In the good old days, people who needed a ride would stand along the road and stick out their thumb, asking some generous soul to give them a lift. For those too young to have lived in the good old days, the practice was called hitchhiking.
If you think about it, ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber are simply the next generation of hitchhiking. The smart phone has replaced the thumb and eliminated the uncertainty of how long it will take to actually get a ride. The main difference, of course, is that the ride is not free.
Safety was always a big concern with hitchhiking. You never knew who might offer to pick you up, and you had only seconds to evaluate a face and decide whether or not to get in the car. In that respect, ridesharing is a lot safer. Drivers have to apply to drive for a ridesharing company. Still, there have been cases of drivers inflicting harm on passengers. As a result, the companies are stepping up their background investigations to include criminal and sex offender registry checks.
The other big safety factor with ridesharing is liability. When you get a ride from a taxi company, you can be sure that it has insurance coverage that will pay for your injuries if you are in a wreck. Ridesharing companies are a little behind on this issue. Their drivers are independent contractors, which means they have to provide the insurance coverage.
The premise of ridesharing is that the company is simply matching up people who need rides with people willing to give rides, just like hitchhiking. The problem here is that the drivers are just ordinary people giving rides to make some extra money. They are not professional drivers. Therefore, most carry regular personal auto insurance policies that don’t cover paying passengers. If their policies only meet the minimum state standards, injured riders or their families could be left in a bad financial situation.
In Louisiana, the governor signed a bill into law last year that requires rideshare drivers or their companies to have a minimum of $1 million of insurance coverage for injury, death, and property damage. This new law provides Louisiana residents with the comfort of knowing that when they use Lyft, Uber, or another service, they have the benefit of insurance coverage.
Louisiana has not passed a law that addresses the qualifications of rideshare drivers, but the state's two largest cities have. New Orleans has passed an ordinance that allows the city's Department of Safety & Permits to require up to 25 drivers to be drug tested every three months. Baton Rouge passed has an ordinance that requires the companies to conduct criminal background and driving record checks.
It is a lot safer to hitch a ride with a ridesharing company driver than it is to hitchhike, but that does not mean there is no risk.
Tragic accidents can easily cause crippling injuries or even death. If you or a loved one were injured in a rideshare accident, you may be entitled to money damages. For a free case evaluation, contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Wright Pichon & Gray.