Airport officials at Austin-Bergstrom have made the executive decision to shift the spot for hailing rides and taxis down to the rental car facility going forward, because of congestion and accidents happening in front of Barbara Jordan Terminal. Austin has had a somewhat bumpy path to integrating ride-sharing into the city’s traffic patterns, and many accidents have been reported as Uber and Lyft drivers try to fit in. If you are in an accident involving a rideshare car, there are certain differences in how you would bring suit, especially if you are a passenger in the car when the accident occurs.
Insurance Is Different
Perhaps the most important thing you should be aware of if you are in a rideshare-related accident is that insurance works very differently for Uber or Lyft than it does for a licensed taxi driver. While taxi drivers are generally covered by the taxi company in the event of an accident, which will then deal with any injured passengers, a rideshare driver must have a specific type of policy written for transportation network company employees and contractors, since the passing of HB 100 last year.
These policies are unique in that their policy limits will increase and decrease depending on which ‘period’ of use your car is in at any given moment – for example, period 0 is when you are not in your car, or when you are using it for personal business. The coverage limits are higher while you have a rideshare app on and are looking for a passenger, and higher still when you have a passenger in your car, en route to the destination.
HB 100 implements this type of insurance policy because beforehand, there were coverage gaps in which drivers were being forced to use their own insurance policies, though very often there would be an explicit disavowal of any liability incurred while driving for hire, leaving passengers simply on their own. With the new regulations, drivers must demonstrate that they are covered not only for personal business, but also for any passengers in the car.
Drivers Are Not Employees or Professionals
Something else to keep in mind is that there is a certain level of assumption of risk when one rides with an Uber or Lyft driver, given that these employees are not professional drivers. They do not have to meet the same strict background check requirements that taxi drivers do – even under HB 100, drivers do not have to be fingerprinted, which was the source of considerable controversy in past years, even leading to Lyft pulling out of many Texas markets in 2014. Most ridesharing companies only require a driver to be over 21, with a valid driver’s license and vehicle licensed in Texas, as well as a somewhat cursory background check.
As of this writing, most drivers are also classed as independent contractors, rather than employees. The reason this is relevant is because if you are in an accident with one, you cannot bring suit against the employer of an independent contractor in the overwhelming majority of cases, given that they are not (at least in theory) under the employer’s control. If drivers were classed as employees, injured passengers or auto drivers who had been injured by an Uber or Lyft driver’s actions could bring suit against Uber or Lyft under a theory called vicarious liability, which makes a company liable for their employees’ actions. Given that rideshare companies would like to keep their profit margins, they have fought hard against the employee designation.
Call an Experienced New Braunfels Attorney
Rideshare companies, or transportation network companies as the new Texas law is calling them, are very useful and can make life easier for commuters (and for people needing rides home from Austin-Bergstrom airport!). However, their drivers can cause accidents, and if you are involved in one, understanding your options is critical. The dedicated New Braunfels rideshare accident attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm will work with you to help determine the best path for you and your family to take. Call our office today at 888-392-0039 to set up a free consultation.