Modern technology and creative innovation have led to the rise of a "sharing economy" in the United States today. There are peer-to-peer vacation rental services (such as AirBnb), peer-to-peer businesses (such as Ebay), and perhaps the most controversial of all: peer-to-peer car services. These dynamics are all relatively new, and very few details have been established as to who holds liability for whatever may go wrong. The very question has the potential to incite an entire series of debates, but for the purposes of this post, we are going to discuss car-sharing specifically.
There's no denying that this model has caught on like wildfire, especially in larger cities and even more so on weekends and holidays. It makes sense. It's affordable and incredibly easy to access. However, making the decision to offer your vehicle up as a form of public transportation is seriously risky business. On the other side of the same coin, what happens if you are involved in a car wreck while you are riding as a passenger in one of these vehicles? Who will be held responsible for compensating you for your injuries? These are the questions that ride-sharers have failed to consider, and in just a few short years, we've seen an unfathomable number of conflicts arise as a direct result. (This fatal collision in Boston, for example, or this 6-year old child who died after being hit by a negligent Uber driver in San Francisco).
Insurance Concerns for Drivers
Ride-sharing giants like Uber and Lyft carry insurance for their drivers. That is, the insurance becomes effective when the passenger is picked up and deactivates when the passenger is dropped off at his or her destination. Sounds legitimate, doesn't it?
Unfortunately, there have been numerous reports of drivers being involved in accidents while "on call" for the service but while no passenger was in the vehicle. If this happens, you're on your own. In any case, you need to have the fine print reviewed by someone who understands that level of legalese. If you're thinking that your policy has been written in intentionally confusing language, you would be correct. That's a common tactic that you should be watching out for.
Keep in mind that these blanket policies are written in favor of the insurance company itself. Their secondary concern is for their client, the ridesharing company. You are the very least of their concern.
Finally, because these policies are often considered secondary to your own private car insurance, you may want to check with your insurance provider about what would happen if you needed to file a claim related to ridesharing. Many providers will deny coverage based on these circumstances.
Understanding Your Role as a Peer-to-Peer Driver for Hire
These companies are led by some very clever individuals. Not only do they refuse to classify themselves as a car service (these businesses are considered web-based services - a mobile app, to be precise), but they also have an employment structure that has been designed to insulate them from taxes and civil liability.
You are technically an "independent contractor" when you offer your vehicle to your peers using this service. That is a total game changer, folks. To put it plainly, in the event of a collision, you will be held solely responsible for damages. Do not accept this level of liability unless you clearly understand the risks and are willing to accept them.
If you have been in a collision involving a peer-to-peer car service, you need to speak with an experienced auto accident attorney who can help you navigate these very murky waters. Contact the skilled and proven team at Coxwell & Associates, PLLC at (601) 948-1600 for a free initial consultation.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.