, still must be met before a driver can consider themselves employed by Uber (and similarly Lyft and other ridesharing services):
A social security number
Car insurance in the driver’s name (the driver cannot be a secondary party on someone else’s policy; Uber drivers must be the policyholder of their own insurance)
Uber is up front when it comes to their requirements for drivers. Drivers have always been expected to maintain clean, safe driving records and cannot have any prior criminal history upon potential employment by Uber (and thus we can expect the same of equally popular app Lyft). Drivers are subject to a full and thorough background check upon application to drive for the service; background checks as of July 2019 included the following and are up to date at the time of this publication:
Any history of DUI must be reported; Uber will find these charges on the background check they perform and a driver is disqualified from employment if they sustained a DUI charge.
History of vehicle insurance as well as instances where the driver may have operated a vehicle without insurance coverage; this does not necessarily disqualify the driver, however, they must maintain an insurance policy in their name and keep it up to date with no further discrepancies.
Instances of suspended licensure
Criminal record; certain criminal charges automatically disqualify applicants from driving for Uber, Lyft, and any other ridesharing services.
Charges of reckless driving or traffic violations may disqualify drivers for a period of time, but as with the rest of the requirements subject to background check, Uber and Lyft make decisions on a driver by driver basis in order to maintain the safety of passengers who ride with them.
What rights are Uber and Lyft riders entitled to?
There are several things passengers must do, if they are able, after sustaining an injury in an Uber or Lyft vehicle for which the ridesharing driver-partner was at-fault and they have the intent to bring litigation:
Take note of any witnesses; exchange contact information with them. This will be necessary after retaining a lawyer to represent the case. Having this information ready will save time in the long run.
Take screenshots of the Uber app that notes the time of the ride, the destination, and the receipt of payment. Write down the Uber driver’s name and license plate number.
Seek Personal Injury representation as quickly as possible after becoming injured; accidents with bodily injury incur lost wages and medical bills.
Because Uber and Lyft driver-partners are considered “independent contractors” (self employed), there are certain things that riders need to know, should the situation arise where they find themselves in accident in which they sustain injuries.
Time’s Can I Sue Uber? article explains in part:
[…]It turns out, if you’re ever in an accident involving Uber or Lyft, you likely won’t sue the ride-sharing company outright, according to multiple lawyers. Drivers are technically independent contractors, not employees, meaning the company can deny liability for crashes involving their drivers (and have done so in the past, most notoriously when a driver hit and killed a six-year old in San Francisco in 2014).
Due to the complicated nature of Uber and Lyft accidents, and the relatively new technology that goes into the companies’ business models, one of the things a lawyer will do upon accepting a case against an Uber or Lyft driver is issue Preservation of Evidence Letters to opposing parties (this is a legal proceeding we will discuss at length in our upcoming After Accident series). This letter, also known as a Spoliation Letter, is a legal means of preserving evidence integral to the accident. It keeps the driver from destroying or discarding evidence directly related to the accident indefinitely.
Briefly, the law defines spoliation letter as the following:
“[…]A spoliation letter is a notice sent to an opposing party in an accident requesting it preserve all relevant evidence. It may even mention specific evidence to preserve, such as a vehicle involved in an auto accident.”
That being said, after an accident in which the Uber or Lyft driver was at fault, passengers must, in a timely manner, seek a board certified lawyer capable of understanding the ever changing world of ridesharing laws. A cardiologist cannot perform brain surgery, and a lawyer who is not board certified should not be trusted with an Uber or Lyft related case.
It’s in the client’s best interest to get as far away as possible from law firms that do not employ Board Certified lawyers. That’s because just as most patients wouldn’t see a doctor who isn’t board certified in their area of practice, clients should never settle for an attorney who isn’t board certified in theirs. A law degree does not signify the attorney knows the nuances with which to handle litigation against a multi-billion dollar company like Uber.
What do those using a rideshare service need to remember?
Take notes, exchange information with witnesses on the scene!
Don’t delete the Uber app no matter how upsetting the accident may be. A lawyer will need receipts and the exact date and time of the accident.
Retain board certified legal counsel and don’t settle for less
Always be honest and credible when discussing the case with a lawyer!