Uber & Lyft: Cultures, Accidents, and Insurance
LYFT VS. UBER: DIFFERENT CULTURES, SAME ROADWAYS
Uber and Lyft are the two leading rideshare companies that we access through our digital apps. Comparing the two companies is difficult because there are many diverse factors that define a complex ride-hailing enterprise. We can see some differences by looking through the unique lens of each of the three industry segments, i.e., management, drivers, and riders. Indeed, both companies have distinct corporate voices that espouse unique values and partially conflicting business models. When we listen to drivers and passengers, however, the reality of daily rideshare dynamics is strikingly similar.
When smart phones first emerged on the scene as powerful and versatile hand-held computers, Uber quickly seized the void in ride-hailing by introducing its successful app. Uber’s rise marked a sea-change in transportation services and introduced new safety issues for drivers and riders. This necessitated a new legal specialty for rideshare attorneys. It created a dynamic new paradigm in which rides were more easily hailed, prices streamlined, and one’s phone became the central administrator of a person’s “nerve center.” Importantly, the model was also more effective than taxis in reducing impaired driving opportunities.
Lyft, hatched as an alternative service in San Francisco, expanded rapidly into second place. Comparing the two services logically may begin with size and geographic availability. Uber is bigger, and its services extend outside the borders of the United States, into big cities worldwide. Lyft operates primarily in the United States, making it a relative infant on the world stage. In terms of overall accessibility, therefore, Uber is by far the most widely accessible service.
CORPORATE CULTURES TAKE DIFFERENT ROUTES
With Uber being the grandparent and Lyft the aggressive, up-and-coming child, how does the corporate culture of these two companies shape up for ethics and safety? Paradoxically, Uber is the rabble-rouser of the two companies, with its long line of controversial suits, disputes and allegations against it for sexism and harassment. Uber’s founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick, was ousted last year by his own Board in a flurry of bad publicity. In that sense, Uber’s cutthroat, take-no-prisoner mentality marks it as the industry’s bad wolf.
Lyft, trying to capitalize on Uber’s public relations setbacks, revealed that it had paid its drivers over $200 million in tips, in stark contrast to Uber’s no-tip policy. Because of Uber’s infamous court battles resisting drivers’ demands to be treated as employees, Lyft emerged with a gentler public image. Lyft also now permits passengers to donate to charity. In addition, when a passenger enters a Lyft car, the driver invites him or her to ride shotgun. Uber has a more guarded, chauffer-like strategy. Lyft insists that it has a heart in dealing with its employees and stresses a founding mission of “reconnecting people and communities.”
But then, Lyft doesn’t treat its drivers as employees either. Both rideshare companies thus deprive their drivers of the protections and benefits enjoyed by employees. Drivers don’t get minimum wage, overtime, health insurance or even workers’ compensation. They cannot apply for unemployment benefits. They pay for their own gas, maintenance and other business expenses. Both Uber and Lyft, despite some fancy lip service to the contrary, follow a business strategy that puts monetary commercialization ahead of people-centric values.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN
Neither Uber nor Lyft have not figured out how to attract substantial numbers of women into the industry. There are significantly fewer women drivers than men due to physical danger to women, especially in the evening hours. In addition, unions have urged both genders to stay out of the industry due to the anti-union practices of the ride-hailing companies. The future nonetheless portends more women drivers. This will be facilitated by innovative protections, such as pairing women passengers with women drivers, which both female passengers and drivers find more reassuring and safe.
THE SAFETY FACTOR
Safety from Personal Assault and Robberies:
For both genders, physical danger or accidental injury is a concern in a rideshare environment. Safety starts with the absence of cash – credit cards are filed with the ride-share company – and each ride is digitally tracked. Riders, however, can get hassled by other passengers and by unqualified drivers. Incidents include altercations, thefts, and sexual assaults. Drivers also face similar dangers. The companies depict these events as a minute percentage of successful rides.
It is difficult to pre-qualify passengers’ dangerous propensities, but both Uber and Lyft claim to conduct background checks on their drivers. The companies should weed out registered sex offenders or violent felons. However, this is not always done, and where negligence in hiring can be proved, there could be company liability.
Safety from Vehicular Accidents:
Uber and Lyft operators are subject to the same distracted driving vulnerabilities facing all drivers. In addition, car accidents may occur more pervasively in the industry, often due to drivers’ focusing on the apps and GPS directions while driving.
Common sense safety can avoid many accidents. The driver should mount the phone in the car to lessen distractions. The driver must also service the car regularly. Driving with bald tires, for example, would be an act of negligence.
COLLECTING MONETARY DAMAGES
Both Uber and Lyft deny responsibility for their drivers’ negligence on the grounds that the drivers are not “employees.” However, a principal is liable for its contractor’s negligence where it occurs in the performance of the principal’s business. In practice, both Uber and Lyft carry insurance for accidents, which can be a relief to people injured in connection with a Lyft or Uber ride. If an at-fault third-party driver has insufficient insurance coverage, a claim for underinsured motorists’ coverage may be made by the injured Uber or Lyft passenger or driver against the rideshare company’s coverage for additional claimed amounts.
With modern comparative negligence statutes, the variations of liability can be complex in multiple vehicle accidents. Indeed, if you find yourself having to make a claim for damages for any reason against a rideshare driver, one or more third-party drivers, and/or Uber, Lyft or another service, the best course is to get a free consultation with an Uber and Lyft attorney who is experienced in this new category of legal claims.