Update: Uber and Lyft Lawsuits on the Rise, Riders Stay Safe, Drivers Be Aware

In our first series of articles related to Rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft, we went into great detail regarding the requirements that need be met to be employed by the platforms. In this article, we’re providing our Uber and Lyft riding readers what they need to know should they find themselves in an accident while on a ride. We'll always provide important information Rideshare drivers (or “partners”) need to know whether or not they’re transporting passengers.

What changed?

In April of 2018 the DMV has updated their requirements for those who wish to drive for ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft. Although the DMV specified Uber in its updated requirements for the service, we know that one would have to meet similar requirements for Lyft and any similar app that transports passengers as well.

It’s a well documented fact that Uber is not a 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 Rideshare 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.

 It’s a well documented fact that Uber is not a traditional taxi service in any sense of the word–and that’s why many riders swear by it.  ©BigStockPhoto

It’s a well documented fact that Uber is not a traditional taxi service in any sense of the word–and that’s why many riders swear by it. ©BigStockPhoto

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 Rideshare services see fit–be it for passenger or driver safety.

What stayed the same?

As of April 2018 there were basic requirements that remained the same, and are still the same at the time of this publication in September of 2018: the age requirement 21-years-old, 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 drivers and riders.

Uber also stipulated specifically 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 (or behind the wheel). There is no exception to this rule as of this publication, and again, the regulation was put in place specifically to protect both driver and rider from reckless or inexperienced drivers who may be the cause of a serious accident that results in bodily injury or fatalities.

More accountable than ever

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 must be met before a driver can consider themselves employed by Uber:

  • A social security number

  • Car insurance in the driver’s name (the driver cannot be a party on someone else’s policy)

 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.  ©BigStockPhoto

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. ©BigStockPhoto

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. This transparency then so applies to the driver as well. Drivers are subject to a full background check upon application to drive for the service; background checks as of April 2018 included the following and are up to date at the time of this publication:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Instances of suspended licensure

  4. Criminal record; certain criminal charges automatically disqualify applicants from driving for Uber, Lyft, and any other Rideshare services.

  5. 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.

Riders have rights

There are several things passengers must do, if they are able, after sustaining an injury in an Uber or Lyft vehicle for which the Rideshare driver was at-fault and they have the intent to bring litigation:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 drivers 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).

 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.  ©BigStockPhoto

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. ©BigStockPhoto

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:

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 Rideshare 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.

Riders 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!

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