Uber provides a convenient way for many people to get around, but it also presents some serious safety concerns. Over the past several years, a growing number of incidents have left some passengers wondering if they are safe when using the service.
The concerns stem in part from Uber’s process for hiring drivers, which does not include fingerprinting or conducting thorough background checks. Uber touts its commitment to the safety of its riders, but critics argue that the onboarding process for drivers is inadequate.
What are some of the primary safety concerns related to using Uber?
Uber drivers have been the focus of a number of highly publicized investigations for alleged sexual assaults in recent years. In one incident, a woman in India accused an Uber driver of rape. The New Delhi government responded by banning Uber, and the company itself stopped operating in the city.
Other cases include a 2014 incident in Chicago in which a passenger accused her Uber driver of sexual assault. In West Hollywood, an Uber driver was arrested for allegedly kidnapping a passenger who was under the influence of alcohol and taking her to a hotel with the intent of sexually assaulting her.
Shootings and Other Violence
In early 2016, an Uber driver was accused of killing six people and injuring two in a shooting spree in Michigan. The driver reportedly picked up and dropped off passengers between the killings, which took place over four hours.
One rider said he had called for an Uber vehicle to get him out of the neighborhood where a gunman was reported to be. He was picked up by the alleged shooter.
Another passenger of the alleged shooter noted that he had hailed the ride about an hour before the shootings started. Approximately a mile into his trip, the passenger reported, the driver received a phone call and then began driving erratically, including speeding and going over medians and through lawns.
When the car stopped, the passenger jumped out, ran and called the police. He also complained to Uber. The company later said it had received at least one complaint about the driver but did not give it high priority because it concerned unsafe driving rather than violence.
Another violent incident occurred in 2014, when a driver was charged with misdemeanor battery after he pulled over and told a passenger to exit the vehicle. When the passenger attempted to take a photo of the car, the driver allegedly punched the passenger and elbowed him in the chest.
It was later discovered that the driver had multiple felony convictions related to drugs and was on probation for another battery charge at the time that he served as an Uber driver.
In August, a former driver for Uber was convicted of driving drunk following a 2015 crash that killed another driver in Maryland.
The former Uber driver was speeding at a rate of about 84 miles per hour in a 40 miles-per-hour zone and had a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 percent. After crossing the double yellow lines, he hit the other car head-on. The driver was not on duty for Uber at the time of the crash.
In another incident, a Florida court found an Uber driver guilty of causing a crash that led to the death of his passenger. The driver ran a red light and crashed into the car of a Seminole County deputy.
Critics allege that the need to use a smartphone app to locate riders may contribute to reckless driving and accidents among Uber drivers. Using the apps requires that drivers interact with their screens quickly to bring in business, and many drivers also rely on GPS apps and devices in unfamiliar areas.
Unsafe actions by other motorists also can impact Uber drivers. For instance, an Uber driver was killed, and her passenger sustained critical injuries, in a recent hit-and-run wreck. The fatal accident occurred in January in South Los Angeles; the driver who allegedly caused the accident was taken into custody later the same day.
Addressing Safety Concerns
In 2015, Uber noted that it had created response teams to help investigate current safety issues as concerns increased among passengers. The company said it planned to initiate a safety advisory board that would include independent experts to analyze practices and provide guidance on safety features.
Although Uber makes significant efforts to highlight safety — through background checks of drivers and a code of conduct, for instance — the company alleges that it bears no legal liability for the quality of service or the safety of drivers.
If you’re riding in an Uber vehicle and are injured in an accident, Uber says the driver — not the company — is liable. In addition, if a driver assaults a rider, the company contends that it has no involvement or responsibility. However, we believe the law says otherwise. Simply saying we are not responsible, is not the law. We believe courts would lookout a host of factors, and those factors would hold Uber responsible for the drivers actions.
Uber’s terms — which riders agree to when signing up for the service — note that the company offers no guarantee of the safety, suitability, quality or abilities of drivers. In addition, riders agree that they bear the “entire risk” of use of the service.
Insurance Coverage and Gaps
Initially, the ridesharing industry demonstrated reluctance to provide any insurance for drivers. Companies now do offer some insurance for drivers, and insurers are creating policies specifically targeted to drivers for Uber and other services.
Currently, Uber provides the following coverage to drivers:
- Liability of $1 million for each incident — but only from the time a driver has accepted a specific job until the conclusion of that job.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for bodily injury of $1 million. Coverage applies to injuries to any occupants of the driver’s vehicle if an uninsured or underinsured motorist is responsible for causing an accident.
- Collision and comprehensive coverage during a specific trip, provided that an Uber driver also has their own comprehensive and collision coverage on the vehicle.
- Limited liability coverage that pays between trips only if the driver’s own insurer declines to cover an incident.
The Uber coverage does leave some gaps for drivers. For example, if a driver is using the Uber app but has not accepted a passenger, no coverage is available from the company for property damage if an accident occurs. In addition, liability coverage for drivers who have not accepted trips is low, at just $50,000 for each injured person.
What is Uber’s Liability in an Accident?
Uber riders currently have no choice other than accepting the terms that stipulate they ride at their own risk and cannot hold the company liable for any harm. But will the position of Uber and other services like it pass court tests?
Consumers may soon have an answer as cases make their way through the courts. One case involves women riders in South Carolina and Massachusetts who assert that they were sexually assaulted by male Uber drivers. The plaintiffs say the company made misleading statements about the safety of the service, and they contend that they did not explicitly agree to the conditions before signing up.
The plaintiffs are seeking damages from Uber, along with revised safety practices that include full background checks of drivers with fingerprinting.
Injured in a Ridesharing Accident? Call Our Miami Accident Attorneys.
The law on rideshare liability continues to evolve, but this much is clear: victims do not have to suffer alone.
Passengers are not at fault for accidents. If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a ride-sharing accident in Florida, the experienced Miami accident attorneys at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC can help. We’re here to get you and your family the comprehensive compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 30 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for many years.