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Legal Issues in NYC Uber/Lyft Wrecks

Ridesharing crashes in New York are rising disproportionately with the number of users, according to a recent survey.
Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing service vehicles were involved in three times more crashes in 2016 than in 2014, according to a survey by the New York Post. In comparison, black car TLC crashes increased over the same period, although not by nearly as much, while the number of taxicab crashes actually declined.
Predictably, the local taxi industry had a lot to say about these revelations. Nancy Soria, the vice president of Green Taxis of New York, opined that Uber and Lyft drivers are often distracted by cellphones and tablets, especially because many of these drivers accept riders from more than one system. As for black car drivers, Michael Woloz, of the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, said that these drivers are more likely to be involved in a car accident because they are less experienced and they are not as heavily regulated as taxis.
“The [ridesharing] drivers aren’t paying attention or don’t give a crap,” added Midtown waitress Lindsay O’Brien.
First Party Liability for NYC Car Crashes
Two years ago, more than 430,000 Americans were seriously injured in a distracted driving-related crash. Almost anything can cause at least a momentary distraction that can become fatal, even something as mundane as skipping to the next song on the MP3 player or talking to a passenger. Cellphones and other devices are under increased scrutiny because their use involves all three types of distracted driving:

  • Mental (taking your mind off the road)
  • Visual (taking your eyes off the road)
  • Manual (taking at least one hand off the steering wheel)

The so-called “hands-free” devices that are standard equipment in almost all new cars may not be much better because they still involve at least two of the three categories (visual and mental distraction).
Third Party Liability for Car Accidents in New York
Ridesharing drivers present an interesting respondeat superior question. According to this theory, employers are legally responsible for the negligent acts or omissions of their employees. These motorists typically have almost none of the qualities that are traditionally associated with employees: the ridesharing company does not set the worker’s hours, does not determine the route, and does not even determine whether or not the driver will work for the company.
But there is interaction between the company and its drivers. For example, Uber requires its drivers to abide by certain rules and display a company logo on their windshields. These two things are probably sufficient to satisfy both the “employment” prong and the “course and scope of employment” prong in the respondeat superior test, meaning that injured passengers may be able to sue the company for the driver’s negligence in causing an auto accident.

Ridesharing crashes involve both first party liability questions and third party liability questions. For a free consultation with attorneys who make negligent drivers pay, contact Proner & Proner now. Our main office is located just across from Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

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