Who is liable when an accident involves an Uber or other rideshare driver? What protections do consumers have against ridesharing services and drivers who may put them in danger? Ridesharing services are emerging throughout the country and there are precious few laws and regulations that govern their operations. This means consumers who use these services have fewer protections and limited forms of recourse when the ride doesn't go as smoothly as planned. We represent several Uber drivers who were involved in accidents and we represent several people who have been injured while riding in an Uber vehicle. Brad Pistotnik Law represents personal injury victims whether hurt by an Uber driver, a regular car drive, truck drivers and others.
In 2015, the State of Kansas passed legislation that regulated Uber and other ridesharing services operating in the state. The law requires Uber and other rideshare drivers to purchase comprehensive collision insurance for their vehicles. The legislation also prohibits Uber and others from hiring drivers who have convictions for a variety of criminal offenses. These include ID theft, DUI, and sexual assault.
Uber maintains that their insurance protects drivers and passengers. When a driver is "available" to receive passengers, liability coverage includes $50,000 bodily injury, ($100,000 bodily injury per accident,) and $25,000 property damage coverage. When a driver is "en route" to pick up a passenger, after they pick up their passenger, and until they drop the passenger at the destination, the coverage balloons to $1 million in liability, $1 million uninsured/underinsured motorist.
However, there is a significant flaw in this legislation that consumers are not often aware of. Many insurance policies void coverage for individuals who use their personal vehicles to perform ridesharing services for companies like Uber, Lyft, etc. Nationwide, only a handful of insurance companies allow their clients to engage their vehicles in commercial activities of the type offered by ridesharing services. This may create problems for a paying passenger.
Because Uber classifies its drivers as independent contractors, current car accident laws in Kansas do not allow individuals to sue Uber directly for damages exceeding the $1 million in coverage that is offered. However, individuals can pursue personal injury torts against the driver. If the driver was speeding, driving while intoxicated, driving while drowsy, or otherwise engaging in reckless behavior, they could be held liable in civil court for the personal injuries their actions caused. These factors are gaining increased attention following the death of a woman in Arizona who was killed by one of Uber's self-driving autonomous vehicles in March. It is possible that in Kansas, you can sue Uber for negligent hiring, training, supervision or negligent retention of the driver and each of these claims are distince new separate causes of action.
Uber is busy trying to remove the human element from the equation. The company is investing heavily in self-driving vehicle technology which is itself governed by an emerging field of law. Kansas legislators are preparing for the increased prevalence of such technology by holding sessions in both the Senate and House to discuss options for protecting consumers and other motorists from the personal injuries, property damage, and wrongful deaths that self-driving Uber vehicles and other autonomous vehicles may cause. As these technologies become more common, it will require updating product liability laws, insurance regulations, and many other car accident laws. It may also involve regulating ridesharing services as common carriers which would then require them to adhere to numerous state and federal regulations.
Brad Pistotnik Law helps clients stay abreast of the latest changes to car accident laws relating to public transit and ridesharing services. Our firm represents clients involved in automobile accidents that occur in Wichita, Topeka, Garden City, Dodge City, Hays, Colby, Salina, Newton, McPherson, Emporia, Winfield, Wellington, Overland Park, Shawnee,, Hays, Pittsburg, and elsewhere in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Illinois, and Missouri.
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