Naperville Car Accident Lawyer: Liability for Drivers of Taxi Cabs and Ridesharing Services

A couple months ago, a California man was arrested for posing as a rideshare driver and raping seven women in a 15 month period.  One of the man’s victims stated that she got into the man’s car because she believed his car was the Uber she ordered.

Similar instances involving drivers of taxi cabs and ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, are on the rise across the country. Earlier this month, an Uber driver in Ohio pulled a knife on his passengers after one of them said that his vehicle smelled like smoke. In February 2017, a woman was raped by an Uber driver in Texas. According to a lawsuit recently filed by the victim, she ordered an Uber to take her to her aunt’s house after leaving a bar. The Uber driver picked the woman up at the bar, drove to his house, took the woman inside, and raped her. The woman was charged by the Uber app over $200 for the trip, even though it was clear that the Uber driver had taken a significant detour from the requested route.

According to whosdrivingyou.org, most ridesharing services have a minimal process for approving drivers to drive for their companies. Neither Uber nor Lyft use law enforcement personnel or fingerprinting to perform background checks on their potential drivers. Additionally, Uber does not meet with potential drivers in person before allowing them to drive for its service. Both Uber and Lyft require potential drivers to submit their driver’s license, be at least 21 years-old, use a smartphone, and have a car with at least four doors in order to be approved to drive for their companies.

Agency law typically denotes liability for companies of drivers of taxi cabs and ridesharing services. In Illinois, a taxi cab business will be liable for the acts of its driver when the taxi cab company creates an appearance that the taxi cab driver is an agent of the company and an innocent third-party reasonably relies on the apparent agency. O’Banner v. McDonald’s Corp., 173 Ill.2d 208, 213 (1996).  This concept is described as an illustration in the Reporter’s Notes for section 267: “P, a taxicab company, purporting to be the master of the drivers of the cabs, in fact enters into an arrangement with the drivers by which the drivers operate independently. A driver negligently injures T, a passenger, and also B, a person upon the street. P is not liable to B. If it is found that T relied upon P as one furnishing safe drivers, P is subject to liability to T in an action of tort.” Restatement (Second) of Agency § 267 cmt. a, illus. 1 (1958).

However, ridesharing services have been able to get around agency law principles so they will not be liable for the acts of their drivers. To not be liable, ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, classify their drivers as independent contractors and make it clear that drivers are not agents of the company. For more information on agency law principles, see our previous blog HERE on identifying responsible parties after a motor vehicle collision.

Even if ridesharing services are determined not to be liable for the acts of their drivers, there are still ways to be compensated for injuries that occur as a result of the negligence of the driver. All ridesharing services require the driver to have independent insurance covering the vehicle.  A plaintiff may use the driver’s independent insurance to obtain compensation for their injuries as a result of the driver’s negligence.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a taxi cab driver or a ridesharing driver, contact the Naperville car accident lawyers at the law firm of John J. Malm & Associates to learn more about how you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries.