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Crystal Lake Car Accident Lawyers

Customers are talking, and the consensus is that taxis are out and Uber is in. Ridesharing companies, such as Uber, Lyft, and Curb, are taking over roads in our cities and suburbs, offering low fares to willing passengers. The business model of these companies is wholly mobile—all business between the ridesharing company and the driver, as well as between the ridesharing driver and the customer, is conducted via a smartphone application (app).

This innovative technology is creating jobs, providing inexpensive transportation alternatives, and encouraging carpooling. On the other hand, this business model is so new it creates many questions in the legal sphere regarding insurance, liability, and responsibility, should a ridesharing driver get into a car accident with a passenger on board.

Ridesharing Basics

Using the ridesharing app on a smartphone, a potential passenger can determine how many vehicles are nearby that are available to give rides, receive estimates for fares, opt to carpool with others, and see driver ratings. The app utilizes GPS technology and can determine your location if you are in an unfamiliar area. When you decide you want a ride, the app notifies the driver who, in turn, comes to pick you up. You are given the make, model, and license plate number of the car and the driver's name for verification purposes upon the driver's arrival. Perhaps the most attractive part of this model is that your fare is charged directly to your pre-loaded credit card on your app—no cash, no tipping, no fumbling in your wallet upon arrival at your destination.

Sounds great, right? And for the most part, it is. Illinois, particularly the Chicagoland area, has been a front-runner in the United States for passing legislation related to ride-sharing services, not necessarily endorsing the driver's presence in the state, but requiring minimum insurance standards that are lacking in most other jurisdictions.

Accidents in Ridesharing Vehicles

The biggest legal issue surrounding ridesharing companies is who should pay when a driver gets into an accident and causes bodily injury or property damage? Several lawsuits throughout the United States have attempted to answer this question, most of them being heard in California, industry-leader Uber's home state. Consider the following:

  • An Uber driver is a driver utilizing their own vehicle. This driver can decide when and for how long they wish to work. An issue arises as to when the Uber driver is "working." Are they working when they are driving around waiting for someone to summon them? Or are they only working when there is a passenger in the car? What about the time between being summoned and going to pick up the passenger?
  • Because Uber drivers are utilizing their own vehicles, they are utilizing personal insurance policies. Private insurance companies have a problem when claims are made under private policies when their insured is engaging in "commercial activity"—that is, work. This has led to insurance companies dropping their insured altogether, but has also spawned a new category of insurance providers that cater to ridesharing driver's need.
  • Taxi drivers are required to carry commercial licenses, medallions, and maintain a certain level of insurance. Illinois now requires a minimum personal insurance policy for ridesharing drivers, but again, that is contingent upon a driver maintaining their policy and not losing coverage.
  • Generally speaking, employers are responsible for their employee's actions (and liability) when an employee is acting at the direction of the employer in the scope of ordinary business. Uber, specifically, has repeatedly denied that their drivers are considered "employees." They do not receive benefits, are not eligible for workers' compensation, are able to work as little or as often as they wish, and do not have a direct person to report to. However, the drivers would not have customers but for the Uber app that navigates them to passengers (and pays them). This issue regarding whether Uber must treat its drivers as "employees" in the eyes of the law is currently pending in a Federal Court in California and will change the future of ridesharing companies, regardless of the ruling.

The only thing that really matters to Uber passengers is that they are covered if they are in an accident while driving in a ridesharing vehicle. Uber insures a driver's liability up to one million dollars...when a passenger is in the vehicle. This leaves significant room for interpretation. There have been reported cases where an Uber driver hit and killed a pedestrian, or issues where a driver has gotten in an accident on the way to pick someone up. Who pays if there is not a passenger in the car, the driver is not considered an employee, and serious injury or death is inflicted upon another person? The answers to these questions are being determined by Illinois courts on a case-by-case basis—and are wholly dependent on the cooperation of the driver's private insurance company and the availability of Uber insurance for the injured driver or passenger.

Crystal Lake, Illinois Car Accident Lawyers

If you have been injured as either a ridesharing passenger or ridesharing driver, you have legal rights. The State of Illinois has spoken to many of these issues, though they are still being reviewed on a case-by-case basis. New cases are being heard in court for the first time, and the legal issues surrounding ridesharing expand significantly beyond what was discussed here. Navigating these revolutionary cases requires tactful legal representation in the area of Illinois personal injury law.

There are no direct answers to many of the questions posed above—that is the nature of a new innovation that will morph as society and the legislature sees fit. Meanwhile, the experienced personal injury attorneys of Botto Gilbert Lancaster, P.C. will work hard to advocate for your legal rights. We are a team of experienced Crystal Lake personal injury lawyers who know how to navigate a case from start to finish, and are up to the task of helping set precedent in this emerging area of the law. Contact our convenient Crystal Lake law office location at 800-338-3833 to learn more about how to protect your legal rights.

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