Everyone from teenagers to grandparents use popular ride sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. By downloading an app to your smartphone and filling in a few boxes, you can hire a personal chauffeur at the press of a button.
Brad Parker says he uses Uber often. “When I’m going out in the evening or to a special event, I’ll request a ride. I don’t want to mess with parking, and if I want to have a drink I don’t want to be driving,” Brad says.
Different from taxicabs, drivers with these ride-sharing companies are independent contractors, meaning they are not employees of the company. They use their personal cars to earn money according to their schedule and pay for their own gas and expenses.
“Up to now, I haven’t dealt with any cases involving Uber or Lyft, but I had a similar case with a taxi driver. The taxi company is always going to try to contest by saying the driver is at fault. This typically won’t work. My suggestion is to have plenty of your own insurance to protect yourself, especially from any legal loopholes,” Brad says.
According to Uber’s website, drivers must be at least 21-years-old, have a vehicle newer than 2001, and pass a background check. The check is supposed to make sure the driver has not had a DUI, drug-related offense, incidents of driving without insurance/license, fatal accident, history of reckless driving, or criminal history in the last seven years.
While the background check may sound comprehensive enough to ensure its riders’ safety, there are major flaws in the system. After a three-month investigation of Uber, various drivers were found with driving and criminal records, including drunk and reckless driving, burglary, and battery and assault convictions.
Since drivers are independent contractors, the company has no liability, and their terms and conditions ensure that. In order to download and use the apps, you agree to the terms, stating that the company is not at fault for anything that happens to you – that can include injury, theft, accidents, physical or sexual attacks, rape and even death.
Unlike cab companies who operate a tighter ship with FBI background checks, hygiene and wellness checks, and mandatory driving training, these ride-sharing companies have their own financial interests as a priority, not necessarily their riders’ safety.
- Assault and battery
- Car accidents
- Sexual assault
“More and more communities are requiring fingerprinting of their drivers. You still hear the horror stories of sexual assaults. If you are traveling by yourself, use extreme caution. Screenshot exactly who the driver is and send it to a loved one or friend. If you get concerned, call someone on your cell phone. Be smart,” Brad advises.
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