In recent years, ride-hailing, ride-sharing or ride-booking services have become increasingly popular. People now request an Uber or a Lyft where they would have hailed a taxi in the past.
The increase in Uber use has been accompanied by a spike in Uber car accidents. Given that Uber uses independent contractors as drivers, this is a complicated area of the law. You should contact experienced Uber car accident attorneys in Maryland if you have been hurt in a wreck.
Uber, Lyft, and Curb use GPS and smartphones to conduct their business. However, at the end of the day, you are still in the hands of a human being.
Uber does not have stringent requirements for its drivers like bus and truck drivers who must hold a commercial driver’s license. Uber drivers often put in long hours on chaotic urban streets and may crash after becoming fatigued.
What is the Uber Ride-Hailing Service?
Since it was set up in 2009, Uber has grown to more than 40 million users, spread across hundreds of cities in over 84 countries, reports Ridester.com.
While Lyft claims it is growing at a faster rate than Uber, there is no doubt that Uber remains the market leader with about 77 percent of the ride-hailing business, reported The Verge.
Uber defied the model of a typical transportation service like a taxi company. It doesn’t own its own vehicles or manage its fleet. Uber describes itself as a “technology platform.”
Uber’s smartphone app connects driver-partners with riders who have downloaded the app in real-time.
Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are commonly and inaccurately described as ‘ridesharing’ services. Although Uber has recently started a carpooling service, the term ‘ridesharing’ typically refers to people sharing a ride. This is not the model used by Uber or Lyft. However, the companies have referred to themselves as ridesharing operations. Nevertheless, the vast majority of services that Uber and Lyft and others provide mimics a traditional taxi or driver service.
Uber’s success is linked to the fact it provides a more reasonably-priced alternative to riding in taxicabs. People who use its service already have their credit card details stored on their apps. There is no issue of riders not having funds and the driver is paid via the app. The app allows riders to accurately track where their Uber is on a virtual map.
Uber has faced widespread criticism over its culture, methods, and the treatment of its drivers. Its cars flooded cities without permission, forcing local lawmakers onto the back foot.
In 2014, Colorado passed the first ride-sharing legislation in the country. Since then, hundreds of U.S. jurisdictions have adopted ordinances recognizing Uber and Lyft as a new type of transit provider known as “transportation network companies.” Each government draws up policies to codify the insurance coverage for ride-hailing companies, background-check policies, and inspection protocols.
Uber is one of the most successful start-ups in history. It was valued at over $50 billion by 2015.
Uber Accidents in Maryland Cause Deaths and Injuries
Uber passengers are as vulnerable as any other passengers on the roads to the actions of their drivers or other drivers. Some commentators claim they face greater risks.
Maryland has seen some terrible injuries to Uber riders. In April 2018, Crofton Patch reported on how a driver from Bowie caused a fiery crash that killed a Crofton man who was a passenger in an Uber vehicle. Anne Arundel County Police reported the accident on Crain Highway (MD-3) southbound at Annapolis Road (MD-175) in Gambrills.
Police said a Chevrolet Equinox was heading southbound on Crain Highway when it struck a 2007 Toyota Corolla traveling eastbound on MD-175. The Toyota, which was operating as an Uber, burst into flames, killing the passenger.
Although Uber drivers may be more fatigued than others on the road, the embryonic nature of the business means few figures are available on the frequency of accidents involving Uber drivers. Highway agencies don’t break down accidents involving Uber drivers in the same way as those involving drunk drivers, cyclists or truckers.
Do Driving Incentives Lead to More Uber Wrecks?
Uber uses incentives to encourage its drivers to put in long hours and get more rides. These include bonuses for hitting targets. These incentives mirror those used by the makers of video games to hook players.
An Uber driver’s app lists his or her daily earnings prominently. The driver has to turn off the app to stop receiving calls. Uber and Lyft also offer bonuses for drivers who hit a certain number of rides. Behavioral economists describe this as “income targeting.” It steers Uber and Lyft drivers to work longer hours on days where demand is down.
Uber uses forms of encouragement to praise Uber drivers who meet certain goals. Uber encourages ‘binge driving” by sending riders calls before they have dropped off existing rides. The app directs drivers to areas of higher demand and it highlights parts of a city such as Baltimore where demand is highest.
With increasing numbers of drivers signing up to Uber as a major source of income, these incentives can be enticing and a cause of more Uber and Lyft car accidents.
Is the Lack of Vetting of Uber Drivers a Cause of Accidents?
Uber drivers are not subject to the strict regulation seen in the taxicab industry. Their drivers do not take part in the same level of vetting.
In 2017, The Boston Globe reported more than 8,000 Uber and Lyft drivers were taken off Massachusetts roads after they failed a new state background check. Their infractions ranged from license suspensions for drunken and reckless driving to sexual offenses and violent crimes, according to records.
The state looked at the criminal and driving records of almost 71,000 drivers who had passed reviews by the companies and rejected 8,206 — about 11 percent of them.
Uber uses a company called Checkr to perform free background checks. However, a spate of criminal charges against Uber drivers has called the system into question.
There is plenty of evidence that drivers slip through the net. In 2018, CNN reported 103 Uber drivers in the United States were accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years. At least 31 drivers were convicted for crimes ranging from touching and false imprisonment to rape. Numerous criminal and civil cases are pending.
Some drivers had previous sexual assault convictions. In a case in Seattle, a driver began driving for Lyft after Uber discharged him. He sexually assaulted a Lyft rider. In another case, a driver admitted indecent exposure and the false imprisonment of an Uber passenger in San Diego. He admitted battery in a separate incident involving a Lyft passenger.
The media has also highlighted cases of Uber drivers who are drunk. Uber checks drivers’ past convictions but some slip through the net.
What Makes Uber Rides Dangerous for Passengers?
Although assaults by Uber drivers and an instance in which an Uber driver carried out a mass shooting in Michigan made headlines, the potential for distraction poses one of the most significant dangers to Uber passengers.
The Uber app can only work on a smartphone. The driver must routinely take his eyes off the road and his hand off the wheel to use the app. This may happen when the driver receives his next trip on a ride, reroutes a location, changes settings or calls a rider. Although Uber tells drivers to mount their smartphones on hands-free holders, the potential for distraction remains.
The directions on the Uber app are not always accurate and a rider may become distracted trying to work out where he or she is going.
An Uber driver may also fail to report an accident to the company. This can be a problem for passengers who seek to sue Uber, only to find there is no record of an accident.
How Old Are Uber Cars?
Uber lacks the stringent regulations relating to cars required in the taxicab industry. However, Uber has requirements relating to the age of cars which are meant to ensure passengers are not transported in dangerous vehicles.
The company states all vehicles being used for rides on the Uber app must meet the following requirements:
- Have four doors and be able to transport a minimum of four passengers;
- Be 15 years old or newer;
- The vehicle’s title cannot be salvaged, reconstructed, or rebuilt.
- Rental vehicles, with the exception of those from an approved Uber lender, are not allowed.
- Vehicles cannot have any cosmetic damage, commercial branding, missing parts, or taxi paint jobs.
Drivers who are in a vehicle they do not personally own must be listed as an insured driver on that vehicle’s insurance policy. Uber cannot approve a vehicle if the driver-partner’s name is not on the insurance document.
There is plenty of leeway in these regulations to allow cars that are unsafe but under 15 years old to be on the road.
What Are the Rights of Passengers in Uber Accidents?
Passengers who take an Uber have a right to expect safe trips that deliver them to the correct place.
While the vast majority of Uber trips go without a hitch, passengers are vulnerable to the actions of their drivers. Passengers are very rarely to blame for their accidents.
Passengers who are hurt in accidents while riding in Uber cars are typically either injured due to the actions of the Uber driver or another driver. When another driver is to blame, the passenger can go after that at-fault driver and his or her insurance policy. The situation with an Uber driver is more complex. It often makes sense to talk to Uber car accident attorneys in Maryland in this scenario.
Whose Insurance Applies in an Uber Car Accident in Maryland?
If you have been hurt as an Uber passenger, you will want to sue the company. This proved to be problematic in the past. Uber drivers are independent contractors, meaning the ride-hailing company can claim it’s not responsible.
In an infamous case in San Francisco in 2014, Uber sought to evade liability after a driver killed a six-year-old child on a crosswalk when looking at his app.
The legal situation is now more positive for people hurt by Uber and Lyft drivers. If an accident occurs during the course of your trip and your ride-sharing driver is at fault, you are covered under a $1 million liability policy that both Uber and Lyft have bought into.
This policy also has $1 million in uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage. If you are hurt in an accident by the negligence of someone other than the Uber driver, you can still make a claim on this $1 million policy even if the at-fault driver does not have $1 million in coverage.
The UIM option will only apply if the driver responsible for your injuries is unknown, lacks car insurance, or doesn’t have enough car insurance to pay for your injuries.
Although the picture is straightforward when the Uber driver crashes the car during a ride, a gray area may be encountered if the driver is not on a trip with customers or picking up a passenger but is driving around with the app on or waiting for a pickup.
Uber has made it clear its insurance kicks in when the driver has accepted a pickup and is driving to his passenger. The so-called “insurance gap” relates to the time the driver has the app on but is not heading to a fare.
Uber has recently started offering limited liability coverage in this period – up to $50,000 injury coverage per person and $25,000 property damage.
However, if an accident occurs at this time, neither Uber nor the driver’s own insurance company may cover the full extent of injuries or property damage incurred, leaving both the driver and anyone injured facing a potential gap in coverage.
What Companies Offer Rideshare Insurance in Maryland?
In recent years, more insurance companies have attempted to close the gap by offering ‘ride-share insurance.’
Uber and Lyft drivers in Maryland now have options for rideshare insurance. Companies including Allstate, Erie, Farmers, GEICO, Liberty Mutual, State Farm, and USAA offer rideshare insurance in Maryland.
Pedestrian Injuries in Uber Crashes
The infamous case in San Francisco highlighted how Uber may dispute a pedestrian accident that occurs when a driver is not transporting passengers. In Arizona in 2018, another scenario was raised when a driverless Uber car hit and killed a female pedestrian as she crossed the road in Tempe.
It appears the car failed to stop because a system that allowed for emergency stops in driverless cars was disabled.
The incident resulted in Uber ending its trial with driverless cars in Arizona. Driverless cars raise a set of new questions over whether liability should be transferred to a car manufacturer.
What To Do If You are Involved in an Uber Accident?
People who are involved in a car crash should always take certain steps. There are special considerations if you are involved in accidents with an Uber or a Lyft car. If you are hurt by a ride-hailing service car you should:
- Get help. Always call 911 immediately. You should seek medical help even if you are unsure if you are injured. It’s important to call the police to compile an accident report after an Uber wreck.
- Get information. Obtain the information of the other driver involved in the Uber crash in Maryland. You should find out the name, driver’s license number, and insurance information. Make sure to check if the drier is operating for Uber or Lyft and get contact information for that company. Passengers who are injured should get their driver’s details and obtain information from witnesses at the scene.
- Take pictures. Images of the accident scene can be taken with your smartphone. You can even interview willing witnesses with your camera’s video.
- Wait for the police. Passengers involved in Uber accidents should wait for the police to arrive to give a statement whether or not they believe they sustained injuries.
- Call an Uber car accident injury attorney. Accidents involving Uber or Lyft can be complicated. You should seek the advice of a lawyer if you were hurt.
Contact Experienced Uber Car Accident Attorneys in Maryland
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we are handling increasing numbers of accidents involving Uber passengers or drivers who were injured in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland. This reflects the increasing popularity of these services.
These cases are often complex by their very nature. It’s important to contact a seasoned Maryland Uber accident lawyer as soon as possible. Call us today for a free consultation at (410) 694-7291.