Whether you are an Uber or Lyft passenger or a driver for one of those services, you know that one of the biggest hurdles you’ll face, should you be injured during your ride, is that the rideshare company will try to avoid any legal liability, and will probably try use its driver contract agreement, which identifies all drivers as independent contractors, as the means to accomplish that. Drivers and passengers are beginning to log some successes in defeating that argument, as a recent case from Boston demonstrated. While this case is from a federal court in Massachusetts, it should signal that there are legal options available, including here in Illinois, should you need to sue a rideshare company. Start by retaining an experienced Chicago accident attorney to make sure you’re going about your legal action the right way.
In the Massachusetts federal court case, the judge said that a group of Lyft drivers had a “substantial likelihood of success” when it came to showing that they were employees of the rideshare company, not independent contractors.
That case was different in many ways than your Lyft or Uber injury case would be if you were injured a rideshare crash or as a result of a rideshare attack. The Boston case involved a group of Lyft drivers suing for minimum wage and overtime violations, not personal injuries.
However, the Massachusetts case had one critical piece in common with you, potentially, if you were hurt in a Lyft or Uber accident. That one thing is a defense where the rideshare company sought to escape all legal liability on the basis that its drivers were independent contractors. In this case from Boston, that would have meant that the rideshare company was not obligated to comply with minimum wage and overtime laws. In an injury case, it would typically mean that the hiring entity (Lyft or Uber) could not be vicariously liable for the negligence of its driver.
The ‘realities of’ Lyft’s business pointed to drivers being employees, not independent contractors
Lyft asserted that it was merely a technology company that had created an application to put riders and drivers in contact with one another. The federal judge in Boston, on the other hand, was more persuaded by the drivers’ assertions that Lyft was a transportation services company and that the drivers were integral to Lyft’s core business. The judge noted the “realities of Lyft’s business” involved a rider paying Lyft to assign that rider to a driver and that those realities pointed toward Lyft being a transportation business. “The ‘realities’ of Lyft’s business are no more merely ‘connecting’ riders and drivers than a grocery store’s business is merely connecting shoppers and food producers, or a car repair shop’s business is merely connecting car owners and mechanics,” the judge wrote.
If the courts, including those based here in Illinois, decide that Lyft and Uber drivers are employees, not independent contractors, that would open a variety of options for an array of people. It could make it much easier for a person injured in an accident where a rideshare driver was at fault to obtain a judgment against the rideshare company. On the flip side, it could also help certain Lyft and Uber drivers who, if they were injured on the job, might potentially be entitled to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, which is something that is only available if you’re an employee and not if you’re an independent contractor.
The developments in this federal court case in Massachusetts will not control what courts in Illinois decide. They nevertheless are a step in the positive direction for people here who need to seek justice from rideshare companies. If you have an injury caused by your Lyft driver or passenger, it is essential to have the right legal team on your side. Reach out to the knowledgeable Chicago accident attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca for the powerful legal representation you need as you take on Lyft or Uber. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.