Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have a special place in Colorado law. These companies are different enough from other companies like taxis that Colorado had to create new laws to regulate Transportation Network Companies (TNCs).
Lyft and Uber are still trying to avoid being subject to vicarious liability by claiming the drivers are not employees. A new ruling in California has determined that Lyft drivers and Uber drivers are employees. What will this mean for people in Colorado who are injured in a rideshare accident?
California Regulator Decision and Impact on Colorado
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulates ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber. The CPUC recently issued a decision that drivers working for Uber and Lyft will be considered employees under California's new gig worker law.
Lyft and Uber have used drivers as independent contractors, which are not subject to wage and hour laws, do not need benefits or time off, do not get workers' compensation protection, and are generally cheaper for the companies than using “employees.”
The regulations in California have no direct impact on the laws in Colorado. However, this may indicate a change in how regulators and the public view these rideshare companies. Even if Colorado does not regulate Lyft and Uber as having an employer-employee relationship with drivers, a jury may disagree.
Vicarious Liability of Employer for Employee's Negligence
A car accident involving a Lyft or Uber driver is different from other accidents. In an accident with a pizza delivery driver, the pizza shop owner would generally be vicariously liable for the driver's negligence. A taxi company or trucking company may also be liable for the negligence of their employees. Lyft and Uber want to get special treatment.
In a personal injury lawsuit alleging vicarious liability against Lyft and Uber as employers, it may be up to the jury to determine whether there was an employer-employee relationship or if drivers are independent contractors. According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment:
“An individual is presumed to be in covered employment unless and until it is shown that the individual is free from control and direction in the performance of services, both under contract and in fact, and that the individual is customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession or business related to the work performed.”
Some of the factors the state considers may weigh against Uber and Lyft drivers as independent contractors, including:
- The company does not establish a quality standard for the individual; except that such person can provide plans and specifications regarding the work but cannot oversee the actual work or instruct the individual as to how the work will be performed;
- The company cannot terminate the work during the contract period unless the individual violates the terms of the contract or fails to produce a result that meets the specifications of the contract;
- The company does not provide anything more than minimal training for the individual; and
- The company does not pay the individual personally but rather makes checks payable to the trade or business name of the individual.
Are Lyft and Uber Liable for an Injury Caused by Their Drivers
Even if a jury did not find Lyft or Uber to be vicariously liable, the companies may be directly liable because of their own negligence. The rideshare company may be responsible through the way they design, track, or require use of the app. Uber and Lyft are tracking the driver and their driving habits. These companies could share some responsibility for when drivers are distracted, using their phones while driving, speeding, or otherwise driving in an unsafe manner.
Rideshare companies may also share in the liability for causing an accident because of the way they check and approve their drivers. Passengers who use these services expect the company to make sure their driver is safe, has a good driving record, and does not have a history of violent crime. Unfortunately, there are many examples of these background checks not turning up dangerous driving offenses, sexual assaults, and other crimes of violence.
Getting Damages from Lyft or Uber After an Injury Accident in Colorado
If you have any questions about an injury accident or want to get more information before dealing with Uber or Lyft the insurance company, you can consult with an experienced Denver Uber accident lawyer. If you or a loved one has been injured in a rideshare accident in the greater Denver metropolitan area, please do not hesitate to contact accidentdenver.com today at 303-642-8888 for a free consultation. We are here waiting for you.
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