As workers and unemployed individuals continue to feel an increasingly tightened financial pinch, apps like Uber and SideCar are sky-rocketing in popularity. These smartphone apps give users an easy way to find affordable transportation from private drivers in a city. Gone are the days of spending $10-20 to travel a couple miles in cities like New York City or Chicago. Instead, Uber and other ride-sharing apps allow individuals to find the lowest rates in the area. While a cab driver may charge $40 for a single ride to the airport, a private driver may be willing to make the drive for $20.
While ride-sharing programs may seem like a great way to cut costs for the average person trying to save some money, there are also inherent risks in using these programs. A passenger may not fully consider the driving record of the individual being hired for transportation. Drivers who register with these programs may be willing to take greater risks, such as driving while intoxicated, due to the lack of licensing regulations governing ride-sharing programs. Unlike cab drivers, private drivers do not have their livelihood at stake in making a commute with passengers who purchase services from sites like Uber.
Chicago is one city that is aggressively pursuing the regulation of the ride-sharing industry due to the risks posed to passengers. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed regulations that will impact the ride-sharing industry if they are passed. Currently, politicians have prolonged the vote on the announced regulations until next month. Traditional taxi cab companies (look at our taxi page here) are asserting that the new regulations give ride-sharing companies a competitive edge, while ride-sharing companies fully support the new proposals.
Regulations for Ride-Sharing Programs
The new regulations will provide private drivers with the option of obtaining a chauffer’s license, and these drivers do not have to meet certain hour requirements. Private drivers will be able to use the license at their leisure and may maintain full-time employment. Cities will also have the power to cap rates for “surge pricing.” Surge pricing refers to the pricing that drivers charge during peak periods, such as rush hour. Further, two categories of ride-sharing licenses would be created. Drivers who work less than 20 hours a week would need to acquire a Class A license, while drivers who work more than 20 hours a week would need to secure a Class B license.
Potential Dangers for Passengers
Passengers need to be aware of the risks that are associated with ride-sharing programs in regards to insurance coverage. Many insurance policies currently do not provide coverage to drivers when a vehicle is used for commercial purposes. If a driver is operating his or her vehicle for a profit on sites like Uber, he or she may not be covered in the event of an accident. An injured passenger could potentially be unable to recover compensation from the driver’s insurance company. Laws are also unclear in regards to whether a passenger could recover compensation from his or her own insurance company.
A passenger may want to consider using a ride-sharing program that is administered by a rental car company, such as Hertz. Rental car companies have started creating their own ride-sharing programs that are covered under insurance policies. This means that a passenger who became injured in an accident would be able to recover compensation under the rental car company’s insurance policy.
When a passenger uses a ride-sharing program, he or she may have no way of quickly knowing whether a driver has a criminal record. An individual may be posing as a driver and actually have intentions to rob or assault the passenger. Passengers take on this risk when they choose to use ride-sharing service apps without fully researching the driver that they choose to hire.
Passengers also take on the risk of hiring young, elderly or inexperienced drivers through smartphone apps like Uber. A young person or elderly person may only want to make some fast cash and may not have excellent driving skills. Some drivers may also be guilty of cramming in schedule rides in an effort to maximize their profitability during the day. A driver may become careless or reckless in speeding on roads and become involved in accidents as a result.
Contact an Auto Injury Attorney for Assistance With An Accident With An Uber or SideCar Vehicle
If you have recently used a ride-sharing service and have been involved in an accident, you may want to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. State and city governments are continuing to develop regulations for ride-sharing programs, so many laws remain unclear. An auto accident lawyer can stand up for your rights and help you determine whether you have a valid legal claim against a driver or insurance company.