A new statute took effect on July 1st of this year that affects all of us that take a ride with Uber or Lyft. According to the Florida Justice Association Journal in an article by C. Richard Newsome and William C. Ourand, this statute is heavily skewed to favor and serve the interests of Uber and Lyft, with very little benefit for consumers. This is particularly true with respect to personal injury litigants.
Mainly, the new law determines that Uber, Lyft and other transportation network companies, are not “common carriers”. Under Florida Law a common carrier owes an “elevated, non-delegable duty of care” to provide safe passage. Also, “a common carrier cannot relieve itself from its primary duty to maintain safe accommodations for its passengers and their baggage by contracting with an independent contractor to perform its functions.” This means that under the new law Uber and Lyft drivers are considered to be independent contractors and not employees.
So, what did consumers receive in compromise for the significant legal rights taken away by the bill? For injured consumers, the so-called protections afforded by the bill come primarily in the form of insurance “requirements.” However, those “requirements” are, in reality, nothing more than the status quo. Uber and Lyft have had policies affording various phases of coverage ranging between $0 and $1,000,000 since at least 2014. The different phases of coverage continue to work under the bill, as follows:
$0 When the driver is not logged into the app. The plaintiff must instead look to the driver’s personal policy, should one exist, and no coverage exclusions apply.
$50K per injury/$100K per incident/$25K for property damage: When the driver is logged in, but has not accepted a ride request.
$1 Million: When the driver is logged in and has accepted a ride request.
In some cases, those limits covering the driver’s negligence may prove sufficient, but in cases involving severe or catastrophic injuries, the medical bills alone can greatly exceed those figures. In such instances, it may become necessary to pursue a claim for direct or vicarious liability against the company itself. If Uber and Lyft were “common carriers” there would be strong theories to pursue them just a few months ago. But now the new bill has changed all of that. As a result, pursuing a claim against Uber or Lyft has become far more difficult.
This bill has radically altered the legal landscape with respect to pursuing claims against Uber and Lyft on behalf of injured Floridians. However, there are still viable causes of action that can be pursued in these cases.
Should you, or someone you know, be injured while using Uber or Lyft, be sure to choose an attorney that is up to date on these cases and can help you reclaim your health and life.