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Shaping the Future: The Legal Evolution of Ridesharing Through Uber

Over the years, Uber has become a household name in the ride-sharing world, promising its clients convenience at the tap of a button. But behind its success lies a maze of legal hurdles. 

From intricate battles over regulations to serious concerns about safety, Uber has faced its fair share of complex legal action. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss Uber’s legal journey and explore how the company adapted and modified its policies to navigate these challenges.

Join us as we uncover the pivotal legal battles that have shaped and defined the Uber we know today.

Uber vs. The World

Since its inception in 2009, Uber has faced several obstacles that challenged its operations. From regulatory challenges to controversies around its safety policies, the ride-sharing giant has seen it all. 

But their most notable legal battles can be categorized into three main areas: regulatory, liability, and safety.

Regulatory Challenges

Regulations were one of the main issues that ride-sharing companies faced in their early days. Back then, there were no laws in place to regulate the shared transactions they were conducting, and their structure did not fit the country’s legal framework. 

To make matters worse, most states and major nationwide had strict regulations for taxi services. One example is Miami-Dade’s taxi laws, designed to prevent ride-sharing companies from operating legally. 

In Miami, taxicab drivers must carry expensive for-hire licenses called “medallions” to legally operate a cab. In 2014, these medallions were worth $300,000, which was too much for most taxi drivers. 

Uber, who just finished lobbying for amendments to South Florida’s local taxi laws, decided to ignore this regulation and launch its UberX service there. 

Later, Miami-Dade County issued Uber drivers $2,000 fines and impounded some of their vehicles. Fortunately, Uber immediately paid the penalties and could continue its “illegal” operations.

After months of resistance, the Miami-Dade County Commission approved an initial proposal on July 15, 2014, to legalize ride-sharing companies and services in the city.

By May 2016, Uber’s hard work had finally paid off. Miami-Dade commissioners passed ordinances that will legalize Uber’s business model. Moreover, they also approved legislation that will dismantle some of the county’s taxi regulation. 

Liability Issues

Aside from regulatory challenges, Uber also faced liability issues. Since day one, city officials have questioned the company’s insurance coverage for its drivers and passengers. But Uber was quick to clarify the situation. 

In a blog published on March 14, 2024, the company explained that from the time a driver accepts a trip request from the app until the completion of the trip, they will have a $1 million coverage for driver liability. 

Additionally, if the driver’s insurance is not enough to cover an Uber accident between trips, Uber’s new policy will give them contingent coverage for bodily injury and property damages. 

But despite the company’s best efforts to improve its liability policies, there were still grey areas regarding driver’s liability. 

In a normal setting, Uber drivers are considered employees for whom the company is liable. However, the ride-sharing app says it is “not a transportation carrier.”

Uber has reiterated time and time that drivers who sign up on their app are independent contractors. Therefore, they’re the true “transportation companies.” This means they will not be liable for any accident Uber drivers are involved in. 

Until there’s a court opinion directed on the subject, the area of liability for ride-sharing companies like Uber will always be complicated. 

Safety Concerns

Lastly, Uber received public scrutiny for its safety policies. On its website, you can find an entire section dedicated to it, promising its users the safest rides on the road. 

Regarding guaranteeing rider safety, Uber has developed a rigorous screening process for its potential partners. Uber drivers must undergo a background check on all three levels: county, federal, and multi-state. 

If they have committed any of the following offenses within the past seven years:

  • DUI or any other severe driving infractions.
  • Hit-and-runs
  • Fatal accidents
  • Reckless driving
  • Violent crimes
  • Sexual offenses
  • Gun-related violations
  • Resisting/evading arrest
  • Driving without insurance
  • Driving with a suspended license in the past three years. 

Uber will reject their application. But despite this three-step process, the company continues to receive thousands of complaints from users nationwide. 

In San Francisco, police officials arrested an Uber driver after allegedly striking a passenger on the head with a hammer. Meanwhile, in Orlando, another Uber driver was taken into custody for a potential battery charge after a female passenger said that he placed his hand inside her skirt during the ride. 

These cases, alongside other similar complaints, were enough for city officials like the Los Angeles and San Francisco District Attorneys who filed a joint lawsuit against the ride-sharing app on December 9, 2014. 

According to the lawsuit, Uber made false and misleading statements concerning their screening process for drivers. 

In 2014, the company publicly announced its plan to change its safety procedures. In addition to background checks, Uber will implement other safety measures, like annual checks, which drivers must pass to continue using their app. 

The app will also ask drivers to periodically take photos of themselves to ensure the right driver is behind the wheel. 

Conclusion

Although Uber has endured hundreds of lawsuits and criticisms, the ride-sharing company has proven resilient. By continuously adapting its business model and improving its services, Uber has managed to maintain its position as a dominant player in the ride-sharing race. 

If you want to learn more about the complexities of Uber and its liability for accidents, we suggest you contact Uber lawyers like Adamson Adhoot’s team. 

Adamson Ahdoot is a civil litigation firm in Los Angeles. Visit their website or call them at (800) 310-1606 for a free consultation with one of their premier Uber lawyers.