Every single day, millions of Americans hop in a ‘rideshare’ vehicle to get where they are going. You know the companies: Uber, Lyft, Via… And you know they are a way to save money on transportation. Rideshare transportation has changed the face of getting around: both in big cities where they fill in the gaps between public transportation and are cheaper than cabs, and in rural areas where taxis do not offer many options.
The apps are convenient. You do not need cash. And you get to track exactly where you are going. The technology is unquestionably powerful. And it even gives users the opportunity to identify a driver who may have given them a bad ride or done something dangerous. But these services actually expose riders to other risks that the companies do not have the ability to protect riders from.
At the outset, these companies have argued that they are not taxi or livery services, subject to the rules and licensing and regulations that cities impose on those businesses. They designate themselves as “Transportation Network Companies,” or TNC’s. They also argue that their technology merely connects riders with drivers who “share” a ride to the destination. Thus, the TNC’s have bypassed any need to vet the drivers who they allow to use their Networks. This means that there were no requirements for background checks, much less oversight or monitoring of whether the drivers were qualified to be transporting other human beings and could do so safely.
Recently, the State of Illinois has taken steps to impose new regulations on the industry (Credit: Chicago Tribune, August 9, 2018). Illinois now requires the companies to perform background checks prior to allowing drivers to connect to riders. Per Illinois Senate Democrats: “…before the new law prospective drivers were only required to give their address, age, driver’s license number, motor vehicle registration and automobile insurance liability.” The new law requires the full name, full social, and full date of birth.
The reality is that not all Rideshare drivers are qualified to drive you to your destination. The Rideshare company must vet them to make sure they pass a background check. Companies sought to avoid responsibility for things that happen to passengers, but it is not fair for a company to do the same work that a taxi dispatch service does and then wash their hands of assaults by drivers, crashes caused by unlicensed drivers, or other mayhem caused by a failure to do basic due diligence.
The State of Illinois was not alone in announcing new measures to impose regulations on this largely-unregulated industry. This week, New York City placed a temporary cap on the number of vehicles using the Uber, Lyft and other Rideshare platforms in the city. The measure also ensures a minimum hourly wage for drivers. These measures also regulate TNC companies that had argued that they were beyond the reach of any laws.
However, laws are in place so that Cities and States can regulate the safety of transportation. They do this by ensuring that only qualified drivers are on the road, by making sure that drivers are not exploited by a company that is not really even their employer, by setting forth insurance requirements so that people who are injured as a result of Rideshare drivers can get justice.
When you get injured in a vehicle crash, you’ll have all kinds of questions. If your injury involves a Rideshare vehicle, in any way, you will have even more questions about who is responsible, how insurance works, and how to initiate your claim. Call us here at Coogan Gallagher and we can get you the answers you deserve.