Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and other ridesharing services have become a popular way to get around in the last few years. These services allow passengers to use an app on their phones to arrange and pay for a ride with one of the service’s drivers, and they’ve really taken off in larger cities across Texas. However, rideshare services may not be everything they seem.
While the services may look similar on the surface, hopping into a rideshare car can be a lot different than calling a cab, taking the bus, or even getting a ride from a friend. There are some issues that rideshare passengers aren’t always aware of, even though it could affect their safety and their rights if there is an accident while they’re using the service—or even if they’re hit by a rideshare car while using their personal vehicles.
If you use a rideshare service regularly, or if you’re just one of the millions of people who have found themselves increasingly sharing the road with rideshare drivers, here are some things you should know about what makes rideshares different.
Loose Regulations and Changing Laws for Uber and Rideshare Services
Uber and other rideshare services are not the same as taxi or shuttle companies, and one of the biggest difference is in the laws and regulations they are held to. Rideshare services are not necessarily held to the strict safety regulations that taxis must adhere to, and that can mean that passengers end up assuming a safety that isn’t there. Because this type of service is still so new, there is very little oversight or regulation of the industry—and the laws are constantly changing.
Why does it matter? Unfortunately, rideshare passengers are the ones who are put at risk by the relatively lax oversight of these services, and they may not realize that:
- Rideshare drivers may not go through rigorous background checks and training. There has been some question about how thoroughly rideshare drivers are screened and trained before they are allowed to pick up passengers for a service. In a lot of cases, drivers only need to have a car, pass an online test, and go through a minimal background check before they start taking customers. There have been several instances where rideshare services have missed concerning driving records or criminal history, which were only discovered after the driver had been involved in an accident or someone had been hurt.
- It’s hard to formally identify the car or driver that picked you up. Cabs and shuttles are usually required to label their vehicles with information about the car, company, and driver. Rideshare cars may not have any identifying information at all, which makes it very difficult for passengers or other drivers on the road to know who they are riding with or that the car is being operated in a commercial capacity.
- Most rideshare drivers are not commercially licensed. Most commercial drivers are required to carry commercial drivers licenses and adhere to the requirements to maintain that license. However, rideshare drivers are not usually professional drivers, and they only have a regular drivers license even though they are being paid by the company to transport customers.
Complex Insurance Issues After a Rideshare Accident
Rideshare services are also very different from other commercial transportation options because of the way insurance works if there is an accident. Rideshare drivers may be covered by their own personal auto insurance, the rideshare company’s insurance, an independent commercial policy, or a mix of the three depending on when an accident happens and if they’re carrying passengers. This adds layers of confusion to the process of recovering victim compensation, which can already be an overwhelming task—even in more clear-cut cases.
There are also differences in minimum liability insurance that can affect victims of rideshare accidents. In Texas, personal vehicles have to carry minimum insurance that covers $30,000 per person injured in an accident, up to a total of $60,000, and $25,000 in property damage per accident. Commercial vehicles are generally held to higher minimum insurance requirements, but rideshare cars can work a little differently. As of the start of 2016, rideshare drivers in Texas must carry minimum liability coverage that covers $50,000 per person injured, up to a limit of $100,000, and $25,000 in property damage per accident when they are using the app but not carrying passengers. When they are carrying passengers, they must carry $1 million in coverage. As the law continually tries to adapt to rideshare transportation, insurance requirements are becoming more similar to other commercial vehicles.
While the higher insurance limits for rideshare drivers can mean that accident victims are better able to recover after something goes wrong, it can also create some problems. These higher limits can make claims from injured passengers more complicated, and insurance companies may fight more aggressively against these claims because they stand to lose more.
You May Need an Attorney Just to Understand Your Rights
Whether you were a passenger or another driver on the road, it is important that you gather the right information and protect yourself after an accident with a rideshare car. This is why it is crucial that you contact an attorney to at least talk about your case as soon as possible. As we pointed out above, the laws, insurance requirements, and regulations that rideshare services are held to can be extremely complicated, and they vary not only by state, but sometimes even by city. Each company has its own set of policies and rules, and state laws are constantly changing. Victims of an accident may be contacted by numerous insurance companies, the rideshare company, the driver that caused the wreck, attorneys, and others, and they can’t always rely on the information about their rights they get from these sources. By working with an attorney who has experience with cases involving commercial drivers and difficult legal issues, victims of rideshare accidents can ensure that they are getting real information that helps protect their best interests.
For more information, or to start investigating your rights today, call VB Attorneys at 1-877-724-7800, or use the Live Chat on this page to connect with us now.