As Uber and Lyft continue to grow in popularity, so do the questions regarding their liability for accidents caused by “their” drivers. The ultimate question is whether the drivers are in fact, “their” drivers (employees) or independent contractors. If they are employees, then the ride sharing programs could be held vicariously liable for accidents caused by the operators. Alternatively, if they are independent contractors, then there would be no liability for said negligence.
Florida uses a “right of control” test to determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Florida courts have adopted a number of criteria to aid in making this determination.
Right of Control Factors
- The extent of the right of control by the employer over the details of the work;
- Whether the person employed is engaged in a distinct occupation or business;
- The kind of occupation involved, and whether the work is done under the direction of the employer or by a specialist without supervision;
- The skill required in the particular occupation;
- Whether the employer supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place of work;
- The length of time the person is employed, and
- Whether the work is a part of the regular business of the employer.
Looking at the factors – What do you think?
If the court finds that the drivers are independent contractors then the companies cannot be held vicariously liable(responsible) for the drivers negligence. However, the story might not end there. The companies could still be responsible for their active negligence. For example, the companies work off a cell phone platform the drivers receive pick up instructions on their phone, and communicate with whomever they are picking up by phone. A jury can conclude that this constitutes a negligent mode of operation.
Another possible theory of liability centers around the amount of hours worked. To that end, most drivers treat Uber and Lyft as an income supplement. They get off from work, and then begin driving. Imagine the cumulative effect of working a full day at one job, then driving another 8 hour shift.
These issues and many more will begin to play out in Florida courts.
The one thing that is for certain is that as Miami Car Accident Attorneys, we must investigate every case to determine whether the at fault person was either a Uber or Lyft driver.