Vicarious Liability Issues in Uber/Lyft Injuries

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Mostly because the operators are often distracted, the increased use of ridesharing services has also increased the number of car crashes. In terms of first party liability, Missouri has one of the weakest cell phone laws in the country. It’s legal to use or even hold a cell phone while driving. So, these wrecks usually involve the ordinary negligence doctrine.

Other rideshare operators commit intentional torts, such as battery, sexual battery, and false imprisonment (locking the doors). Individual insurance policies almost never apply to these torts. The same thing is true of negligent driving torts.

Fortunately, a St. Louis personal injury attorney can leverage third party liability theories in these cases and obtain fair compensation for victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in a few extreme cases.

Negligent Torts

The respondeat superior rule typically applies in car crash claims. Employers, like Lyft and Uber, are vicariously responsible for the negligence of their drivers if:

  • Employee: Most ridesharing operators are independent contractors for tax purposes. But they are typically employees for negligence purposes. The employer controls the driver in areas such as route travelled and passenger picked up or dropped off. That control is enough to establish an employer-employee relationship.
  • Scope of Employment: Somewhat similarly, under Missouri law, any act which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. That could include driving aimlessly waiting for fares. The employer benefits by having drivers on the road.

The respondeat superior theory also applies in other commercial operator cases, such as large truck and tour bus crashes.

Speaking of commercial operators, these drivers have a higher duty of care in Missouri. As a result, it is easier to establish first-party negligence, which is a lack of care.

Intentional Torts

As mentioned, common ridesharing intentional torts include sexual battery, simple battery, which is a harmful or offensive touch, and false imprisonment. The respondeat superior doctrine is generally inapplicable. Such acts are clearly not within the scope of employment.

Nevertheless, victims still have vicarious liability options. Negligent hiring is a good example. When they hire drivers, many ridesharing companies only glance at criminal records. If the driver has a record in another state or received deferred disposition for an offense, the event might not show up in these checks.

As for negligent supervision, if riders complain about inappropriate behavior, the companies might briefly suspend the driver. But they rarely investigate the claim and/or take more decisive action. If the driver has a poor track record with that company or another company, Uber or Lyft should have ensured that this person has no contact with riders.

Ridesharing companies are usually responsible for driver torts. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in St. Louis, contact Schultz & Myers, Personal Injury Lawyers. Home, virtual, and hospital visits are available. 

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