An expansion of transportation options around Franklin County, Delaware County and surrounding areas means that you are no longer limited to taking a taxi, driving yourself or taking public transportation. Uber and Lyft are in Columbus, which means car sharing services are available that allow people who need a ride to get one from another individual who drives his or her own personal car. These car sharing services work by allowing people to connect using an app.
While these services can be convenient, there is also a significant risk. A personal injury lawyer knows that complicated questions of liability may be raised in situations where someone operates his vehicle in a commercial manner as a livery.
Liability When a Driver Operates a Car Sharing Service
Recently, Forbes addressed the question of who can be held responsible in situations where a driver is participating in car sharing and the driver causes a motor vehicle accident.
If the victim of the crash is the passenger in the car who purchased a ride, then the passenger signed a liability release with the car sharing company as a condition of using the service. As a result, the passenger cannot file a lawsuit against the car sharing company and the victim's only recourse after a crash will be to pursue a claim against the driver of the vehicle.
If someone else is a victim, such as a pedestrian or a motorist in another vehicle, typically this injured party or his family members will also be unable to file a lawsuit against the car sharing company. This is because the company does not employ the drivers; the drivers act as independent contractors and act independently of the company. Further, the company provides information only (connecting drivers and passengers) and thus may be protected from liability by the Communications Decency Act.
If the car sharing company is not going to be held responsible, this leaves victims to pursue a damage claim against the driver of the car. This is fine, as long as the driver has sufficient insurance coverage that will pay for losses.
In many cases, however, private automobile insurers will not cover motorists who are operating as a car sharing service. State Farm has declined to provide coverage to these drivers and a spokeswoman for the Property and Casualty Association of America said in a statement that a "private passenger auto policy isn't intended to cover livery services." Because there is considerably greater risk of covering a driver who is operating his vehicle for commercial purposes and offering rides, it is likely that state law would allow the auto insurer to cancel the policy of individuals participating in car sharing.
SF Gate recently reported on leaked documents from Geico that show the tough stance that car insurers take when it comes to drivers who participate in car sharing. The leaked documents instruct staff members to group reject those who car share, and the documents also provide a script to use to inform people that they either need to stop offering rides or find another insurance company.
If a driver doesn't have insurance that covers a crash, this can make it difficult for accident victims to pursue a claim for compensation for injuries and loss. Passengers need to be aware of this risk before getting into a car with someone offering car sharing.
Contact our Columbus, OH accident lawyers today. Call 1-800-930-SCOTT or visit http://www.sestriallaw.com for a free case consultation. Serving Franklin County, Delaware County, Licking County, Fairfield County, Pickaway County, Madison County and Union County.