Uber is a self described “car service” that doubles as a taxi cab app for your iPhone and Android. It is slick, cool, and makes for an assortment of legal questions regarding what happens if an Uber driver causes a car accident, bicycle accident, or worst of all, a pedestrian accident?
Uber has exploded to popular culture by allowing anyone to summon a car, just like they summon a taxi cab. However, these car drivers are in a relationship with Uber that is purposefully poorly defined. The company Uber defines the driver of their vehicles is a contractual “partner” with Uber. Further, Uber claims that no responsibility for any of their driver’s actions. A spokesperson for Uber, Andrew Noyes, stated repeatedly that drivers are not employees of the rideshare company. Uber’s line is that they are not “Uber” drivers, but rather they are employed, licensed, and insured taxi drivers.
New regulations went into effect July 30, 2013 that seek to address the new companies to the arena. See those here.
This gives me pause. How is it that my contact with the driver is through the application, the payment is through he application, yet the drivers are said to not be protected by Uber? The law calls such types of relationship “Course and scope” usually, and hold the corporation responsible.
Previous cases at our firm have made it very clear, that if a driver looks like a employee, acts like an employee, and gets paid by the company, then they will be held responsible (the legal standard is set forth in CACI 3722).
To sum it up, if Uber wants to get the benefit of being a “car service,” they cannot get only the upside, and no downside. No matter how they characterize their relationship with their drivers, they are a taxi service, a limo service, and a car service. Therefore, if they get the upside, they must pay for the downside.
Uber shall and will be held responsible for the actions of their drivers.
Photo Courtesy of Pank Seelen