When an employee is negligent and hurts someone, there are times when the employer is responsible for their actions. For example, the legal concept of “respondeat superior” says that companies can be held responsible for the actions of their employees. Moreover, some companies are liable for their employees’ actions because they themselves were negligent when they hired that person, or while supervising them.
So, is Uber responsible when its drivers get into crashes? That is unclear so far, because Uber insists that Uber drivers are not its employees. Instead, it argues that it merely maintains a software platform where people can arrange for rides around town.
Uber claims that it shouldn’t be held responsible for crashes Uber drivers get into because it doesn’t direct their work or supervise them in any way. Other ride-hailing companies argue the same thing. They don’t employ drivers, they say. They merely match drivers and riders.
Do you think Uber is an employer who should be held responsible for the actions of its drivers? A federal judge has just said that whether Uber is an employer should be up to a jury to decide.
Allegedly negligent driver crashes into abandoned car
The case alleges that Uber and its subsidiary negligently hired a driver. In 2017, that driver was taking a passenger to the airport in Massachusetts when he collided with an “abandoned” car. The passenger suffered severe injuries, including a traumatic brain injury. He claims his injuries caused both physical and emotional pain and kept him from working.
Uber says it shouldn’t be involved in the lawsuit because it is just a software provider, not an employer. Without an employer-employee relationship, the theories of respondeat superior and employer negligence generally wouldn’t apply.
Whether Uber is an employer is open to question, and what courts have ruled on the subject have gone both ways. The state of New Jersey, however, recently determined that Uber is an employer. It is trying to collect $650 million in unpaid payroll taxes from the company.
Would your Uber crash be covered?
Here in New York, we don’t yet have a ruling on whether Uber and other ride-hailing companies are employers or merely software providers. What we do know is that Uber drivers are required to carry insurance of at least $100,000 per person/$300,000 per occurrence.
Unfortunately, there are ride-hailing drivers who don’t follow the rules and don’t carry sufficient insurance. In that situation, should Uber be held responsible for failing to make certain drivers have enough insurance?
If you have been injured in a crash while riding in an Uber, a Lyft or another ride-hailing vehicle, you should discuss your situation with an experienced personal injury attorney. A seasoned attorney can identify all liable parties and work to maximize your compensation.