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Lyft Sued In Death of Motorcyclist

An article in the Daily Business Review detailed the death of a motorcyclist due to the negligence of a Lyft driver. Lyft driver, Pirooz Pakdel failed to yield the right of way at a four-way stop sign near the Shops at Midtown Miami on Oct. 31, according to the complaint filed last Monday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Pakdel was carrying two passengers when he turned left, striking 29-year-old Loinier Perez. Perez was instantly thrown off of his motorcycle and died soon after. Perez’s wife is now suing Pakdel and Lyft for negligence. This wrongful death suit has implications for Lyft’s bigger brother, Uber who also has had to deal with wrongful death suits and the safety issues that are of the upmost concern.

Her lawsuit highlights the fact that Lyft, which was not even licensed in Miami-Dade County, had an obligation to ensure the company and its drivers take account of public safety. It goes on to allege that Lyft should have known that Pakdel was not well suited to drive for them and nor was he properly trained. The lawsuit is looking for economic and non-economic damages for not only Perez but also her unborn son as at the time of the accident, she was eight months pregnant with her first child and claims that Lyft was negligent in its training and background checks for Pakdel.

Her attorneys argue that Lyft operates on an unsafe business model that promotes people embracing driving as a side job. Ervin Gonzales of Colson Hicks Eidson in Coral Gables stated, “They’re not chauffeurs. They are working way too many hours if you count up all the jobs they have. It’s not safe the way they do it. More importantly, they’re constantly on their cellphone because that’s the mode of communication Lyft uses with their drivers.” These companies also do not have the permits that taxi and limousine companies do which raises safety issues because “right now they’re kind of operating like the wild, Wild West, and that’s not safe.” Even so, the evidence from the accident shows that Pakdel missed the most basic road sign in driving—a stop sign—which just goes to show that just having a driver’s license doesn’t give people the right to professionally drive other around [1].

Florida law considers the amount of control a company could exercise over a worker to be the most important trial of employment. Apparently, the instructions that drivers obtain from the Lyft app are sufficient to pass that test. Currently, the company has not offered to pay any insurance settlement for the incident.

Safety Issues

Some of the safety issues that attorney Ervin Gonzales raises sparks the discussion of how concerning these matters should be in the era of ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber. Because these companies define their “employees” as third-party contractors or independent contractors, the liability for issues that happen during a passengers ride fall on the individual driver, rather than the company as a whole. Still, some of the safety concerns that have been brought up in Perez’s case have also already been addressed in the media as there have been a variety of incidents.

List of some safety issues explained:

  • Do not have taxi permits: App services such as Lyft and Uber contend that they are the middle-man between passengers and drivers. They simply match the two together through their app and everything that happens between said driver and passenger are separate from the company. As such, the drivers do not need taxi or limousine permits because it isn’t a for-hire driving service. However, Uber’s terms and conditions for example could be trumped in court if it’s shown that Uber exercises a certain amount of control over its drivers and they are akin to employees. Such factors of control include the ability to hire and fire drivers, decide where their services are performed, or provide them with specialized equipment, along with other considerations—many of which, some would argue, Uber has. The more control they assert, the more likely that the drivers will be tried as employees. At the same time, if Uber or Lyft do not do training, it could be held liable for other reasons.
  • No guarantee for safety: In any time of occurrence where a person has to deal with a stranger, whether delegated by a company or not, there is always a risk of safety. But if something terrible occurs in a taxi or regulated service, a passenger may receive monetary compensation without having to go through a legal nightmare to get it, depending on the type of insurance coverage a given service has. Passengers of Uber and Lyft drivers can sue the individuals but they’re likely to get more adequate compensation if they go through the company that arranged the ride in the first place. Regulations for taxi companies state that these companies must at least have $250,000 in insurance which also carries over to a backup umbrella policy to cover rare occurrences like a passenger slipping in water or being attacked by a driver. Uber and Lyft does require its drivers to have $1 million of liability insurance coverage which is higher than most cab companies, however it is unclear if this would cover the rare occurrences that an umbrella policy would. This type of coverage is usually meant for car accidents [2].
  • Use of cell phones while driving: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 71% of teens and young people admit to having sent a text message while operating a motor vehicle. Continually, 78% of teens and young people admit to having received text messages while driving. With technology increasing each day, it’s difficult to fully numerically state all of the different reasons someone would use their phone. In this case, the distracted driving can be attributed to accepting or conversing with passengers in an Uber or Lyft through text or call. While Florida’s cell phone policy is lax compared to states such as California and New York, it is still illegal to text and drive and is enforced as a secondary offense in Florida while it is a primary offense in the latter states mentioned. The drivers who are using their phone and cause an accident will be susceptible to these laws—especially when they are logged into the company’s system at the time of their traffic incident [3].

Terms of Service

In Uber’s Terms of Service the company points out in all caps that it’s not liable for anything:

“THE COMPANY DOES NOT PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES, AND THE COMPANY IS NOT A TRANSPORTATION CARRIER. IT IS UP TO THE THIRD PARTY TRANSPORTATION PROVIDERS, DRIVER OR VEHICLE OPERATOR TO OFFER TRANSPORTATION SERVICES WHICH MAY BE SCHEDULED THROUGH USE OF THE APPLICATION OR SERVICE. THE COMPANY OFFERS INFORMATION AND A METHOD TO OBTAIN SUCH THIRD PARTY TRANSPORTATION SERVICES BUT DOES NOT AND DOES NOT INTEND TO PRODIVE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES OR ACT IN ANY WAY AS A TRANSPORTATION CARRIER AND HAS NO RESPONSIBILITY OR LIABILITY FOR AN TRANSPORTATION SERVICES PROVIDED TO YOU BY SUCH THIRD PARTIES…

IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COMPANY AND/OR ITS LICENSORS BE LIABLE TO ANYONE FOR ANY INDIRECT, PUNITIVE, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR OTHER DAMAGES OF ANY TYPE OR KIND (INCLUDING PERSONAL INJURY, LOSS OF DATA, REVENUE, PROFITS, USE, OR OTHER ECONOMIC ADVANTAGE).”

Lyft’s terms of service shares similar wording and responsibilities of their drivers as well. So the matter in question is–who’s liable?

Uber Wrongful Death Suit

Well, the family of a six-year-old girl who was struck and killed during a traffic accident in San Francisco involving an Uber driver has sued and settled with Uber claiming a wrongful death suit. Unfortunately, she was in the cross walk with her mother and brother when the driver hit. Before the case was settled out of court, Uber claimed that because the driver didn’t have anyone in his car at the time and therefore the company wasn’t responsible. However, the driver was using the Uber app at the time, which allows the driver to find and accept fares. Thus, although at the time of the incident there were no passengers in the car, if there were to have been a fare available, there would have been.

The driver’s lawyer stated, “It appears that Uber is willing to hang out to dry both my client as well as the victim’s family. If Uber is unwilling to cover one of their drivers while he’s logged into their system, it seems that that would be hanging him out to dry because he would be potentially liable civilly for the accident and the fact that when was logged into their system at the time could jeopardize his personal insurance coverage and would deny the victim’s family the benefits of Uber’s stated insurance policy.”

Nevertheless, since then Uber has reached a settlement with the family. The LA times says the settlement wouldn’t be revealed, and that the family had filed to keep the terms confidential, as the girl’s brother was also injured in the incident and is a minor.

Will Lyft do the same for Loinier Perez’s family?

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

When an individual dies in an accident that he or she did not cause, his or her death is ruled to be a wrongful death. The means that another party caused the victim’s death through negligence or reckless behavior. In Florida, it was recently ruled that Uber and Lyft drivers are in fact third-party contractors or independent contractors who are not subjected to employee benefits or aid in lawsuits. However, as in the case of the little girl in San Francisco and the current case of the family in Miami, there’s always holes in the legality of it all.

If you have recently lost a loved one in an auto accident involving a ride-sharing company such as Uber or Lyft, it’s important that you contact a lawyer who is knowledgeable in the confusing and constantly updated laws that regulate—or lack to regulate said companies. Contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA at (727) 451-6900 today to begin working with a member of our team of experienced personal injury lawyers.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/auto-accidents-attorneys/

References:

[1] https://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202742906250/Lyft-Sued-in-Death-of-Motorcyclist#ixzz3tMVQS1CE
[2] https://www.cnet.com/news/how-risky-is-your-uber-ride-maybe-more-than-you-think/
[3] https://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/cellular-phone-use-and-texting-while-driving-laws.aspx

Uber Ride-Share Car Accident Lawyer