Published On: Mon, Feb 13th, 2017

Woman Paralyzed in Crash Sues Uber

Companies such as Uber and Lyft claim that they offer a safer, more convenient and less expensive alternative to traditional taxi service. They also boast that they keep the roads safer by limiting the number of drunk drivers.

In cities throughout the country – especially in college towns such as Charlottesville – ridesharing is increasing in popularity. However, it is also raising concerns.

A recent lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman seriously injured in an Uber accident illustrates these concerns as well as the potential liability that ridesharing companies face when crashes occur.

Concerns About Ridesharing Companies

Recent surveys from the Pew Research Center show that the majority of ridesharing customers are college students and people under the age of 30.

The ridesharing companies are Internet-based. They keep their costs low by avoiding the need for dispatchers and by requiring freelance drivers to have their own vehicles and insurance.

The fact that someone is driving his or her own vehicle might infer that the person would take greater precautions. However, no evidence indicates that Uber or Lyft are, in fact, any safer than traditional taxi services. In fact, their detractors claim the opposite may be true.

The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association launched a website, Who’s Driving You, to raise awareness of the potential dangers that ridesharing passengers face.

Photo/Nodar Kherkheulidze via wikimedia commons

The website lists hundreds of incidents throughout the country where passengers’ lives were endangered by ridesharing drivers – either due to assaults or accidents.

The site reports more than 50 separate incidents that involved ridesharing drivers who engaged in careless or reckless behavior while they carried passengers, including driving under the influence, running red lights and speeding.

Can Ridesharing Companies Be Liable for Crashes?

A recent Dallas News report underscores the potential dangers that ridesharing users face if their driver has not been properly vetted.

The report concerns a case in which a young woman was permanently disabled when her Uber driver ran a red light and collided with a pickup truck.

Even though Uber insists that it conducts thorough background checks to ensure passenger safety, the newspaper reports that the driver in this case was found to have two prior convictions, including one for drug possession. He was also uninsured, according to the report.

The woman filed a lawsuit against the driver and Uber. (She also listed Honda in the complaint due to the fact that her vehicle flipped over after it was struck.)

The lawsuit alleges that Uber failed to provide a level of safety that the woman was reasonably entitled to expect.

Uber declined to comment on the case, The Dallas News reported. The case is still pending.

It is important to note that when people sign on to Uber, the company asserts that they agree to a list of terms and conditions, including a provision that purportedly shields the company from liability when accidents occur, according an article by the Associated Press.

A company spokesperson told the AP that Uber treats its drivers as independent contractors and not as employees, which allows the company to avoid liability when crashes occur.

If you use Uber, Lyft or another ridesharing service in Charlottesville, you should keep these safety and liability issues in mind.

If you are ever involved in a crash while being transported in one of these vehicles, you should make sure to seek immediate help from an experienced attorney.

Author: Jacob Maslow

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

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