The idea of hiring a driver to take passengers from point A to B is not a new one. The first taxi service was launched in 1605 and consisted of a horse and carriage. By 1908, taxi services were car based. But taxis are now dwindling in number due to a new form of competition: ride-share apps. Since 2010 when Uber first broke into the transportation industry, taxi companies have found themselves being edged out by riders who want a more convenient way to request transportation.
These apps, including Lyft which came onto the scene in 2012 and Juno which launched in New York in 2016, make it incredibly easy to request a ride. Simply open the app on a phone, put in the pickup location, and request a ride. No need to make a phone call or wait on a street corner, hoping that an empty cab will drive by. Recently, however, riders have begun to question the way that drivers are able to sign up and begin working for these companies, as well as the coverage provided by insurance if an accident should occur.
The Hiring Process
Unlike taxi services, ride sharing apps allow drivers to use their own cars. Applicants fill out an application online and provide the following information:
- The year, make, and model of the car that is going to be driven
- License number
- License plate number
- Proof of insurance for the vehicle
The applicant must also pass a background check and give the company access to their driving record.
With Uber, once you are approved, you can just sign into the app and go. Lyft, however, requires that a Lyft Mentor be your first ride and provide positive feedback on the car and your driving skills before you will be approved. The car must be clean, undamaged, and have all safety and comfort features in working order.
Additional Safety Measures
The app keeps a historical record of all rides given and provides GPS tracking. Riders and drivers are given the opportunity to rate one another one a five-star system. This way, if a driver receives too many complaints, the company can choose to no longer allow them to use the app as a driver. Drivers, in turn, are able to turn down riders who others have noted may be a problem.
Compared to the additional licensing process required by taxi drivers and the fact that ride-sharing drivers make significantly more money, it is easy to see why thousands are using this as a way to make extra money. What isn’t widely known, is that if the driver and passenger are involved in an accident, they may not have the coverage they expected.
Are Accidents Common?
Yes. In fact, in New York, crashes involving drivers from Uber and Lyft have gone up from 534 in June of 2014 to nearly 1,700 in June of 2016. Between May and June of 2016, there were five fatal accidents involving Uber’s black car drivers.
Researchers believe that the fact that the drivers are actively using an app while driving is contributing heavily to the increase in accidents. This isn’t surprising – distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents in the United States, even if the driver is using a hands-free system.
Why Wouldn’t Insurance Cover An Accident?
While the ride-sharing companies require drivers to provide their proof of car insurance, they don’t insist on anything other than the state minimum requirements. Additionally, what many don’t know, is that most personal insurance companies don’t provide coverage while the car is being used and the driver is “driving for profit”.
The ride-sharing companies do claim to offer additional coverage but the policies have very strict terms and conditions which may not provide coverage if the other party involved in the accident is underinsured.
On top of all of this, these companies will frequently contest whether or not they should provide coverage if the driver was injured in an accident when there were no passengers in the vehicle, saying that at that time, the driver technically wasn’t working despite the fact that they were actively using the app and searching for passengers.
How Are Damages Recovered?
Being told that medical bills and other losses won’t be covered despite the presence of two insurance policies can be quite shocking. It only makes sense that if you are injured in someone else’s car, or working for a transportation company, that you would be compensated for your injuries and other losses.
The best way to make sure that you get the compensation you need is to contact a car accident attorney as quickly as possible after an accident. They can assist you during this difficult time and fight for your rights.