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Ride-Sharing Safety Questions

In terms of how Uber is determining whether not their drivers are safe, is Uber doing enough? Or is Uber misleading in how effective these background checks are? To answer said questions, Uber recently agreed to pay an eight-figure settlement to resolve safety claims raised by riders who alleged that the company made these misrepresentative testimonials about the safety of Uber arranged rides. To resolve these two riders and the class-action lawsuits that ensued, the company agreed to pay $28.5 million on behalf of riders who used the service between January 1, 2013 and January 31, 2016.

So how exactly are ride-sharing companies providing safety standards to riders who use the service? In the specific case of Uber, the company was charging riders a fee up to $2.30 per trip for completing “industry-leading background checks” on its drivers. Due to the millions of rides given per day, according to Forbes, this total amount of “safety fees” would be a staggering amount. Even with the amount of money Uber was pocketing for the background checks, the lawsuits established doubt on whether they were being conducted at all [1].

What Are These “Safety Checks”?

The question of what these safety checks are supposed to validate also depends on what the company is doing to ensure the safety of riders. Is the company performing fingerprinted background checks? Insurance checks on past accidents? Public records search? To answer one specifically, according to The Tampa Tribune, “Uber and Lyft have opposed fingerprinting as too cumbersome and costly.”

Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, voted against the HB 1439 bill proposed in the legislature that would regulate transportation network companies that use smart phone apps to summon rides. He stated, “After talking to Uber representatives, I feel pretty comfortable with what they’re doing for background checks is sufficient.” He said he had a problem with the lack of frequency, “the checks are only annual,” he stated. As such, they don’t capture subsequent traffic violations or other legal problems throughout the year.

However, the House Economic Affairs Committee voted in favor of the bill. Hillsborough County is the only county in Florida with a transportation commission, created by a past Legislature. Due to this concern about background checks, the Hillsborough House bill advanced on Wednesday, February 10. The Hillsborough bill would require ride-hailing companies to have a third party conduct a criminal database check, social security screening and sex offender database search. Unfortunately, this county bill may falter to another measure, sponsored by House Rep. Matt Gaetz that provides a statewide regulatory framework for ride-hailing companies. In essence, because this bill features similar measures stated by the county bill and is made for the entire state, it will pre-empt the county bill.

Yet, this statewide bill may also end up dead on arrival in the Senate because Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, voted in the minority against the bill when it was presented to the Hillsborough legislation in December and has said she would kill any measure that doesn’t include stricter background checks [2]. So, while both bills include regulatory measures for insurance, the latter bill did not offer stricter guidelines for background checks. Until bills contain language about conducting Level II background checks and fingerprint screenings on drivers before allowing them to accept rides, the same as cab drivers, school bus drivers and limousine drivers, all bill efforts will not pass.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

Getting into ride-sharing vehicles comes with its own assumption of risk; just as taxicabs, public transportation systems, school buses—etc.–do. We rely on the regulatory function of the government to ensure that these companies are complying with safe background checks that help to weed out perpetual traffic offenders and criminal offenders. Without these systems in balance with the company, dangerous individuals may be the car that you are hopping in. In fact, in the case of Uber, district attorneys in California said that Uber had failed to detect the criminal records of 25 drivers it had hired in two cities. When riders use a ride-share program that has not been required to meet laws requiring driver background checks, those riders may not know whether their driver has a safe criminal background [1]. Until the Legislature can agree to regulatory measures about background checks, Florida is one of the states that fall into this legal grey area.

Therefore, if you or a loved one has been involved in an Uber accident or supplemental personal injury due to the negligence of the driver, you may have a case against the driver and Uber for not providing the proper “safety checks” they deemed appropriate. Call the Dolman Law offices today for a free consultation and evaluation by one of our experienced personal injury attorneys. Our number is (727) 451-6900.

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] http://statewideillinois.legalexaminer.com/2016/02/15/important-ride-sharing-questions-come-to-surface-in-light-of-28-5-million-settlement-by-uber-after-lawsuit-alleges-background-checks-were-skipped/
[2] http://www.tbo.com/news/politics/lawmakers-advance-hillsborough-only-ride-share-bill-20160211/