Am I Safe in an Uber?

Ridesharing services have been advancing in the app world over the last few years. Quite a few companies have become enormously popular for their efficiency and ease compared to traditional taxi companies. GPS based with pre-set payment settings, the whole interaction takes place online and even shows you a map counting down the moments until your driver arrives. Uber has quickly become a household name, and alongside Lyft, dominate the ridesharing sphere. There are, however, a number of safety concerns associated with the process. It is a rather strange concept to get into a stranger’s personal car and trust them to drive you safely to your destination. Recently, Uber has been attempting to address many of these concerns as well as handle a number of injury lawsuits that have occurred.

Fortunately from an insurance perspective, these ridesharing companies have got you covered. There is major debate between the taxi companies and Uber/Lyft regarding this topic, because taxi companies believe they better protect against possible insurance disparities after an injury. Largely in response to this criticism and attack by traditional taxi companies,  Lyft and Uber now both have  liability policies that provide additional coverage in the event that the passenger is injured in a driver’s vehicle and the driver’s insurance doesn’t cover all of their injuries, which is almost always the case. Not only that, but even in the event of an accident in which the company driver is not at fault, and the other motorist at fault is uninsured, they will still provide coverage if you are injured.

The Georgia Legislature passed a ridesharing bill this session (2015) that essentially sought to level the regulation  of Uber and Lyft with that of traditional taxi companies.  House Bill 225, which passed the Senate by a 48-2 vote, is the culmination of efforts to require the app-based transportation industry to meet the same standards that apply to other transportation providers, such as taxis and limousine companies.  “The world as we know it in transportation has changed because of transportation companies like Uber and Lyft,” said Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, who carried the bill in the Senate. “This creates a new framework that allows them to grow with light regulation and common-sense policies.”  Governor Deal signed the bill into law in March 2015 which mandates companies like Uber must have $1 Million in insurance coverage for its passengers. There continue to be squabbles between the traditional taxi companies and Uber, but free market principles of competition should control the outcome.

As with any driving company, Uber conducts background checks on all of it’s potential drivers. According to their website, they include “county, federal, and multi-state criminal” checks. They also have a rating feature on the app, where each passenger can anonymously rate and post comments about their experience with every driver. Unfortunately, no system is perfect, and we can’t always assume that people are good just because they don’t have a criminal background. Uber was briefly discontinued in India following a claim that a woman was raped by her Uber driver. Now the service is back, but with a number of added safety features like a panic button, and the ability to share in real-time location and trip information with others.  iphone

Uber also recently settled a case in which one of their drivers hit a family on New Years Eve in San Francisco, killing a six year old girl. This sparked a debate about the user interface aspect of the app, because drivers must use it while driving and it is not hands-free, as is required by California law. I’ve often blogged on the danger of distracted driving and, in this case, it seemed to be the distraction of the Uber driver that led to the settlement.

Hopefully,  these ridesharing companies can continue to improve upon their services so incidents like these don’t happen again. If you choose to use Uber, as it really is an interesting and useful invention, always be aware of your surroundings. Stay safe, Georgia!

Robin Frazer Clark pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured in motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others.  Ms. Clark is the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia and a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and has practiced law in Georgia for 26 years.  Mrs. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia and is a Georgia Super Lawyer.  Robin Frazer Clark~Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All.