Ridesharing has been hailed as one of the great conveniences of modern life: easier than designating a driver, cheaper than a cab, and faster than waiting for the bus. When it comes to injuries incurred because of a rideshare driver’s recklessness or negligence, however, it is less clear how victims can receive full compensation. The average driver, even working fulltime, is almost certainly lacking insurance, assets, and earnings substantial enough to cover millions of dollars in medical expenses and lost wages. As of 2021, however, the rideshare industry had a value of $61 billion. For such a massive, profitable industry, the next logical step for an attorney to get compensation for an injured client would seem to be suing the rideshare app through which the ill-fated ride was scheduled.
Things are not so straightforward, however.
Pending Litigation on the Issue
In January 2022, a Massachusetts man sued Uber for $63 million after an accident in April of 2021 left him paralyzed. The thirty-one-year-old plaintiff is now a quadriplegic as a result of striking his head when his Uber driver, who allegedly was driving at a reckless rate of speed, hit a parked car. The lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, also alleged that the driver refused to acknowledge that the plaintiff was injured and unable to move, but instead told the plaintiff he was not injured, insisted the paralyzed man get up and move, and then physically moved the injured man himself. Moving a spinal injury victim is one of the things that can most aggravate an injury and make recovery less likely.
According to the suit, the driver had a long history of traffic violations, featuring at least twenty citations, which include moving violations and crashes. He had previously been required to undergo state-mandated driver retraining.
Uber has a pre-screening process for drivers that is supposed to include a background check, a criminal history search, and a driving record review. The Suffolk County lawsuit alleged that Uber failed to protect its customers and other drivers by failing to find this driver’s record and bar him from driving under their livery.
There is a major catch, however, found in labor law, that shields Uber from liability.
A Major Political-Economic Issue: Employees or Independent Contractors?
Uber also classifies its drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, which is the subject of other ongoing litigation filed by State Attorney General Maura Healey against the rideshare app and other gig-economy businesses. This dispute has also entered Massachusetts politics as two ballot questions ask voters to decide if gig workers are independent contractors—for whose actions the larger businesses cannot be held liable—or employees—for whom they can.
You Need Skilled Legal Representation Now
While time will tell what becomes of these ballot questions and lawsuits, if you’ve been injured as a rideshare passenger, you cannot afford to wait. You need a legal team on your side to advocate for you now. Call our office to discuss your options.