Uber: Rider Beware?

On Wednesday, May 27, SFGate reported on Uber’s proposed new headquarters to be built in San Francisco’s Mission Bay. Meanwhile, as Uber is planning the move, its legal status across the United States is far from settled. Many jurisdictions have banned Uber and other ridesharing services from operating. We’ve already discussed some of the aspects of Uber, and other ridesharing services, to be aware of in a previous blog post. We’ve discussed the danger that can be posed by Uber drivers who haven’t been properly screened, and some of the ways that criminals have used Uber to prey on unsuspecting passengers. But what happens in a situation that is less nefarious – that is almost ordinary? What happens if you’re in an Uber and you get into an accident?

Cities and States Reject Ridesharing

Portland, Oregon sued Uber in December of 2014 for operating illegally. According to Forbes, the lawsuit alleged that Uber was operating illegally and asked that the court declare that Uber would be subject to Portland’s taxi regulations, as well as to order that Uber stop operations until the City could update regulations to address ridesharing. According to the Los Angeles Times, the city of Portland dropped its lawsuit after Uber agreed to suspend ridesharing in the city until April of 2015. In the meantime, the city administration crafted new regulations for ridesharing regarding issues such as pricing, insurance, and inspections.  NBC reported that in April, Uber and Lyft launched a four month pilot program in Portland.

San Francisco, as it’s about to become headquarters to Uber, was one of those cities. According to CBS, District Attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against Uber in December of 2014.  Among the allegations are claims that Uber is in violation of California state regulations governing the measurement and calculation of fares. According to another SFGate article, as of March of 2015, that case is still pending.

Those are just a couple of examples of states either placing limits on ridesharing or rejecting it altogether. According to the Insurance Journal, in recent months all 50 states have considered legislation allowing ridesharing – often while limiting operations or imposing other requirements. 17 states have passed ridesharing legislation.

Auto Insurance, Car Accidents, and Uber

One issue that has plagued the increase in ridesharing is the lack of appropriate insurance coverage. Deemed the “insurance gap,” the National Association of Insurance Commissioners explains that an issue arises when rideshare drivers are use personal cars, that are covered by personal auto insurance policies, for commercial activity, while they are not covered by commercial auto insurance policies. Both Uber and Lyft provide some commercial coverage while a driver is engaged in ridesharing, but the coverage leaves gaps – such as lack of commercial coverage for accidents that occur while a driver is logged on and waiting to be matched with a passenger.

These issues are not strangers to San Francisco. According to SFGate, On New Year’s Eve of 2013, an Uber driver failed to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, and had an accident that killed a young girl. Uber denied responsibility for the accident, emphasizing that the driver was not an employee, was not picking up a fare or responding to a fare request.

The case helped prompt the passage of a recent law in California that requires ridesharing company’s commercial insurance coverage to kick in as soon as the app is on, regardless of whether a driver has been matched with, is en route to, or is currently carrying a fare.

 

With so many legal changes happening so fast in so many jurisdictions, the legal status of Uber and other rideshare companies are in flux and it can be hard to know where to turn. If you or your loved one is in an auto accident involving ridesharing, contact our attorneys. They can help you understand the nuances of the law and fight to get you the justice you deserve.

 

See Related Blog Posts:

The Uncertain Legal Status of Uber and Other Ride-Share Companies

Limo Fire Tragedy and California Common Carrier Law

San Francisco Lawyer Comments on Taxi Accident Law After Pedestrian Dies in Cab Collision