Uber, and other “rideshare” companies, have become more and more popular over the last few years. However, as the amount of people using rideshare services has increased, so to have accidents involving rideshare vehicles.
Fortunately, Uber drivers can be held liable for damages if their negligence caused an accident.
Uber, most likely does not own the vehicle the Uber driver was driving. However, if the owner of the vehicle is different from the driver, the owner will be held liable for the driver’s negligence.
So, you can sue the driver and owner of the car for the defendant’s negligence, but what about Uber?
Uber will argue that since they were not driving the car, and did not own the car, they should not be held responsible. Uber will argue that their drivers are independent contractors, not employees.
However, at least one New York Court has held that Uber drivers are employees of Uber. In Matter of Lowry (Uber Tech., Inc – Commissioner of Labor), the Appellate Division Court upheld the Commissioner of Labor’s finding that an Uber driver is an employee of Uber and entitled to unemployment benefits. The court so held because of the many requirements that Uber imposes on drivers. So, if the Uber driver is an employee of Uber, and the driver was in the act of working for Uber when the accident happened, Uber should be held vicariously liable for the negligence of the driver due to the employee-employer relationship.
Another avenue to holding Uber liable, is that the Uber smartphone application that drivers must use, create a distraction to the drivers. One cause of many accidents is drivers being distracted by their phone and GPS. Uber, under company policy, are only supposed to use their phone/phone gps when they parked or legally stopped. However, drivers often do not follow this rule. Another common cause of accidents is driver fatigue, which is often the result of drivers working long hours.
However, navigating rideshare lawsuits can be tricky, as more entities and insurance policies are involved than in a usual car accident. The vehicle owner and Uber may each have their own insurance policy, and Uber and the Uber driver will likely have their own separate attorneys.
Further, the amount of available insurance may be different depending on whether the accident occurs while the Uber driver is using the app to look for fares, has accepted a fare through the app but not yet picked up the passenger, or if the Uber passenger is already in the vehicle. There also may be different amounts of available insurance depending on where the accident happened, whether within New York City or without. Finally, Uber may insist that the parties go to arbitration, as passengers who call for an Uber through the app on their phone, will likely have consented to arbitration through accepting the app terms and conditions.
It is important to remember that, while many rideshare drivers do a wonderful job, most are not professional drivers in a traditional sense. The vast majority have less experience and certifications than standard taxi and other transportation companies’ drivers do.
If you were injured due to the negligence of an Uber driver you should contact a New York Personal Injury attorney with experience handling Uber Cases. For a free consultation the lawyers at Zalman Schnurman & Miner PC can be reached at 1-800LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463).