Thirty years ago, if you found yourself in the middle of a bustling American city, and you needed to get somewhere quickly, all you needed to do was walk to the side of the street and raise your hand in the air. Soon enough, a yellow taxi cab would pull up to the curb and the driver would ask you where you needed to go. Before you knew it, you were zigzagging through traffic, getting to your destination in a timely fashion. When the ride was over, you paid the driver his fee, which was based on the distance traveled and the time it took to get there. This was the taxi-cab experience, and it really hasn’t changed much in the last several decades.
The industry as a whole, however, has gained several new unique competitors. In the last few years, new “ridesharing” companies have developed, which have revolutionized urban travel. Companies like Uber have made it easier to get a ride, simply by ordering one on a phone app. Uber customers have a myriad of options available to them, including the type and size of the car to pick them up, as well as a choice of drivers, who are “graded” on a five-star basis.
Despite Uber’s unprecedented success in recent years, the company has come under fire for issues relating to its hiring practices and insurance coverage concerning their drivers. Uber drivers have been involved in car accidents that injure other people, but the company has claimed on numerous occasions that the drivers are independent contractors, and not individual employees. This subtle difference in classification may not seem like it makes a difference, but the two terms actually convey two very different legal consequences.
According to the Palm Beach Post, a 19-year-old man from Jupiter, Florida is suing the Uber company after one of its drivers, 73-year-old Donald Bremer, hit him with his car. Brendan Walsh, the plaintiff, alleges that Bremer hit him while he was riding his motorcycle on Indiantown Road in February of 2015. Walsh suffered significant injuries and stayed in the hospital for several weeks to recover. He alleges that his medical bills alone exceeded $50,000.
Walsh and his attorney, Scott Smith, claim that Uber is responsible for the motorcycle accident under a theory of vicarious liability. Because Bremer was working for Uber at the time, they argue that the ridesharing company should be held responsible for compensatory damages.