Car sharing services have become very popular recently. But are the services safe? Personal injury lawyers in Denver have learned that in 2014, there were two sexual assaults on female passengers who used car services in Chicago, two assaults on female passengers in Boston, an attack on a male passenger in San Francisco (with a deadly weapon), and a brutal rape on a passenger in New Delhi, India.
These incidents were all reported in 2014, and they by no means represent all of the complaints made against Uber and other car services. Uber’s response to these breaches of public safety has been to deactivate the accounts of the drivers involved and to stress that driver background checks are extremely thorough, even if not always accurate.
In fact, Uber instituted a “Safe Rides Fee” in April of 2014 of $1 per ride. The fee is ostensibly to finance the safety program, which includes vehicle inspections, driver training and enhanced background checks. Uber touts its safety program–particularly the vetting of its drivers–as “industry leading” and prides itself on a process that it claims is more rigorous than that required by taxis or other forms of public transportation.
Such claims have led the San Francisco and Los Angeles District Attorneys to file a consumer protection lawsuit against Uber, which is headquartered in San Francisco, California. A private class-action lawsuit has also been file. Both actions dispute that the background checks used by Uber to vet its drivers are “industry leading,” and both seek restitution of the Safe Rides Fee. The consumer protection lawsuit requests an injunction prohibiting Uber from using the language in its marketing as well.
Your personal injury attorney explains that at the core of both lawsuits is the controversy over how Uber conducts its background checks on its drivers. Uber does not utilize fingerprints, without which proof of identity is not possible. Critics argue, therefore, that the person vetted (with the driver account) might not be the person driving the car. In addition, criminal background checks are incomplete without fingerprint information. Because of these deficits in the background checks, both the consumer protection lawsuit and the private class-action lawsuit argue that Uber cannot claim its safety program is an “industry leader” and that the Safe Rides Fee promotes just that–a safe ride.
Safety and the “Sharing Economy”
Uber, like other members of the fast-growing “sharing economy,” diligently protects its carefully crafted status as a platform to connect service providers with service seekers. It scrupulously avoids all references to it as an employer, distancing itself from drivers and cars by emphasizing that the drivers are not employees and the cars are not corporate property. Where Uber’s liability begins and ends are questions that multiple lawsuits are seeking to answer. It seems that the popularity of the sharing economy has outpaced the ability of the legal system to construct an appropriate framework for addressing these issues prospectively. Maybe the lawsuits against Uber and the legal troubles of other sharing services will lead to that framework.
Contact a Lawyer Today
If you have experienced an unsafe ride with Uber or any other car sharing service, or would like more information regarding such companies, contact Jordan Levine at the Levine Law Firm.