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Protect yourself and your children while riding Uber, Lyft

Monday, May 22, 2017
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Many Millennials don’t want to own cars, preferring to rely instead on the “sharing economy,” grabbing a ride on demand via Uber or Lyft on their iPhone or Samsung Galaxy 8, right?

Well, reality is actually a bit more complicated than that, with millennials accounting for 30% of new car sales and many showing ownership aspiration. The issue may be less, “I don’t want to own” and more “I can’t afford to own right now.”

But what we do know in the meantime is that Uber has an estimated $70 billion market cap and its main rival Lyft has an estimated $6 billion market cap thanks in very large part to the enthusiastic embrace of the millennial demographic.

In the United States, 3% of online adults are using Uber at least once a month while roughly half of that number use Lyft. Passengers 16-34 years old represent the most enthusiastic Uber adopters, making up nearly 75% of Uber’s user base.

Clearly, college kids who either can’t afford or aren’t allowed to have a car on campus are a big part of this trend.

It used to be that if you needed to get from point A to point B without a car or public transportation, you were jumping into a taxi. Doing so comes with certain assumptions: you’d be riding with a trained driver with a commercial license, who is backed by a “real” company with liability insurance and a vehicle that undergoes routine maintenance.  

In the world of Uber, particularly its budget UberX service, some of those bets are off. When Uber initially launched, it focused on recruiting professional drivers with high-end black cars, similar to a town car service. That service and a spinoff, UberSUV, still exist, but they’ve been overtaken by their cheaper UberX cousin.

With UberX, pretty much anyone can be a driver, driving pretty much any kind of car. Here are some safety and liability implications Uber/Lyft passengers — and their parents — need to consider before swiping for a ride.

WHO IS LIABLE?

Both companies took much heat in 2014 and 2015 for their “hands off” approach to drivers, billing themselves as mere connectors of riders and drivers, not employers. They used to not offer liability insurance to drivers, but both gave in to pressure and now offer drivers $1 million in coverage. This will supposedly cover the driver when passengers are in the car, but what if your child’s ride just ended and the driver hits them while they are crossing the street? There are grey areas with these services with evolving insurance and liability implications.

WHAT ABOUT FRIENDS?

Suppose your child and a friend book a ride with Uber via your credit card and the driver causes an accident and the friend is injured…are you or your insurance carrier potentially on the hook? Theoretically, fault would lie with the Uber driver and you are not liable, but in America, anybody can sue anyone for anything. If the Uber driver is a 26-year-old actor living in a studio struggling to pay rent, with no assets to speak of, will the injured party go after him and his Uber insurance, or after you with your assets $5 million umbrella policy? (You do have an umbrella policy in place, correct?)

UNHELPFUL RATINGS

It is hard to avoid drivers who have lower than average ratings or are new to the service, as that information isn’t available until after you accept the ride. While you may cancel the request if you don’t like what you see, a fee may apply, and it may be hard to find an alternate driver.

CHOOSE UBERBLACK/SUV IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT

With UberBlack and UberSUV, you know you are getting a professional driver with a commercial license, which has more stringent standards. Anyone with a regular driver’s license can drive for UberX.

Uber and Lyft are expanding transportation opportunities, but also raise many liability concerns. Make sure your children are aware before riding.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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