Ride-sharing "taxi" services have become all the vogue recently. These services, which allow private car owners to pick up fare-paying customers, use apps and modern technology to connect drivers with potential users. In many cases, private drivers can charge lower fares than professional taxi drivers, who have to pay for expensive licensing and meet certain industry regulations and standards. But what should you do if you or a family member is involved in an accident with one of these private drivers? Can you, for example, sue a driver who does not have a passenger but was on their way to pick up a fare? And how much responsibility does the company running the ride-sharing program have for your injuries and property damage?
A New Year's Eve Tragedy
In San Francisco, on New Year's Eve in 2013, a six-year-old child was struck and killed by a ride-sharing driver who did not have a passenger in the car. However, the parents of the child claim that they saw the driver looking at his phone prior to the accident and believe he may have been looking at his ride-sharing app. The parents are suing the driver and the ride-sharing company, alleging that the ride-sharing system is designed in such a way that its drivers need to check the apps frequently in order to pick up fares.
The ride-sharing company involved in the lawsuit involving the six-year-old girl is now offering insurance coverage for its drivers even if they don't have a passenger in their vehicle but are logged into the app. This is different than in the past when the company only offered insurance coverage for a driver if they actually had passengers in their vehicle.
What You Should Do
If you are involved in a collision with or are struck by a vehicle being used for a ride-sharing driver, you will need to do the following:
- Call the police and report the incident.
- Get the names of witnesses. If the driver is ferrying a customer, then you should make sure that either you or the police obtain their information.
- Take pictures of the damage to the vehicles.
- Get the driver's insurance information. If you discover that the driver was working in a ride-sharing program, you should also obtain the name of the company the driver was working for.
- Check your ride-sharing apps. If you have ride-sharing apps on your phone and you believe the driver may have been working for one of these companies but won't admit it, you should quickly open the apps to see if a vehicle icon shows up in the area of the accident. For example, in a September 2013 accident, witnesses at the scene of an accident were able to see a ride-sharing vehicle icon in the area on their apps, and as the car was being towed away, the icon also moved away.
Hire an Accident Attorney
Hiring an attorney is especially important if you have suffered serious injuries or if a family member was killed during the incident, and you believe the driver was participating in a ride-sharing program or that they may have been checking their apps. An attorney can:
- Subpoena phone or records from the ride-sharing company that could possibly prove the driver was driving distracted at the time of the accident.
- Determine exactly who the defendants will be in your case. An attorney, for example, may decide to sue not just the driver but also the ride-sharing company.
Because these ride-sharing programs are fairly new, the insurance situation and legal ramifications surrounding them are still evolving. That is why it is important to click for more info or seek legal counsel who can help you determine exactly what you need to do in order to recover the most for your damages.