Ridesharing is exploding in the United States today, and Uber is at the forefront of this ballooning industry. Estimates show that Uber currently controls about 67 percent of the American rideshare market, and its reach is quickly becoming global. With 91 million monthly active users and 3.9 million drivers in 63 countries worldwide and an average of 14 million trips completed each day, Uber far outstrips its closest domestic competitor, Lyft, which controls only 28 percent of the American market with 1.4 million total drivers.
But the rapid rise of the rideshare industry has brought with it a sharp uptick in the number of rideshare-related accidents and serious incidents. According to a study by the University of Chicago and Rice University, widespread adoption of ridesharing has increased domestic traffic fatalities by 2 to 3 percent since 2011, the equivalent of 1,100 deaths per year. In particular, Uber has been involved in a number of high-profile matters that suggest negligence on the company’s part.
If you have been hurt in or by an Uber vehicle in the Chicago area, you might be eligible to receive financial compensation for your injuries. For a free, no-obligation case evaluation from a Chicago car accident lawyer, contact GWC Injury Lawyers LLC, where we have been maximizing verdicts and settlements for our wrongfully injured clients for over forty years. You may call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative.
High-Profile Uber Incidents Across the Country
Generally speaking, Uber accidents resulting in injury fall into three categories:
- Uber passengers injured while riding in the Uber vehicle.
- Other motorists and pedestrians injured where the Uber drivers are at fault.
- Uber drivers injured when other motorists are at fault.
A number of high-profile incidents involving Uber have gained national notoriety, both those involving traffic accidents and those involving other forms of negligence:
- Uber paid an undisclosed settlement to the family of a six-year-old girl who was struck and killed by an on-duty Uber driver while walking with her mother and brother in a San Francisco crosswalk.
- A 24-year-old college student filed a lawsuit against Uber for failing to adequately screen its drivers. She was paralyzed from the chest down in Dallas when her Uber driver ran a red light and was T-boned at an intersection by a pickup truck.
- An Uber driver was charged with reckless homicide following a multi-vehicle collision in Chicago.
- A “self-driving” Uber that was part of a test program struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, AZ. Uber shut down the program following the incident, with experts suggesting that defects in the company’s autonomous technology may have been at fault.
- At least 103 Uber drivers in the United States have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers.
Such tragic incidents involving Uber are far too common, with many critics arguing that the job itself may encourage Uber drivers to take unnecessary risks to maximize compensation.
How Uber Can Put You in Danger
Under Uber’s business model, its drivers transport paying passengers in their personal vehicles, with Uber sharing with the drivers the revenues earned from the trips. Driver pay is calculated by distance, but the total payment is largely driven by the number of rides an Uber driver can complete per shift. An unintended consequence of this system of compensation is that it may encourage Uber drivers to cut corners on traffic laws in order to increase their earning capacity, including by speeding, which can heighten the likelihood of auto accidents that inflict injury on the drivers, their passengers, and others in the vicinity. Additionally, because they use their smartphones regularly to find fares and navigate, Uber drivers may be more prone to distraction, which can further increase the rate of serious accidents.
Critics have also noted that Uber drivers may not have the same level of safety training as professional taxi and limousine drivers, while legal actions nationwide suggest that the rideshare industry has problems with vetting as a whole. In 2017, for example, Massachusetts pulled over 8,000 rideshare drivers off the road after the state government introduced more stringent screening rules. As for problems unique to Uber, the company employs a private third-party service to run background checks, not a system involving fingerprints or the employment of law enforcement. Potential Uber drivers can start the pre-screening process online within minutes with only a social security number, a driver’s license, a vehicle, and a clean (non-violent) criminal background. While it is company policy not to accept drivers who have had a recent DUI, a reckless driving charge, or a serious speeding violation, some have argued that Uber’s system has allowed drivers with felony records to slip through, putting passengers at risk of becoming the victims of robbery, battery, sexual assault, and kidnapping.
In light of its alleged screening deficiencies, Uber has been named as the defendant in a class-action lawsuit. Two female plaintiffs are asking the court to force the company to change its vetting practices on behalf of all riders in the United States who were “subject to rape, sexual assault, or gender-motivated violence or harassment by their Uber driver in the last four years.” The suit also faulted the company for only going back seven years for its background checks and cited the actions taken by the Massachusetts state government in response to the rideshare industry’s lax vetting process.
How Can Uber Passengers Protect Themselves in Chicago?
As you can see, riders can face many possible risks when they step into an Uber. So how can Uber passengers protect themselves? Fortunately, in the Chicago area, there are specific precautions they can take.
The City of Chicago requires rideshare drivers to acquire a Transportation Network Providers (TNP) Chauffeur’s License and to follow certain city regulations. Specifically, rideshare drivers are required to visibly display:
- The rideshare company’s emblem on the front passenger-side windshield;
- A special emblem for picking up fares at Chicago airports, McCormick Place, or Navy Pier on the rear windshield;
- The TNP Chauffeur’s License on the front passenger-side dashboard; and
- A telephone number for complaints visible from the rear seat.
Additionally, rideshare drivers are also required to carry relevant paperwork. This paperwork includes an Illinois driver’s license, a company ID, the TNP Chauffeur’s License, the TNP terms of service agreement, a copy of the auto insurance policy, and the latest inspection report for the vehicle. As a passenger, you may ask to see any of these documents. If your Uber driver does not have the required emblems or documents or refuses to show them to you, consider canceling the ride.
Lastly, regardless of where you are traveling, if your rideshare driver’s smartphone usage makes you feel uncomfortable, you have the right as a passenger to ask that driver to stop using it.
Who Is Financially Responsible for an Uber Accident?
But even if they take all possible precautions, passengers can still end up suffering serious injuries as a result of an Uber driver’s negligent actions, as can other motorists and pedestrians. Under these circumstances, the injured parties may understandably try to seek financial compensation, but Uber accident litigation presents its own special set of obstacles for the Plaintiff.
One obstacle that is unique to Uber accidents stems from the ambiguous nature of financial responsibility. In the United States, employers are generally financially responsible for injuries and other damages caused by on-duty employees. But like other rideshare services, Uber does not consider itself a traditional employer. The company has repeatedly denied that its drivers are “employees,” but rather independent contractors. As Uber has argued, the drivers can choose to work as little or as often as they want, they have no direct supervisors to whom they report, they do not receive benefits, and they are not eligible for workers’ compensation.
So who is financially responsible for an Uber accident? The answer depends on when the incident occurs. Consider the following scenarios:
- Driver Has Not Logged On to the App – Drivers typically use their own vehicles when “working” for rideshare companies, and they either fully own or are making payments on these vehicles. As such, they are required to carry minimum liability insurance on them. If drivers do not have Uber’s app turned on, they are not considered by the company to be on duty, since they cannot receive potential fares. In this scenario, only a driver’s own auto insurance would apply in the case of an Uber accident, which can be limited to as little as $25,000.00 for a single injured person in Illinois.
- Driver Is Logged On But Has Not Accepted a Fare – Uber characterizes this situation as “Period 1” for a driver. During Period 1, the driver’s personal liability insurance is the primary source to be pursued in the case of crash-related injuries or damages. However, even in Period 1, Uber does also offer contingent coverage of up to $50,000.00 per person for injuries, $100,000.00 per incident, and $25,000.00 for property damage, provided that the driver’s own insurance has already been exhausted. Once the contingent insurance is used up, whatever underinsured motorist coverage the person or persons injured by the driver may have, if any, would then come into play.
- Driver Is Headed to Pick Up a Fare or Already Has Passengers – Whenever a driver is either headed to pick up a fare (Period 2) or already has passengers in the vehicle (Period 3) at the time of a rideshare accident, Uber offers coverage of up to $1 million per incident, again provided that the driver’s own insurance has already been exhausted.
Why Timing Is So Important
As you can see, the amount of insurance coverage that may be available for recovery for injuries and damages sustained in an Uber accident can vary greatly depending upon the driver’s activity at the time. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for an injured person and the personal injury lawyer he or she hires to obtain accurate information about what exactly was happening when an Uber accident occurred since the effect on the financial compensation that may be available could be significant.
Does the Uber Driver Actually Have Insurance?
Regardless of when an accident occurs, an Uber driver’s personal insurance policy is always the first line of recovery. But there may be cases in which an Uber driver thinks that he or she has coverage but actually does not because the insurance company explicitly excludes using a personal policy for business purposes, such as delivering pizzas or giving rides for payment. While there are insurance companies that offer rideshare-specific insurance to pick up gaps in coverage, because the industry is so new, many Uber drivers may either be unaware of these policies or unwilling to take on the additional expense. This can greatly impact the amount of money available to someone who gets injured in an Uber accident.
Contact Our Chicago Uber Accident Lawyers Today
As you can see, Uber accident litigation can be particularly challenging. The amount of money available to an injured person may depend upon the level of personal liability insurance available, whether or not that insurance policy has work exclusions, if that responsible driver is “working” for Uber, and, if so, what he or she is doing for Uber, if anything, at the time of the incident.
But challenging does not mean impossible. To help overcome these obstacles when you are injured in an Uber accident, consider doing what so many injured people before you have done and turn to the Chicago Uber accident attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC, one of the premier Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois.
At GWC, we can help you obtain compensation for all of your damages from an Uber accident, including:
- Past and Future Medical Bills
- Lost Wages
- Pain and Suffering
- Mental and Emotional Anguish
- Diminished Enjoyment of Life
- Scarring and Disfigurement
- Permanent Impairment and Disability
- Loss of Consortium
With more than $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients, GWC has the experience, the determination, and the well-earned reputation of success necessary to get you and your family the justice you deserve.
If you have been wrongfully injured in an Uber accident, you can schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our Chicago Uber accident lawyers by calling our office at (312) 464-1234 or by clicking here to chat with a representative at any time.
Call GWC toll-free
Live Chat available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.