Since civilization has found need to travel it has also repeatedly found ways to make travel better. The desire and necessity of getting around has spawned billion-dollar automotive industries and billions of consumers over the ages. From improving a passenger’s comfort to developing safer forms of transport and on to making travel faster, companies have dedicated millions of man-hours to making the best possible forms of transportation while still driving profit for the companies who manufacture transportation devices.
In recent history, ride-sharing networks have been developed to allow passengers to order a driver at the touch of a button and pay without ever opening a wallet. Companies like Lyft and Uber have reached millions, made millions, and do not seem to be slowing down any time soon.
As these companies expand around the world and consume other forms of the transportation market, it has been and will continue to be interesting and existentially terrifying to see the predictable and unpredictable ways in these cutting edge companies will effect the marketplace, the jobs market and individual people.
Last April, Uber decisively ended a legislative battle in Maryland allowing it to operate under a much simpler legal framework than a traditional taxi company. Clearing the way for ride-share companies in a legal sense is certainly a victory from their perspective but may present some issues for their customers.
Ride-share companies have undeniably transformed the face of the taxicab industry. Uber and Lyft have all but eradicated the need for a patron to stand outside or even wait for a ride. There is no longer any need to even carry currency of any form to pay the driver; all of that is handled from the cell phone app. The app further allows for GPS tracking of the driver and the destination. The company has promised drivers can earn around $1500 per week and even pays drivers more during “peak times,” or the times when there is more demand for the service. The applications allow customers to pick a certain size or type of car and even send a photo of the driver and the car prior to the driver’s arrival. Never before have the worlds of technology and transportation collided in such an innovative manner. Convenience and reliability is the name of the game here.
As with all things that seem too simple to be true, there are some hang-ups to the service. While Uber has already seen its share of lawsuits across the country, it has dodged a number of others. Namely, when it comes to the protections offered to patrons through auto insurance, Uber in particular seems to come up short. Traditionally, cab drivers carry commercial insurance policies whether they are carrying a passenger at the moment of the accident or not. Uber, for quite some time, was only providing auto insurance for drivers if they were carrying a passenger when they caused an accident. This meant that those injured by “Uber drivers” were not able to hold the driver’s employer, Uber, liable for the driver’s action - the opposite of traditional commercial claim. Because Uber drivers drive their own personal cars, Uber argued, the driver’s personal insurance should cover any injuries. Currently, Maryland law mandates that an Uber driver have up to $100,000.00 in insurance coverage.
Depending upon the circumstances of an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver, an injured person may face obstacles to recovering. Under certain circumstances, the host company may have a non-delegable duty and cannot evade liability by the mere labeling of it's employee as a contractor. If you have been involved in a serious car accident with an operator of a ride-sharing vehicle such as Uber or Lyft, contact your local Maryland lawyers at Bob Katz Law for advice.