Georgia residents are likely aware that the ride sharing services offered by companies like Uber and Lyft have become extremely popular in recent years, but they may not know that the way in which these businesses are structured could make pursuing car accident lawsuits more difficult. Taxi companies usually own their vehicles and employ their drivers, but the individuals who answer ride sharing calls drive their personal cars and are considered independent contractors.
The independent contractor distinction is important because it allows ride sharing companies to deny liability when road users are killed or injured in car accidents. These arguments were made in a 2014 case involving a 6-year-old girl who was struck and killed while crossing a San Francisco street by an Uber driver. However, that does not mean that accident victims are unable to pursue civil remedies after suffering, injury, loss or damage due to the negligent behavior of an independent contractor.
Both Uber and Lyft carry insurance that provides up to $1 million in compensation to passengers injured due to the actions of their drivers, and lawsuits may be filed against independent contractors even if the companies they provide services for are shielded from litigation. However, these insurance policies only provide benefits to passengers paying for ride sharing services or road users injured in accidents caused by independent contractors who were carrying a fare at the time.
Companies that provide ride sharing services are not always beyond the reach of car accident victims, and experienced personal injury attorneys may seek to hold them legally responsible when they have failed to do all that they reasonably could to protect the public. Companies like Lyft and Uber may find it difficult to avoid civil sanctions when accidents are caused by independent contractors who were taken on despite a history of drunk driving or a record of serious traffic violations.